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La Veta student's talent could be cash cow for dwindling art program

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Student's talent could be cash cow for the arts in La Veta

LA VETA, Colo. - In the tiny town of La Veta, the majestic Spanish Peaks have some competition. High school senior Yul Jorgensen and the life-sized cow he painted are grabbing attention from just about everyone in the community.

And for good reason. Jorgensen is one of nine finalists in Lucerne's Art of Dairy contest, a national art competition that will award the winner $20,000 for their school art program, $5,000 for their art teacher and $5,000 to keep themselves.

"It'd just be amazing to finally get supplies that really large schools with high budgets could actually afford," said Jorgensen.

In La Veta, there is only one art teacher for the district's 230 students and her yearly budget has been reduced to $1,500. Already, elementary students must pay a fee to take art and buy their own supplies.

"It's to the point where we're the only extracurricular activity, so to pay to take the class, that's unfair to a lot of families," said Amber Smelser, the district's art teacher.

The contest has made Jorgensen something of a celebrity in La Veta.

"He's the best artist I've ever known," proclaimed third grader Angelique Sanchez.

Students ask him to draw on their shirts and sign their glue bottles.

"I cannot walk down the street without someone saying, 'Yul Yul!' It's great," he said. "So many people come up to me every day and say how them, their mother, their mothers ex-boyfriend and their ex-boyfriend's daughter are all voting for me."

Not bad for his first year in the town after he moved from California. He said he's not used to the popularity.

Win or lose, his teacher agrees that Jorgensen has done something remarkable for the arts in La Veta.

"I think Yul's inspired these kids," said Smelser. "They go home, they start their sketchbook. They never had sketchbooks! They say, 'Look it's like Yul, I have a sketchbook.' They just think the world of him."

Yul's talent could bring in even more money for La Veta schools. He's a finalist in the Doodle for Google art contest, and if he wins, he'll get a $30,000 college scholarship and a $50,000 technology grant for the district.

To vote for Jorgensen for the Art of Dairy contest, click here. You have until May 17.

To vote for him in Doodle For Google, click here. You have until May 11.

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