SIKESTON - A Sikeston woman recently received an honor that says a lot about her commitment to art education, her love for fine arts and her willingness to share it with others.
Linda Melkersman is the recipient of a 2002 Missouri Arts Award, Missouri's highest honor earned by individuals and institutions who have made profound and lasting contributions to the cultural and artistic landscape.
"I think it's pretty cool," the New Madrid County Central High School art teacher said, grinning from ear to ear. "It will bring attention to the Bootheel and it will help our area grow in the arts. As an art teacher, it's really in the students' best interest for me to bring fine arts to them. By getting them exposed to the fine arts, it can really help change their view about it. That should be every art teacher's goal."
Remarking that she most enjoys drawing, which she has been doing since she received her fine arts degree in 1971, the educator still smiles when she thinks about how it all began.
"I've probably been interested in the arts since kindergarten when I was supposed to draw a Chihuahua and it turned out to be a giraffe. My teacher told me I was probably going to be an artist."
Those who know Melkersman well insist she is the perfect choice for the state honor.
"Linda has been a blessing to me as an art administrator. She is a creative person, full of fresh ideas," said Terri Matthews, administrator of Sikeston Missouri Arts.
Matthews still marvels at how Melkersman worked on the mural for the Cotton Festival of the Arts this year, directing students from Sikeston and New Madrid.
"She worked with two rival schools, youth not knowing each other, and brought them together," Matthews said. "They shared ideas and experienced the art process together. Linda inspired me to do better and not to give up. We have become good friends and I admire the unselfish time she spends in getting the opportunities out so that people will be able to experience different art areas."
The nominees for the award were reviewed by a committee of citizens throughout Missouri who are experienced in the arts.
Of the five categories defined for the honor, Melkersman's recognition was made in the category of arts education.
Other award recipients were from St. Joseph, St. Louis and Springfield.
"Sikeston Missouri Arts is proud of one of their members, for her heartfelt appreciation for the arts of Missouri," remarked Matthews. "It is an honor for her and her outstanding contribution to the cultural life in our state.
She is one that excites and expands our challenge to bring art to our community."
The Missouri Arts Awards will be formally presented Feb. 13, at the Capital in Jefferson City. A performance will precede the ceremony and a reception will conclude the activities.
"Linda takes time to know each of her students personally," Matthews noted. "By knowing them she is able to help them pull out of themselves their own creativity. Her compassion for her community and surrounding communities in bringing the arts experience is evident in all that she does. I wholeheartedly think Linda was qualified for this Missouri Arts Award. This is a much-deserved award for such an inspiring teacher."
"I'm very honored to have received this award," added Melkersman. "It's not something I thought about receiving. But I always tell my students, if they believe in something strongly enough, they can do just about anything."