Local Youth & young adult

Aquinas senior feels ‘at home’ in Catholic art competition

Abigail Rhodus, a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park,  pauses for a photo with, from left, Bill Maloney, executive director of the Catholic Foundation of Northeast Kansas; Vince Cascone, superintendent of Catholic schools; and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann. Here, she receives a Juror’s Choice award at the annual Archbishop’s Invitational High School Art Exhibit. Rhodus earned a total of four awards for her art this year. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MOIRA CULLINGS

by Moira Cullings
moira.cullings@theleaven.org

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — “This is one of my favorite events of the year,” proclaimed Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann at the annual Archbishop’s Invitational High School Art Exhibit here.

The beauty on display at this year’s event, held on March 4 at Savior Pastoral Center, was a source of hope for the archbishop.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann addresses those gathered at the annual Archbishop’s Invitational High School Art Exhibit. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MOIRA CULLINGS

He gathered with the artists — high school students from around the archdiocese — to enjoy their artwork, which adorned the walls of one of Savior’s vast hallways.

Family members, principals and teachers were also in attendance.

This year’s event, sponsored by the Catholic Foundation of Northeast Kansas (CFNEK), included music by the St. James Academy, Lenexa, band and a light breakfast.

From left, St. James Academy, Lenexa, student teacher Samantha Moore (left) and students Alex Brady, Audrey Montanez, Adrianna Brady and Morgan Nguyen share their musical talents. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MOIRA CULLINGS

Eight awards were doled out — half to Abigail Rhodus, a senior from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park.

Two of Rhodus’ pieces earned her three Juror’s Choice awards and one Popular Choice award.

“It means the world to me,” she said.

During the last invitational held two years ago, Rhodus was new to art and decided at the last minute to enter a piece titled “The Annunciation.” The painting earned her the Popular Choice award.

This year, her painting of a young child looking up to the stars, titled “Reaching for Joy,” took home the same honor.

Abigail Rhodus, a senior from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, won the Popular Choice and a Juror’s Choice award for this piece, titled “Reaching for Joy.” LEAVEN PHOTO BY MOIRA CULLINGS

“It’s a funny coincidence,” she said. “I put the two together, and it’s really weird because Mary’s face is looking down at the child reaching up just by the way they’re oriented.

“It’s really cool to put them together and see how my art has completed itself throughout the years.”

Abigail Rhodus took home the 2020 Popular Choice award for this piece, titled “The Annunciation.” LEAVEN FILE PHOTO BY MOIRA CULLINGS

Rhodus said she’s thankful for a competition where she can express her faith freely.

“Being here, I really feel at home,” she said, “because I can use the Catholic inspiration that I really enjoy.”

Allison Carney, associate superintendent of schools, was the emcee of the invitational. She expressed her thanks to CFNEK for sponsoring the event and to the young artists for their participation.

Allison Carney, associate superintendent of schools, was the emcee of the art invitational. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MOIRA CULLINGS

Father Anthony Saiki, rector of the Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City, Kansas, said the introductory prayer.

He asked God to bless the artists, “who have provided such beautiful pieces — works to manifest truth, beauty and goodness.”

“We ask you to bless them as they, in their works, through their mediums, pursue you and aspire to hope and goodness and show all the world the universal, the transcendent and the eternal,” he prayed.

Catherine Peitsch and Numaan Irshad, students at Maur Hill-Mount Academy in Atchison, hold pieces of copper over small candles during an art activity. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MOIRA CULLINGS

Julie Flanagan, a Catholic Fine Arts Council member, also prayed for the students while they worked on an art activity, which included heating a piece of copper over a small candle then engraving it.

She encouraged them to take advantage of experiences like the invitational.

“Like you students, I was an artist in high school and grade school,” she said, “but I didn’t have the opportunity to where I could use my voice, my talent [and] my tools to shout for joy the word of God.”

“You’ve got this beautiful opportunity,” she continued. “Thank you for sharing your incredible colors and your talents.”

Julie Flanagan, a Catholic Fine Arts Council member, leads those gathered in an art activity, which included heating a piece of copper over a small candle then engraving it. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MOIRA CULLINGS

Archbishop Naumann emphasized the importance of art’s role in church history and thanked the students for carrying on that tradition.

“Hopefully, it’s an encouragement to you to continue to use these gifts that God has entrusted to you to give him glory and praise him,” he said. “Art does that by its very nature.”

Although not everyone is an artist, he added, beauty is for everyone.

“There are artists,” he said, “and then there are those of us who get to enjoy art. We may not have the gifts, but to appreciate beauty is to honor God.”

For a full album of photos from the art exhibit and the artwork, click here.

About the author

Moira Cullings

Moira attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park and Benedictine College in Atchison. She majored in marketing, minored in psychology and played center midfield for the women’s soccer team. Moira joined The Leaven staff as a feature writer and social media editor in 2015. After a move to Denver, Moira resumed her full-time position at The Leaven and continues to write and manage the website and social media channels. Her favorite assignment was traveling to the Holy Land to take photos for a group pilgrimage in 2019.

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