Gallery One Ellleven and The Vernon Parish Chamber of Commerce hosted a reception Saturday night to celebrate the winners of the “Beauty of Vernon” photo contest.

The reception also gave all of Vernon Parish a chance to see their winning photos.

The event, hosted by Gallery One Ellleven and The Vernon Parish Chamber of Commerce, presented each of the 12 finalists and six runner ups of the photo contest. Each photographer was granted a chance to speak on their piece, going into detail on the process of obtaining the shot as well as what the photo says about Vernon Parish itself.

“I think it’s just nice to be able to take this time to really admire the beauty around us,” said Finalist Barbara Kaveski. “We’re all so busy going back and forth with our jobs, we don’t really have time to stop and look and admire all of what Vernon Parish has to offer. The beauty is everywhere, not just in these photos we took.”

“It’s everywhere and everyday,” added Finalist Tracy Smith. “We just have to look for it and find it, and it really gives us the motivation to go out and share what we’ve found and encourage others to really explore this parish of ours and everything it has to offer.”

Anne Causey of the Vernon Parish Chamber of Commerce announced Rickie Smith as the grand finalist for the 2018 “Beauty of Vernon” photo contest.

Smith was awarded $500 for his piece, “Welcome Home,” which will be featured on the cover of the 2018-2019 Chamber calendar.

In addition to presenting the winners of the photo contest, Gallery One Ellleven made its own contribution to the arts.

Following an anonymous donation this past summer, gallery director Tony McDonald awarded $300 to both the Leesville High School Art Department and the Leesville Jr. High Art Department.

“Basically, we got this wad of cash this past summer from an anonymous donation, with the stipulation being that we do something good with it,” McDonald said. “So we decided to help support the arts in schools, because they’re not quite as funded as they used to be.

“The money will help with art supplies and it’ll really give kids the chance to explore that field and find themselves through that. That will of course transfer over into their other studies and help them improve all around, so we’re just trying to help fill that gap by donating to the art departments.”

In addition to Gallery One Ellleven’s donation, center manager for Barksdale Federal Credit Union Steve Woods offered to match the donations, with both departments receiving $600 in total at the reception.

During the reception, Gallery One Ellleven also held a silent auction, in which many local artists and gallery members donated their own art pieces for the public to bid on. The auction ran through the length of the “Beauty of Vernon” exhibition.

The Gallery will host another reception near the end of August, in which the public will have another chance to bid on the art pieces before the winners are revealed.

The 12 finalist photos, along with the six runner up pictures and the gallery silent auction pieces, are on full display at Gallery One Ellleven, located at 111 South 3rd Street, Leesville, Louisiana.