When this year's Cherry Days art contest was opened up to Paonia High School students this spring, it didn't take art student Audra Niermann long to decide how she wanted to illustrate the 2019 Cherry Days theme, "Small Town Living." Niermann chose an image she sees almost every day -- the iconic big red barn standing just off of Highway 133 midway between Hotchkiss and Paonia.
Her colored pencil image of the barn, a cherry tree added to the foreground, Mt. Gunnison towering in the backdrop, was selected by the Cherry Days committee to represent small-town living on all 2019 Cherry Days buttons, posters and advertisements.
"I figured, most people have a barn, including us," said Niermann, who lives on a small farm near the big red barn. "It's kind of a well-known barn around here."
The barn was built in 1928, and in 2003 was purchased by Mark and Debbie Shaffer. It hadn't been used as a hay barn for a few years and needed a little work, but the structure was solid. The Shaffers restored the barn, painted it in classic barn red, and put it back to use as a hay barn.
Niermann, 16, is the daughter of Lisa and Erich Niermann. She showed talent for the arts early on, and was educated at Waldorf public schools, including Blossom Valley Co-op charter school in Hotchkiss. This fall she will be a senior at PHS.
When she was little, she said, people were always complimenting her on her water colors. Her mom purchased art supplies for her and encouraged her to use them.
This year, she said, she took her first "real art classes" from Jamie Roeber, who teaches art at both Hotchkiss and Paonia. When it came time to enter the Cherry Days art contest, she already knew she wanted to enter a drawing because her older sister Elena won the competition in 2016 with the theme "Seventy Cherry Years."
Studying art under Roeber, and while Roeber was on maternity leave, Paonia artist Spencer Lightfoot, Niermann said she's tried a few new techniques, including pencil, charcoal and acrylics. "I've really learned a lot this year," she said. In getting her images to look realistic, Roeber "definitely helped me a lot with the technique that goes into it."
For winning the contest Niermann received a certificate and $50. Syrena Diehl was runner up and was awarded $35, and Dantrick Reed placed third and was awarded $20.