Artists, writers honored at Dist. 214 contest reception in Arlington Heights

Dennis Depcik of Buffalo Grove devoted his career to social work, serving as associate director of OMNI Youth Services for more than 20 years. But in retirement he has found a new lease on life through creative writing.

Depcik won first place in prose in the annual Arts Unlimited art and writing contest co-sponsored by Northwest Suburban High School District 214 and the Daily Herald. He and other winners were honored Wednesday night in Arlington Heights.

It was Depcik's third prize since first entering the contest in 2013 but the first time he won the top honor. All three prose entries have involved family stories, including the passing of his wife, Maggie.

"I started writing to help me grieve," Depcik said, "but after joining a writers group at Indian Trails Library, I thought that maybe I could write. Maybe I could touch people."

Each year, the Daily Herald partners with District 214 to sponsor the art & writing contest, allowing adults who live in the district to compete alongside students.

The reception took place at Forest View Educational Center and opened with a display of all of the winning works by students and community members in a gallery-type setting, with a performance by Buffalo Grove High School's string quartet in the background.

The second-place winner among prose entries was Mike Hurley of Mount Prospect. When Hurley retired from his job as an English teacher at Wheeling High School last year, he resolved to spend more time writing.

"I taught creative writing for years, but I never had time to write myself," Hurley said. "Now that I'm writing, I wanted to see if I was any good. Entering a contest is a great way to get some feedback."

Zoey Heinrich of Buffalo Grove High School took third place in the prose division, which was judged by Bill Leece, a former English and journalism teacher at Rolling Meadows High School.

"I look for something that startles me, that's surprising and not a cliché," Leece said. "I want it to be fresh and something you want to go back and read again and again."

Among art entries, District 214 students swept the awards, Noelle Walsh of Elk Grove High School won first, Jane Banks of Rolling Meadows High School took second, and Diana Guarneros of Prospect High School placed third.

Banks' winning photo, "Looking Glass," was one she shot for her Advanced Placement studio art class, Banks said.

"It was for a concentration assignment, so it questions reality," Banks said. "I'm thrilled to win an award. I'm planning to pursue photography in college."

In the poetry division, Oliva Bell of Hersey High School took first place, while Buffalo Grove High School students Lillian Justie and Carly Colen placed second and third, respectively.

Longtime District 214 board member Bill Dussling addressed the crowd at the outset. He has been an advocate for the arts since joining the board and works to attend performances.

"What a fantastic day for the arts," Dussling said. "It's efforts like these that keep arts alive in our community - and thriving."

  A reception was held Wednesday at Forest View Educational Center in Arlington Heights to honor winners of the District 214/Daily Herald Arts Unlimited art and writing contest. Here, Buffalo Grove High School students Charles Buehler, left, and Mackenzie Wiltse view work on display. Patrick Kunzer/
  Rolling Meadows High School student Jane Banks discusses her winning entry in digital photography on Wednesday at a reception at Forest View Educational Center in Arlington Heights. Patrick Kunzer/
  Rolling Meadows High School student Jane Banks won an award for digital photography with this image. Patrick Kunzer/
  Prose judge Bill Leece of Schaumburg, left, visits with first-place winner Dennis Depcik of Buffalo Grove on Wednesday night at a reception in Arlington Heights. Patrick Kunzer/
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