July 2020

A paw and an outstretched hand form winning artwork

Mariner, daughter of Peter and Melissa Gleich, won Best in Show in the 18th annual Cooperative Living Youth Art Contest with her artistic depiction of a little girl at the zoo bonding with a perfectly penciled tiger.

For the 2020 contest, students in kindergarten through fifth grade were tasked with the challenge of portraying visual interpretations of the theme, “A Trip to the Zoo.” The winning entry was chosen from hundreds of colorful entries from Virginia and Maryland.

“Art is at its most special when it creates a connection with its audience. Mariner’s work captures that perfectly with her own connection, the one she built between the young lady and the tiger,” says Cooperative Living Editor Steven Johnson.

More than 250 student-artists entered the competition, which was judged by staff members at the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives, publisher of Cooperative Living.

First place in each grade category received a $25 cash prize, while Mariner’s Best in Show work earned her a $100 prize.

Mariner, a rising sixth-grade homeschooler from Lexington, Va., lives with her family on a historic farm served by BARC Electric Cooperative. The 12-year-old spends her days immersed in schoolwork or enjoying the great outdoors, where she tends to her beloved chickens — 18 of them, to be exact.

When she’s not in the chicken coop, she’s frolicking with the family’s parakeets, dogs, cats, horses or pigs. She also enjoys basketball, dancing, rollerblading and drawing. “We believe God has gifted her these artistic abilities, as well as a special connection and concern for animals,” her mother says.

The Gleichs got the phone call announcing Mariner’s success on a sunny Saturday morning in May. Mariner was in the middle of tending to her chickens. “I screamed,” she says, with a laugh. “I was so excited when I got the good news.”

Mariner says it took her a few hours to create her art submission, though she only decided to submit it at the last minute. “I always wanted to adopt animals at the zoo and I love drawing them,” she says. “I worked very hard on my drawing and am very grateful to have won.”

Cooperative Living started the Youth Art Contest in 2003 to encourage youthful creativity and give youngsters a chance to display their talents to the magazine’s 1.25 million readers. On behalf of the magazine staff, Johnson says the judges were impressed with the imagination and talent in this year’s field.

“To all of our contestants in the 2020 Youth Art Contest, thank you for your effort, your interest and your entries. We say it each year and we’ll say it yet again: In our eyes, you’re all winners,” he adds.

A promotional video about this year’s winner, posted on the magazine’s Facebook page in late June, can also be viewed by clicking on the magazine’s YouTube link on the co-opliving.com home page.

Click Here to View The Winners