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Art student receives scholarship after livestock show oversight

By Elena Watts
April 30, 2014 at 8:01 p.m.
Updated May 1, 2014 at 12:01 a.m.

Victoria East sophomore Reagan McElroy holds her graphite sketch titled "After the Run" at the VISD Arts Center in Victoria. McElroy's piece was excluded from the Houston Livestock Show after being disqualified by a special rule that requires art in the special merit category to be put up for sale in an auction.

Special merit ribbon rules

Criteria 2 on Page 3 of the "Judging Procedures and Guidelines" reads: The steering judge will consult with the other judges, and if the consensus of opinion is that a special merit ribbon should be awarded, the judges may award based on the following criteria:

• A. The artwork must comply with all program rules and regulations.

• B. The artwork must be entered in a high school auction eligible class.

• C. The artwork must have received a finalist ribbon.

Source: Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Art program

In January, Reagan McElroy, 16, earned a special merit ribbon in the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo's School Art program for her graphite pencil drawing.

Reagan's "After the Run" was one of nine works of art selected from the district show in Victoria to advance to the show in Houston.

On March 8, Reagan traveled to Houston to attend the awards ceremony with her parents only to learn that her artwork was ineligible for the competition. As a result, she also lost opportunities to apply for three art scholarships.

Reagan's disappointment was compounded by another missed opportunity. The clarinet player gave up a band trip to Disney World in Florida to attend the Houston art show.

No one notified Reagan in advance that her artwork was not entered in the grand prix.

"We regret that the VISD district level coordinator was not notified by Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Art Show officials of Ms. McElroy's ineligibility prior to the awards presentations," wrote Diane Boyett, spokeswoman for Victoria school district. "As a school district, we join Reagan in her disappointment."

Elizabeth Greer, executive director of exhibits and attractions for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, recalled telephoning Candace Coyle, the school district program administrator, about the situation.

Coyle said she did not recall the conversation.

Neither Reagan nor Coyle were aware of an important rule regarding the art auction.

Reagan's work was ineligible for the special merit ribbon when she chose not to submit it for auction - a detail the judges also missed when they selected her piece for the award.

"Our administrative team made an error when they were checking the paperwork at the district show," Greer said. "The mistake was caught by different volunteers during the second review, which is the way the checks and balances are supposed to work."

The rule was published in the program's "Judging Procedures and Guidelines," Greer said.

However, Coyle did not have the guidelines. Instead, she referenced the "2014 School Art Project Rules and Regulations," which were posted online.

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo School Art program reimbursed the McElroys for their hotel room and provided them with rodeo tickets and carnival passes as a consolation.

"We did what we could on the ground in that moment to make it a better experience," Greer said. "We don't want a young student to be upset or unhappy because of a grown-up lack of communication."

When the McElroys returned to Victoria, they again expressed their frustration about the oversight. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Art program responded with a complimentary art scholarship for Reagan.

"The art scholarships offer good opportunities to learn more and to get out of your own medium," Reagan said.

Reagan can attend instructional classes at the Glassell School of Art in Houston for one week this summer.

"Reagan's artwork was and is superior," Coyle said. "This was a rule we didn't know about until we arrived at the ceremony. We were absolutely crushed for her."

In the future, students will be notified of the rule before the local art show, Boyett said.

Reagan said receiving the special merit award was an honor. She aspires to teach art classes one day.

"I would get to watch people like me grow in it, see how they do, see how they succeed," Reagan said.

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