Around San Diego · community · Mira Mesa Living

Exhibit of Prize-Winning Artwork by Local Students Opens at Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum

Winning student entries from the first annual “Marines in Flight” Art Contest are now on display in the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum’s galleries through January 2020. Students from public, private and home schools throughout San Diego County submitted artwork depicting United States Marine Corps aircraft, past or present.

Winners in the High School Division are:

  • First Place — Sylvia Paredes, Eastlake High School (now studying at SDSU), painted a highly stylized watercolor of an F/A 18 “Hornet.” She titled her work “Flying in Peace” and depicts a blue Hornet with a ground of peach and purple shadows to show a tranquil flight.
  • Second Place – Jiaying Zhu, Westview High School, painted a World War II-era TBM-3e “Avenger”. She was motivated to complete her watercolor by what she termed the “charming physique” of the plane that she compared to a blue jay.
  • Third Place – Roma Ghanekar, Poway High School, crafted “Clear Skies.” Her F9F-2 “Panther” flies toward an American flag. She was inspired to paint the “Panther” after studying the Korean War and by her grandfather who served as a military pilot.

Middle School Division Winners are:

  • First Place — Veronika Smolina, Santa Fe Christian School, created a watercolor of a formation of Corsairs titled “On a Mission.” Her research into the sacrifices of the military pilots and crew inspired her painting.
  • Second Place – Stephan Talantov, Del Mar Elementary School (now at Bishop’s School), is the grandson and great-grandson of aircraft designers. Stephan used colored pencils to depict a Corsair in flight.
  • Third Place – Charlie O’Bryan, a home school student, created “Fog Machine”, a striking black and white charcoal and ink work depicting World War II-era aircraft nose art. His interest in World War II nose art, as well as a grandfather who served as a nose gunner during World War II, motivated him to complete the drawing.

Students were required to submit their artwork by early June for consideration. The artwork was judged by four nationally-recognized professional artists and illustrators: Gary Johnson, Lee Kromshroeder, Herb Prokse and Robert Watts. The time and effort students put into their entries was evident, making selection of winning entries difficult.

First place winners in both divisions were awarded $300, second place winners received $200 and third place winners earned $100. In addition, the students were feted at a private ceremony earlier this month. The students received certificates of achievements from Colonel Charles Dockery, Commanding Office of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, and by leadership of the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation including Major General Bob Butcher (USMC-retired) who serves as Chairman of the Board and Brigadier General Mike Aguilar (USMC-retired), Executive Director.

The “Marines in Flight” Art Contest is designed to encourage middle school and high school students in San Diego County to express their artistic and creative skills as they learn about U.S. and aviation history. The focus is on the contributions, courage and sacrifices of the men and women who designed, built, flew, and maintained these iconic aircraft. More information about the contest and photos of the winning entries can be found at The artwork will be on display through January 2020.

About the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation

Through its support of the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum, the Foundation helps to preserve the history of U.S. Marine Corps aviation, honor military service, and inspire in all generations an appreciation of America’s freedoms. The Foundation has established a collaboration with the Character Development Resource Center at the University of San Diego to provide lessons in U.S. history, leadership, character, patriotism, and aviation science.

About the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum

The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum is the only museum primarily dedicated to U.S. Marine Corps aviation, with the largest and most complete collection of vintage aircraft flown by Marine pilots in the world. The collection includes many extremely rare and historically significant artifacts and aircraft from WWI to present day. There are 31 aircraft currently on display, including “Lady Ace”, the CH-46 helicopter that evacuated the U.S. ambassador from the rooftop of the embassy in Saigon on April 30, 1975. The Museum is open to the public six days per week and admission is free. The Museum welcomes more than 28,000 visitors annually. The Museum hosts “Open Cockpit Days” and “Picnic with Pilots” events May through August, as well as annual student essay and art contests, and the Irene Ferguson Marine Wife of the Year recognizing the spouses of active duty Marines.

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