Molly Dawson is in her element in the welcoming confines of the Independence Arts and Technology building located just north of the Square, at 315 N. Main Street.

The William Chrisman High School junior is working on a college Advanced Placement piece of art that will be part of her college portfolio that she hopes will help her land a scholarship at a prestigious university on the East Coast.

Her passion for art helped her win the first award of her young career, as an oil painting that is part of this AP portfolio will be on display for a year at the state Capitol building in Jefferson City.

Dawson and her family and fine arts teacher Karen Campbell will make the trip to Jefferson City on Monday to take part in the ceremony.

“I received an email about an art contest where students would represent their district and could submit a piece of art, and Molly’s art won from District 11,” said Campbell, a teacher from William Chrisman who now spends most of her time mentoring and inspiring students at the Independence Arts and Technology Center.

“The contest is part of YAM (Youth Art Month), and schools from the area submitted pieces of art, and we were all so thrilled when Molly won. She’s a great, great young artist and an even greater young lady.”

“The oil painting she submitted is one of her best pieces and represents one of the pieces of art from her AP portfolio. I think people might be surprised by the amazing artwork created by students from William Chrisman, Truman and Van Horn that we have on display here at Independence Arts and Technology Center.”

“I’d put their work up against most college classes. We have some very talented young artists, and Molly is one of the best.”

Principal Mike Becker agrees.

“We have some amazing students here at Chrisman, and we are proud of all of them,” Becker said. “We are as proud of Molly, and all the great art work she has created, as we are of the boys basketball team and all the success it has had this season.

“It’s an exciting time to be a part of William Chrisman High School.”

Dawson has to produce 24 pieces of art for her college portfolio – 12 breadth pieces, that she has already completed, and 12 thematic pieces.

The oil painting, which was inspired by the classic “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” by Oscar Wilde, is part of her gothic/romantic themed 12-piece collection.

“I don’t want to sound shallow, but for me, art is really fun – a great way to express myself,” Dawson said. “I’m not always the best when it comes to words, but I love to communicate how I feel through my art.”

“And I love coming here (to Independence Arts and Technology) because everyone is serious about art. We’re all artists – there are no students who just come to get an art credit, you know, the ones who can be disruptive and aren’t really that serious.”

“That is why I love being here. I feel creative. I feel safe. I love it!”

She also loves that her family and Campbell are going to accompany her to Jefferson City for the ceremony.

“I’m hoping this will help me get some recognition and help me when I apply to colleges,” Dawson said. “My family is going. My little sister is really excited about getting out of school to make the trip and I am so happy that Mrs. Campbell is going, because she is such a great teacher.”

“I’ve never really won an award, so I don’t know how to act. But I am honored and so happy that my work will hang in a gallery for everyone to see who visits our state Capitol building.”