Illustrations of famous African American figures drawn by 10 children from Columbia's Boys & Girls Clubs will be on display at local U.S. Cellular locations from Tuesday through the end of the month.

In celebration of Black History Month, U.S. Cellular, in collaboration with the clubs, is exhibiting the portraits in its two Columbia locations and collecting votes from customers. The winner will be announced in March and will receive a gift card worth $250, with second place winning $150 and third place $100. The participants range from third grade and up.

This is the fourth annual contest in Columbia, but it has been running for 13 years at other Missouri locations, said Kelli McAllister, store manager for U.S. Cellular.

Two of the finalists were unable to attend the portraits' unveiling ceremony held Tuesday: Tena Green, who drew singer Anita Baker, and Chynna Eaton, who drew rapper Tupac Shakur. 

Darrell Cruse, the art director for the Columbia Boys & Girls Clubs, said the children began their creative process in January after winter break. He asked the kids who they wanted to portray and gathered reference images or let them search for their own on tablets. For kids who were unsure who to choose, he created a list of influential African Americans from history, business and culture.

"I'm big into black history," Cruse said. "So (this) was a way to combine everything I love into teaching the kids and get them interested in our own history."

Finalists were selected by U.S. Cellular and club staff, with criteria including creativity, quality and themes represented.

Valorie Livingston, the executive director for the clubs, said the events and partnerships help the nonprofit organization raise money and continue serving the kids in the community.

"The more money we can raise as a nonprofit, the more kids we can serve," said Livingston.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbia will be holding a fine arts gala for Black History Month at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 27, which will display projects including sculptures, ceramics and crafting.

  • Education reporter, spring 2020 Studying magazine journalism Reach me at, or in the newsroom at 882-5700

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