ROCKFORD — For the first time, UScellular’s annual Black History Month Art Contest will go virtual. Online voting will remain open to the public until Feb. 28.
Three Rockford youth will receive cash prizes in March that include $250 for first place, $150 for second and $100 for third. In January, Boys & Girls Club members created original artwork in recognition of influential Black people from around the globe, including historical figures, world leaders, athletes and celebrities. Ten finalists were chosen.
The Rockford community can visit uscellular.com/artcontest and click on “Rockford Boys & Girls Club” to vote for their favorite piece of original art.
“I’m always amazed at the talent these kids have,” said Jenny Justman, retail area sales manager at UScellular. “There’s a wide variety of submissions and a wide variety of interpretations within the drawings. It’s just fun to be able to see what they put together and how they use their artistic ability to really create their artwork.”
She said that UScellular has always been committed to the community and youth within the community.
“We like to put a focus on our youth because ultimately that’s the future and that is what’s going to give back as we continue to move down the road,” Justman said. “We value respect, we value diversity and we are always finding ways to make connections with the Boys & Girls Club that is fun, educational and impactful.”
Gayle Dixon, manager of the Fairgrounds Valley chapter of the Rockford Area Boys & Girls Club, said the youngest artist is 5 and the oldest is 16. Close to 40 members submitted original artwork.
“They are not copying, they are not taking a page out of a coloring book and they are not tracing,” Dixon said. “They’re actually drawing. They’re so creative with the backgrounds … they are looking beyond just a stick figure, they are really trying and that’s the important part.”
Before the pandemic, UScellular would send volunteers to help the club members. The kickoff day was usually on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The contest would be held in person at one of the stores and the winners would receive their artwork framed, as well as their prizes.
The Boys & Girls Club already celebrates Black History Month so having this annual art contest is just a way to include the community, Dixon said.
“We talk about different famous African Americans and what they’ve contributed to give them an idea of who’s famous, what they’ve done and why we want to recognize them,” she said.
“Now, it’s not only us doing it at Fairgrounds, but we’re doing it at the other clubs. And when UScellular picks it up, the whole community is involved because they’re voting on their artwork. This is showing that everybody cares, it’s not just a small unit anymore.”
The public can vote online through the end of February: uscellular.com/artcontest