KSD teen designs egg to represent state at White House

Published 8:09 am Thursday, March 29, 2018

‘That’s Kentucky’

An egg designed by a Kentucky School for the Deaf student will represent Kentucky at the White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday.

Benny Shirley, a 16-year-old sophomore from Marion, in Crittenden County, was chosen to design the piece, which features twin spires inspired by Churchill Downs, and a field of horses and rows of bourbon barrels in front of the Capitol building in Frankfort. Shining over the scene is a sun, with the words, “The sun shines bright.”

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“That’s a symbol of Kentucky. A lot of people know the horses and the twin spires at Churchill Downs. Everyone knows that is Kentucky … And the bourbon barrels and the Capitol,” he said.

The egg design is limited to a 4-inch by 2-inch rectangle, which will be displayed as guests enter the event. Only five Pantone colors could be used: pink, green, yellow, blue and brown or gold. White could also be used as a background color.

Being limited in colors, he said, just meant he had to be “more creative with color placement.”

“I didn’t think it was that tough,” he said. “I think the hardest part was the horses.”

Courtesy of the Kentucky Department of Education
This image, created by Benny Shirley, will be displayed on an egg at the White House Easter Egg Roll on April 2.

Shirley worked on the piece at school, but was under a tight time constraint — a week and a half — so he worked on it on the weekends on his phone.

Torah Robey, KSD principal, said the school was honored and thrilled to be selected. And of Shirley, she said, “We had high expectations.”

His work, she said, “exceeded our high expectations.”

For Shirley, it’s no big deal.

“I thought it was just another project,” he said, shrugging.

The idea the egg will be seen by so many people is cool, Shirley said.

“It’s good recognition,” he said, meaning for himself and the school. It’s his first year at the Kentucky School for the Deaf.

Shirley said he was chosen because of his knowledge of digital art, which is his favorite medium, and one he started working with about six years ago.

“I started art digitally. Some people, they have a first language, right? In art, digital was my first language. Normally, most artists have paper, pencil. I started with a phone,” he said. “I am most comfortable with digital art. I feel like it’s easier than most art.”

Shirley said he has more control with digital art than using the traditional pencil and paper method.

“I’ve trained myself more with the phone, iPad and computer than with paper. And in digital artwork, you have more freedom with the lines … If you make a mistake with the lines, you can erase it immediately,” he said. “In digital art, there’s more room to make mistakes.”

He is getting into more traditional mediums of art, such as printmaking.

Shirley said he hadn’t yet told his family about the egg, but he thinks they’ll be proud.

“I think my parents are so used to my artwork, that they’re not surprised … I think my parents, when they see my art, they think, ‘That’s Ben’s art.’ Not, ‘Oh my, that’s so beautiful,’” Shirley said, laughing.

He is a finalist to attend the Governor’s School for the Arts this summer.


The 2018 White House Easter Egg Roll will be Monday; it dates back to 1878 with President Rutherford B. Hayes.

Visitors to the event will see the eggs lined up as they enter. Thousands attend the event for games, storytelling and more.