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Local wins Paint the State

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ST. IGNATIUS – Briar Ahlborn, 19, won the Montana Meth Project’s Paint the State contest in the celebrity artist category with her “Pass the Peace Pipe, Not the Meth Pipe” mural located on U.S. Highway 93 at mile marker 33. 

“I didn’t believe it when I won,” she said. “I wanted to call everyone and tell them, but no one was answering their phone, so I had a party in my head. I was so excited.”

When she first checked the project website, she saw a few different projects posted as the contest winners.

“I didn’t think I won,” she said. “Then I found out that there were three winners in different categories. I won the outdoor category.”

Briar’s painting was voted on in two main categories: the People’s Choice award and the Celebrity Artist award. The public voted on the winners for the People’s Choice award. Briar came in second. J.K. Simmons, Tyler Barham, Larry Pirnie and Mark Mesenko were the celebrity judges in the second main category, and Briar took first in the outdoor classification. There were three winners in each of the two main categories.

“The judges look at all of the work and debate on the winners,” she said adding that they look at artistic quality.

She won a $7,500 prize.

“I would so love to blow the money,” she said. “But I have to be an adult and put some in savings for college. And I’d like to share some with someone who has really helped me out with life over the years since I lost my dad.”

Briar’s painting is a portrait of a Native American woman with half of her face dissolved into a skeleton to show the effects of methamphetamine use. She added a peace pipe on one side and a meth pipe on the other side of the painting asking people to choose peace, not meth. 

“I used some serious weatherproof material,” she said. “It should last through the rain and the snow for a long time.”

She appreciates everyone who voted for her in the People’s Choice category held on Facebook. 

“I want to say a big thank you to everyone that stuck with me,” she said of the voting that occurred daily. “It was exciting to see how many people supported me with this project.” 

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