When Ian Rinker, 8, saw the movie “Dolphin Tale 2” last spring, he was intrigued by Winter, the dolphin with a prosthetic tail that the movie focused on. But what really caught Rinker’s attention was the spotlight the movie shined on the problem of littering.
“The search and rescue found a turtle that was hurt by a fishing line and a fishing hook in its flipper,” Rinker said. “And that made me think that the world would be a better place if everybody stopped littering.”
Then the Ravens Crest second-grader at Polo Ridge Elementary School saw the prompt for this year’s National PTA Reflections contest was “The World Would Be a Better Place if…” He knew what he wanted to do.
Reflections is an annual arts recognition and achievement program for Pre-K through 12th grade students. Each participating school selects winners within six categories: visual arts, dance, film, music, literature and photography.
“I knew I wanted to do something about littering,” said Rinker, who submitted his painting in the primary (K-2) visual arts category. “I came up with some ideas but then I remembered the turtle from ‘Dolphin Tale 2.’ ”
Rinker spent months on his mixed media painting, beginning the artwork last July in private art classes he takes with Jason Sword, the art teacher at Polo Ridge Elementary.
“He’s very focused and methodical,” said Jonni Roylance, 53, one of Rinker’s two mothers.
“He worked on it for an hour here or an hour there,” added his mother, Jo Rinker, 45. “He worked on the background, then walked away. He outlined the turtle in pencil, then came back to it.”
As for one goal for his painting, Rinker said, “I wanted to make people think.”
His entry explaining his painting read, “I saw a movie where a turtle was hurt by a hook in its flipper. It made me sad. I hope when people see this painting they won’t throw trash in our water and hurt our fish and turtles.”
Rinker cut bags from Target into pieces to add to the ocean to illustrate the littering problem.
“I had to think what to put in the ocean,” Rinker said, concluding that plastic bags are probably the most prominent items thrown into the water.
He also added a fishing hook and tin foil to the turtle so that, he said, “it looks like he’s caught on it.”
Around the border of the painting, Rinker wrote, in colorful block letters, “The world would be a better place if everybody stopped littering.”
Rinker was a winner at the school, county and state competitions before advancing to the national level.
At the national level, Rinker’s painting received an award of excellence. The award of excellence is given to the top three entries in each age division and arts category and includes a $200 cash prize. His painting was one of 300,000 entries from across the country.
What most excited Rinker was that his painting will be displayed in the Building of Education in Washington, D.C., where his mothers plan to take him in January to see it.
“I can’t wait to see the International Spy Museum and the dinosaurs,” Rinker said. “And the zoo.”
He said he plans to combine art with a message in next year’s Reflections contest. The theme is “Let Your Imagination Fly…”
That does not seem to be a problem for him.
Katya Lezin is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Katya? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.