When Fort Osage High School art educator Kim Meneses called Allison Gant, the junior art student thought her teacher was making a prank call.

“Mrs. Meneses called to tell me that I’d won the Governor’s Choice Award and that my art was going to hang in the Governor’s Mansion for a year,” she said.

“I thought it was a joke. I thought she was pranking me, and when she convinced me that my piece of art had won, I just started running around our house screaming and jumping up and down.”

Her reaction caused a brief moment of distress for her father, who thought something was wrong.

“We have these possums at our house, and my dad came up to me and said, ‘Are those possums back?’ And I told him I had won first place in a contest and that my art was going to hang in the Missouri Governor’s Mansion, and I think he was a little bit like me when I first heard about it – he really didn’t believe it. It’s just all so surreal.”

Every year Missouri educators submit art from their students for the Youth Art Month Capitol Exhibit Recognition and Award ceremony, which takes place March 16 at the state Capitol building.

“We don’t create for the exhibit, I just pick four of the best pieces and submit them to the committee,” Meneses said. “I used to work for Hallmark and spent 10 years in their licensing department, so I am very aware that our students need to create original art.”

So Gant recreated a personal photo of a picturesque, yet run down, gas station in southern Missouri.

“I’ve never been a car person,” said Gant, whose piece is titled “Olde Town Road,” “but there was something about Mrs. Meneses photo that really appealed to me. I liked the rust on the car and the way all the things were just naturally disintegrating.”

She says winning this honor gives her some much-needed validation when it comes to her art.

“I’m a bit of the black sheep in my family because of my love of art,” Gant said, with a shrug of her shoulders. “I hear you should be a nurse or a doctor. But I like vintage things. My room is filled with vinyl albums and Polaroids.”

She paused for a moment, and added, “Oh, does that make me sound like a hipster? Because I’m not a hipster. I’m an artist, and winning this award really makes me feel like an artist.”

“I know there are people who say, ‘Oh, that is nice,’ but I know they’re just saying that to be nice. People saw my art and liked it, and now, it’s going to be hanging in the Governor’s Mansion, and that is just so cool, so surreal, I just don’t believe it.”

Her teacher does.

“She’s good,” Meneses said, “very good. Allison is a natural. I’m just trying to teach her techniques to help her grow. She takes criticism well and wants to learn all she can. She is going to be a very successful artist.”