The Ellis County Art Association scholarship has paved the way for high school seniors since 1982.

The now, $500 scholarship was recently awarded and, for the first time, a runner-up scholarship of $250 was given.

With the help of the community, these two ladies plan to enter art world of higher education and both hope to replicate the successes of first-year winner, Jana Jennings.

Jana Jennings won the first scholarship in 1982. She could not describe the work she submitted but assumed it was an oil painting.

“That’s how I got my scholarship; I was taught private lessons from first grade to 12th grade, so I wanted to give back to the community that helped me,” Jennings explained.

Jennings now owns a private studio at her home where she has conducted private art lessons for the last six years. She has also taught in Ennis and at ART on the Square.

She currently works in marketing for Ennis Ink in Midlothian, but her passion is with her students. When she sees young artists inspired or place at shows, it drives her passion.

“To see their face when they walk in and get a ribbon is worth everything,” Jennings expressed.

Jennings used the scholarship money to obtain an associate's degree in graphic design from the Dallas Art Institute. She recalled the private school as being only a two-year program back then. Jennings acquired a scholarship from the institute, as well, but expressed how grateful she was for the financial help from her won community.

“Looking back at it, I didn’t know how lucky I was," Jennings reconciled. "I actually got that scholarship and another one from the school — I didn’t know how talented I was. It helped a lot, my family wasn’t able to pay for my school, so it was a way to get to go.”

Jennings saw the art displayed in this year’s contest but was not able to make it to the ceremony. The Ellis County Arts Association member said this was the first year the organization offered two scholarships. One scholarship was for $500 and another for $250.

“The two who got the scholarships were very deserving and needing in order to further their education in art. We are very proud of that,” Jennings shared.


A $500 scholarship went to Midlothian Heritage High School senior, Ofelia Wallen.

This was her first time to compete with surrounding Ellis County art students at the Ellis County Art Association student exhibit.

Wallen compared her academic and athletic skills to her art skills, expressing how she has only advanced in her artistic abilities. Her interest began in middle school and noticed her natural capabilities take off her sophomore year.

Going into the show, she submitted three portraits.

“My art teacher told me that art shows really like portraits because people are amazed at how realistic I can get my pictures,” Wallen explained.

When the judges announced the results for the prize, Wallen did not believe it was her based off of the characteristics read to the crowd. However, once the judge read the winner had plans to attend community college in Galveston, she knew she was the only one in the room with that future.

When he name was called, “I was going to cry. It was really a roller coaster,” Wallen relayed.

“I’m really proud of my artwork. It takes a lot of work. I’m glad that I won. And I’m going into art no matter what. There’s no other field that I’m interested in so it’s going to go into the youth,” Wallen explained.

As far back as she can remember, Wallen has always dreamed of working for Disney as an animator.

Jeremy Eggleston, the art professor at Midlothian Heritage High School, taught Wallen all four years. He witnessed her growth as an artist, connecting her subject matter with her personal life.

“Ofelia's technical skills really took off after her first year with me and she took to challenging herself with pen and ink portraiture […] To finish her senior year and completing her AP portfolio, Ofelia has finished a twelve piece body of work that focuses on the idea of human reliance upon nature,” Eggleston iterate.


For Azelin Arreola, a Red Oak High School senior, it was her first time to enter an art contest. She knew before graduating she would compete.

“I had a lot that I wanted to show off. I knew this year I had really made an effort and pushed myself compared to the other years,” Arreola expressed.

Arreola’s art teacher, Alexia Mentzel, agreed that the young artist has grown her senior year significantly. Mentzel can tell her student is prepared to start higher education in the art field.

“She likes to work with her hands so what made her blossom this year I think is she started doing ceramics, and so I like her artwork this year because she started thinking outside of the box,” Mentzel elaborated. “She started experimenting and trying new things, and if it fails, she doesn’t let it get her down. She’s not afraid of failure, and that’s what I like about her.”

The work Arreola submitted exhibited how she worked with a range of materials. It started as a sketch of her boyfriend and then she layered it with transparent paper. Arreola then used magazine paper but wasn’t getting the look she had in her mind. Instead, she used images and words from an encyclopedia and layered different scenes from around the world.

Once she had her masterpiece, she knew it was contest-worthy.

Arreola has colored and painted ever since she can remember. Now, she plans to attend Texas State University to study interior design.

“I enjoyed the opportunity the competition gave me, it reassured me that I do stand a chance in the art world compared to how I used to think, there are millions of people across the world doing art, what’s special about me? That really encouraged me probably more so than ever to peruse my art dreams.”


Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450