COLUMBIA FALLS — "It's kind of just like, heartbreaking to hear about because wildfires do ruin a lot of the environment," said Madysen Martin, Columbia Falls High School freshman and Keep Montana Green art contest 1st place winner.
And that heartbreak has turned into art, award-winning art for Columbia Falls students.
The teens raked in the awards for the Keep Montana Green statewide art contest with the overall first-place prize and the top three spots in the senior division.
“It's really important to be aware of, like, fire prevention because it's like something that occurs every year with wildfires. And it's always, there's always something that you could do to help prevent it," said Mackenzie Nelson, Columbia Falls High School Senior and KMG Senior Division 1st place winner.
Madysen Martin won first place with over 600 entries across the state.
“I didn't know how to feel definitely excitement and then there was like joy," said Martin.
Most of Madysen’s paintings are inspired by Montana’s wildlife and beauty.
“Just knowing that I could get something out there that would prevent wildfires from ruining any part of Montana's beauty just it really meant a lot just because I just I really appreciate Montana and all its beauty that it holds. So just being able to express that in my artwork was so exciting, like so much fun," said Martin.
Columbia Falls visual arts teacher Kate Daniels doesn't just use this contest to teach pen and ink and watercolor.
“It’s a great contest to help teach art as a message and how important it is to be able to visually express yourself," said Daniels.
And that showed especially with Madysen's work - her creativity sparked because she loves the outdoors and is impacted when the wilderness is impacted.
“I wanted my art to show a representation of the animals kind of doing their part when it really should be the people doing their part. I wanted to represent like how it doesn't just affect us people; it affects the animals and everything and how it shouldn't be. They're almost like their responsibility and it's their home," said Martin.
The artwork from the contest is made into a calendar to display students' work and support fire prevention and education. Some of the winners also receive a cash prize.
“These students, in particular, have really worked hard this year in the art department and so it's nice to see their hard work pay off," said Daniels.