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MSA student semifinalist in presidential scholars program

A Mississippi School of the Arts visual arts senior is one ofseven Mississippi students chosen as semifinalists in the 2009Presidential Scholars Program.

Annie Wentzell, of Ocean Springs, was one of approximately 3,000graduating high school seniors from across the county identified ascandidates in the program. Only 560 semifinalists have beenchosen.

The scholars are chosen on the basis of their accomplishments inmany areas – academic and artistic success, leadership, andinvolvement in school and the community.

Wentzell advanced to the semifinals on her artistic vision. Shesaid she was excited and honored to have advanced this far.

Finalists will be selected by a panel of 32 eminent citizensappointed by the presidents. They will be invited to Washington forseveral days to receive their Presidential Scholars medallion andto participate in related events and activities.

“I find out in May whether I actually get it,” Wentzellsaid.

Wentzell was submitted for the Presidential Scholars Program byYoungArts, a program of the National Foundation for Advancement inthe Arts. YoungArts chose 60 nominees from among more than 6,000applicants to submit for the scholars program.

A fourth-generation photographer, Wentzell sent a series ofimages from a Cole Brothers Circus to YoungArts in the hopes ofattending a seminar sponsored by the organization. She was among140 applicants selected to attend an event in Miami and 40 for anadditional trip to New York.

Her success in photography came quickly. Despite having beenraised in a photography studio, Wentzell said it wasn’t until shewas accepted to MSA – based on her drawing and painting – that shereally realized her love for photography.

“I came here and was surrounded by art all the time,” she said.”I took a photography class and really liked it. I guess since Iwas surrounded by it my whole life I was bound to get into it.”

Wentzell has restructured her artistic direction at MSA toprovide more emphasis on photography.

“Nothing has really satisfied me like photography has,” shesaid. “I don’t think I’m really patient enough for the otherthings. I like to be out and doing and photography allows me to dothat.”

Wentzell has found that her focus differs from that of hergreat-grandmother, who enjoyed nature photography, and hergrandmother and mother, who take portraits. Death captivatesher.

“Not like the death of people or animals,” she said. “It’s thedeath of buildings or ideas that interest me.”

She calls her focus “urban exploration” and concentrates onabandoned buildings and ghost towns.

Those interested in seeing some of her work will have theopportunity from May 5-9 when her work is displayed at theBrookhaven-Lincoln County Regional Public Library as part of MSA’s2009 Senior Art Shows. A reception will be held May 8 from 5:30 to7:30 p.m. where the artist can discuss her work with visitors.

Wentzell has received a full scholarship from the MarylandInstitute College of Art, where she will major in photography.