Aleah Walker with"Metamorphosis"

Aleah Walker with”Metamorphosis”

AVON PARK, Fla. – April 21, 2021 – The South Florida State College (SFSC) Museum of Florida Art and Culture (MOFAC) honored the winners of its annual juried Student Art Show during a reception and ceremony on Tuesday, April 20 in the Alan Jay Wildstein Center for the Performing Arts on the SFSC Highlands Campus in Avon Park.

The awards ceremony recognized drawings, paintings, photography, and a range of other artwork students created during their studies in SFSC’s Art Department. The students’ art is on display in the MOFAC Gallery through Saturday, May 15.

Aleah Walker came away with the Max Gooding Best in Show Purchase Award for her digital media presentation titled, “Metamorphosis.” She received $400 in prize money, and her work becomes part of the SFSC Student Art Collection. Max Gooding, an alumnus of SFSC’s Art Department, sponsors this top prize. Gooding, who went on to earn a degree in landscape architecture at the University of Florida, owns a landscape architecture consultancy, the Max Gooding Company, in Naples, Fla.

This year, two students, Keila Montelongo and Caitlin Cruz, won the Cathy Futral Award of Excellence for their artwork. Montelongo won for her mixed media artwork called, “Abstract Collage,” and Cruz won for her acrylic work titled, “Red Flowers.” The honor comes with a $100 check for each student. Futral was a beloved SFSC art professor who retired from SFSC in 2016.

Dr. Thomas C. Leitzel, SFSC president, selected one piece that garnered the President’s Award and $100 in prize money: Caitlin Cruz’s acrylic titled, “Red Flowers.” The award, chosen by Dr. Leitzel is a purchase award—the artwork becomes part of the President’s Art Collection at SFSC. The artwork remains on display in the Office of the President for one year, after which it resides in the Building F conference room with the work of previous President’s Award winners. The image is also used on birthday cards that Dr. Leitzel gives to SFSC employees throughout the year.

Dr. Thomas Leitzel (left) and Caitlin Cruz with "Red Flowers"

Dr. Thomas Leitzel (left) and Caitlin Cruz with “Red Flowers”

Members of the Tanglewood Art League were on hand to present their annual scholarship of $300 for each student recipient. This year, the League honored two students with the award: Nancy Zuniga and Chiara Chillemi. Kathy Mousseau, Judith Eckstein, Peggy Scefcyk, and Bob Clarke of the Tanglewood Art League presented the award at the ceremony.

“We created this scholarship because of our interest in the arts and want to help students who are trying to further their education and career in this field,” Mousseau said. “Further, the students will have an acknowledgement of their achievements to display on their wall, they will be able to put this award on resumes, and the check will help them with finances.”

The winner of the People’s Choice Award is chosen by a vote of the those who visit the Student Art Show in MOFAC during its opening week. The winner receives $50 in prize money. This year’s winner was Nancy Zuniga.

The MOFAC docents created an award for student artwork. The winner receives $100. The Docents’ Choice Awards was bestowed upon Abigail Tollison for her mixed media work called, “Serenity.”

Six students received the Best of Media Award, with each awardee receiving $75. The winners were Nykerria Jackson, mixed media/collage, “Autumn Leaves”; Maxely Perez, drawing, “Striped Pearl”; Chiara Chellemi, cereamics, “Slab House”; Hailey McMahan, painting, “Flamingo Transformation”; Abigail Erekson, digital media, “Hummingbird”; and Betsy Mejia-Flores, photography, “Bread and Juice.”

The 10 Awards of Merit were presented to Chiara Chillemi (two awards), Kaylee Dibble Sheppard, Maxely Perez, Sierra Smith, Mackenzie Burch, Nancy Zuniga, Abigail Tollison, Ruby Rivera, and Shannah Cutcher.

The 2021 Student Art Show sponsors were Max Gooding, Cathy Futral, Tanglewood Art League, SFSC Student Government Association, and the SFSC Art Club.

MOFAC is located on the SFSC Highlands Campus in Avon Park and open to the public Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, 12:30 – 4:30 p.m. For more information about the Museum and its exhibitions, visit or contact Leighton Skipper, Museum curator, at or 863-784-7240.