With hundreds of teens and parents looking on at the Idaho Capitol in Boise Friday, Gov. Butch and First Lady Lori Otter handed out more than $135,000 in prize money for the Idaho Meth Project's Paint the State contest, which encouraged youth to create their own works of art that feature an anti-meth message. Three winners from each of the state's 44 counties were selected and announced, as well as a statewide winner, who took home $6,500 in prize money.
In all, teens across the state created 348 unique pieces of artwork and very few canvases were alike for the young artists. At least 19 entries featured artwork done on storefronts, while 13 teens chose to paint cars, a dump truck, a school bus, or a fire truck. One entrant even used a teepee to spread the anti-meth message. In the end, Brock Bartlett of Twin Falls took home the grand prize for a statue that he and his brother, Zack, built together and placed on the courthouse lawn in their county. The statue showed two metalwork hands wrapped in chains. "We were inspired to create something to show that people who use meth become chained to the drug,” said the Bartlett brothers.
First-, second-, and third -place place winners each received $1,500, $1,000, and $500, respectively. According to a previous interview with Megan Ronk, spokesperson for IMP, tax dollars weren't given away as prize money. The state allocates a certain amount of money to the program each year for its operations. For the next fiscal year, which starts in July, IMP will receive $500,000 from the Idaho Millenium Fund, which is the state’s earnings from the investment of money from the 1998 settlement with tobacco companies. The money for the art contest came from corporations like Monsanto, an agricultural company, Blue Cross of Idaho, a health insurer, and the Idaho Hospital Association.
Lori Otter, often the figurehead of the Idaho Meth Project, praised the work of the teens and promised to keep the anti-meth effort going strong in Idaho. "You have created your own interpretations of the anti-meth message," said Otter. "The result has been powerful."
Ray Flachbart, president of Blue Cross, also praised the work of the teens. “Through this contest young people from every corner of the state have taken action and sent a clear message to their friends and communities," said Flachbart. "Their leadership is an inspiration."