Three seniors from Loudoun County High School and one from Loudoun Valley High School are the first recipients of the Loudoun Arts Council Awards for Excellence in the Arts, presented last week at the county administration building.

The arts council offered four $500 awards for achievement in the visual arts, drama, literary arts and music.

The winners: Mark Hagen, of Loudoun County High, for visual arts; Heather Suzanne Daly, of Loudoun County High, for drama; Meredith R.D. Jones, of Loudoun County High, for literary arts; and Paul Secord, of Loudoun Valley High, for music.

The visual arts award is named for Vinton Liddell Pickens, a nationally acclaimed painter who has lived and worked in Loudoun County for more than 50 years.

Mollie W. Ottina, first vice president of the arts council, said the group initiated awards for talented high school seniors to encourage their continued participation in the arts.

She said the arts council, an independent nonprofit group that promotes Loudoun artists, plans to name each award for an outstanding Loudoun artist in each field, as it named the visual arts award for Pickens.

The arts council announced the contest in March, asking students to submit entries in each category to their teachers.

The schools then nominated three finalists in each category and arts council members made the final selections.