By Michaela Kron
When art teacher Jessica Harms thinks of Wendy, the namesake logo of the Wendy’s fast-food chain, Atlanta’s historic roots come to mind.
Harms, who teaches at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic School in Brookhaven, used that vision in the painting she submitted to the My Wendy, My Way art contest, which invited artists to create interpretations of Wendy inspired by the cities in which they live.
On Dec. 10, Harms, who competed against 21 other artists from across the nation, was named the grand-prize winner at the Wendy’s International headquarters in Dublin, Ohio. She received an award of $25,000 for herself and another $25,000 for the art program at Our Lady of the Assumption.
“I thought of it as an awesome opportunity to get my school what it needed,” Harms said about the contest. “The art program is now going to have some cutting-edge technology.”
Harms plans to use the money she won to purchase a class set of laptops, digital cameras, PhotoShop software and color printers so her students can learn to create art on the computer.
“Now I have enough money to do the projects I’ve been wanting to do,” she said.
In her contest entry, Harms used scenes of Atlanta from the 1920s to the 1960s. Among the tree branches in her work, she painted Atlanta landmarks such as the Fox Theatre and the first railroad depot. Harms also included passages from “Gone With the Wind” in her painting to further represent Atlanta’s history.
In addition to the aesthetic and historical elements of her work, Harms said it could provide stimulation for Atlanta’s economy.
“ ‘Gone With the Wind’ looks at the history of Georgia and Atlanta, but it also helps Atlanta rebuild by getting people to come in and tour Atlanta,” she said.
Contest judge Michael Ulichney, who teaches advertising design at the Savannah College of Art and Design, described Harms’ painting as “really heartwarming.” Ulichney said Harms’ entry, which depicts Wendy holding her father’s hand, emphasizes the family values the Wendy’s chain promotes.
“I liked the emotional connection,” Ulichney said. “I see Wendy like that, holding hands with her father. You can see them sharing a gaze, an experience, and to me, that reflects the Wendy’s brand.”
Ulichney said Harms’ work won because of the profound connections it created for him and the other judges. “You’re always looking for that visual and emotional connection with a piece of art, and this had it.”
In addition to the time she dedicated toward researching Atlanta’s history and creating her painting, Harms largely attributes her success to her art students, who she said gave her ideas for her entry and created their own interpretations of Wendy.
“My kids are really excited about it,” Harms said. “They helped me through the whole process.”