Bright Future: Cathedral student’s artwork selected for Ducks Unlimited honor

Published 11:42 pm Tuesday, June 19, 2018


NATCHEZ — CeCe McKinney, a recent graduate of Cathedral High School, has managed to indirectly contribute to the wildlife conservation efforts of Mississippi Ducks Unlimited.

Each year, students in Andree’ Gamberi’s art class at Cathedral send their carefully drawn and painted waterfowl artwork to the Mississippi Ducks Unlimited’s Junior Duck Stamp Competition. In the contest, students select an image of one of Mississippi’s waterfowl to depict in a painting of their own creation.

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Earlier this year, several of Gamberi’s students placed in the competition. Three of them placed first, but only one of them won best of show and advanced in the Junior Duck Stamp competition, Avery McMillin — who just completed her junior year at Cathedral. Days before school let out for the summer, Gamberi’s other first-place winners made some advancements of their own.

“There are four age categories (and three first-place winners in each category),” Gamberi said. “The ones that won first-place but did not win best of show … were asked if they would be interested in having their work sent off because Ducks Unlimited had contacted us about another contest. I said, ‘Well I’m sure they would.’ That was about two days before (the students) were finished with school.”

Gamberi said the other two students who did not win best of show went on to compete for the Mississippi Ducks Unlimited’s sponsor print just before school let out for summer. McKinney said she had not thought about the contest after that, until her summer vacation was interrupted by an email from the chairman Scott Forrest, stating that her painting had been chosen out of the other first-place winners in the state.

“I’d forgotten about it,” McKinney said. “Last year I won second place in the (Junior Duck Stamp) competition. This year I wanted to get first-place, so worked harder on (the painting). I had a good feeling when I’d finished it.”

Forrest said this is the first year the state organization has ever chosen a Junior Duck Stamp winner’s painting for a sponsor print.

“It’s kind of the first year we’ve done it. We’ve always recognized our sponsors with gifts … but this year we’ve created what Ducks Unlimited calls a ‘green wing’ sponsor print,” Forrest said.

He said approximately 12 first-place winners went on to compete for the sponsor print, which will be framed and gifted to sponsors of organization throughout the state. Forrest said he felt it was important that the group chose one Mississippi artist from the Junior Duck Stamp competition for the print, so the next generation is exposed to the wildlife conservation efforts of Ducks Unlimited.

“That’s a big thing to get (youth) involved in our conservation efforts,” Forrest said.

McKinney now plans to attend the state convention for Ducks Unlimited in Tupelo on July 27 and 28. She enjoys playing sports, traveling and art, she said, though McKinney didn’t begin seriously drawing and painting until her junior year when she started taking Gamberi’s class.

“I’ve always been interested in it, but I’ve never really liked it until I started taking art,” she said.

Though Cathedral requires its students to take one art elective in order to graduate, McKinney said she decided to continue taking her second art class with Gamberi by choice and will now have her work featured across the state because of it.

McKinney is the daughter of Carlyn Elenbaas and Dan McKinney. She was a member of the National Honor Society and an athlete. She served as an active member of her school’s soccer, tennis and cheerleading teams. She plans to study psychology at the Louisiana State University this fall and said she would like to continue taking art classes there.