Ariah Lowell, 12, of Biddeford, takes top honors in the National Junior Duck Stamp Art Contest for her painting of a Harlequin Duck. Courtesy photo

BIDDEFORD — A 12-year-old from Biddeford has taken high honors in a prestigious national art contest. Ariah Lowell was awarded third place in the National Junior Duck Stamp Art Contest for her oil painting of a Harlequin Duck.

The program, run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, encourages students to explore their natural world, invites them to investigate biology and wildlife management principles, and challenges them to express and share what they have learned with others through an art contest. This “conservation through the arts” program uses the winning artwork as the basis for the $5 Junior Duck Stamp. Revenue supports environmental education activities for participants. Nearly 9,000 students took part in the program nationwide this year.

More than 400 Maine students in grades K through 12 took part in the program, coordinated in Maine by Maine Audubon and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Lowell’s painting was awarded Best in Show in Maine and then went on to represent Maine in the national competition against all other Best in Show pieces from 50 states, Washington, D.C. and two U.S. territories. A panel of five judges awarded her third place. First place went to an 18-year-old artist from Kansas. The Junior Duck Stamp Contest winner receives $1,000. The second place winner receives $500; the third-place winner receives $200.

At the state level, the panel of judges included Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist Doug Hitchcox, artists Michael Boardman and Sherrie York, Peggy Page, and USFWS biologist Kirstin Underwood. For each of the four age group categories, they chose three First Place winners, three Second Place winners, three Third Place winners, and Honorable Mentions. Along with the Best in Show winner, they also selected a Best in Show Conservation Message. For a full list of winners and honorable mentions, visit

“The Best in Show Harlequin Duck was a standout even in this crowd of talent, right down to the sparkle in the water around the bird,” said judge Peggy Page. “It seemed to leap to life right off the paper. No one would guess that the artist was 12 years old. Amazing.”

Zuriel Smith, 11, from Damariscotta, was the winner in the Best in Show Conservation Message with the statement: “When we are protecting nature, we are protecting our future.”

“It’s always a pleasure to see the knowledge that students have gained in waterfowl biology and conservation depicted in their artwork,” said Underwood. “Every year I continue to be impressed by the quality of the artwork and the heart that all of the students put into their work.”

Artist Sherrie York echoed that sentiment. “As I looked through the work submitted to the Junior Duck Stamp competition,” she said, “I was struck by the variety of details that attract artists of all ages. Some of the young artists chose to emphasize color or pattern, others focused on the shape of individual feathers, and still others were captivated by the personality expressed in a bird’s beak and head shape. There are so many aspects of birds for artists to explore, and it was lovely to see them closely observed and celebrated by these young artists.”

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