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Will art beautify county budget?

Entries have been slow to trickle in, but $500 awaits the grand prize winner of the student art contest being conducted by the county's Office of Management and Budget.

The contest, a first, is open to students ages 10 to 19 in grades 6 through 12. Everyone who enters wins something - a restaurant coupon, $100 savings bonds or the big prize.

Despite the slow start, Elaine Singer, the budget management analyst who is in charge of the contest, is confident that entries will come in as the deadline approaches.

"We've contacted the School Board so they could inform art teachers; we've tried to reach out to everyone," Singer said.

The idea for the contest came from Emily Vernon, department supervisor, who thought it might be nice to feature artwork of talented students on the cover and section dividers of Hernando County's 2006-07 budget document. She had seen it done in another county and liked the look.

The subject is wide open, as long as it relates to life in Hernando County. And there's plenty to feature - business, history, family life, nature, scenery or people, for example.

Any student who meets the age requirements and is currently enrolled in a public or private school, or is homeschooled, is eligible. There is no fee to enter and a limit of one entry per student.

The work has to be original, by a single artist. As far as medium, creativity is encouraged, and just about anything goes except computer-generated art or printing. Crayons, watercolors, acrylic or oil paints, color pencils, markers, pens, pencils, chalk, charcoal and pastels are all okay.

Art committee members will judge the entries. "(Artists) shouldn't put their name or initials anywhere on the front, so the judges can't know who did it," Singer said.

Singer hopes to return artwork to each artist after the contest and subsequent art exhibit, but she advises that artists make some sort of copy of the piece before submitting it.

Students interested in accepting the challenge may call Singer at 754-4004. Entries have to be in Room 464 at the Hernando County Government Center, 20 N Main St., Brooksville, by 4 p.m. March 3 or postmarked by Tuesday.

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