Ali Zuro

Ali Zuro, a senior at McNary High School, paints her “Art of Dairy” life-sized cow. She is one of 30 nationwide finalists in a Safeway-sponsored contest. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

Asked whether she’s ever attempted to paint a canvas as large and undulating as the cow currently taking up residence in Room 54 at McNary High School, Ali Zuro replied, “Nooo.”

A unwitting nod to the animals that inspired the annual Art of Dairy Contest sponsored by Safeway.

Zuro’s concept sketch for a painted bovine was chosen as one of 30 nationwide finalists nationwide in the contest and the life-size plaster cow was delivered to the school last week. The theme of the is year’s contest is “Sharing Joy,” and Zuro’s concept combines painting with her love for theater.

“It will have the comedy-tragedy masks and a stage with people on it and the audience. That’s how I think joy is shared through the arts,” Zuro, a McNary senior, said.

It’s not the first time a McNary art student has been selected as a finalist in the contest. In 2006, Celt Tonia Lee went on to win first place overall in the competition.

“The first couple of years we did it on a whim, it was something I would give to students as extra credit,” said Connie Toland, McNary art teacher. “This year we really worked at coming up with

designs attuned with the contest theme.”

Should Zuro repeat her predecessor’s success, it will mean McNary’s visual art department will be awarded $20,000, and both Zuro and Toland would receive a $5,000 award.

Final photographs of the completed heifer must be submitted to contest judges by April 1.

One catch to the deal is that Zuro only had to submit a concept for one flank of the piece, she’ll need to come up with a plan for the reverse side on the fly.

“I’m thinking a backstage view on the other side,” Zuro said.

The whole thing came as quite a surprise. Left to her own devices, Zuro finds much more joy in calligraphy and two-dimensional drawing.

“I’m not actually not a painter, the thing that’s going to be tricky is blowing up the design for a piece this big. It’s not going to be very detailed since it’s coming from a concept sketch that was really small. The faces are going to be a challenge,” Zuro said.

Toland, however, has nothing but faith in her young charge.

“I first met her as a freshman and immediately knew she had incredible ability. She’s taken to calligraphy more than any other student I’ve had,” Toland said.