MHS Art and Photography Students Receive State Recognition

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By Caitlin Resurreccion
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Six students from MHS received gold and silver keys at the 54th Annual Hawaii Regional Scholastic Art Award in the categories of painting and photography. Seniors Maya Hoeft, Jonathan Lowrie and Alanis Santiago-Rodriguez received a golden key for their work in photography while Senior Justin Hornback received a silver key for his work in painting. Juniors Buwell Duan and Noah Kochi received silver keys for their work in photography. Kochi received a gold key for photography as well. Each of their works were recognized on Feb. 25 after being critiqued alongside thousands of statewide entries. Those who were named golden key recipients have the opportunity to have their work be shown in the next phase of the competition held in New York.

“While there are many ways to express yourself, such as singing or dancing, mine is painting. All art is about showing and expressing yourself. It’s sort of like showing people what you’re thinking,” expressed Hornback. “Although it was a silver key, while I was being recognized I felt like what I produced actually meant something to the eyes who viewed it and I felt honored for that.”

The exhibition recognizes creativity among Hawaii’s students ranging from  middle to high school. The official categories are: architecture and industrial design, ceramics and glass, comic art, design, digital art, drawing and illustration, editorial cartoon, fashion, film and animation, jewelry, mixed media, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpting and video games. Submissions are judged by panels of leaders in the visual arts, and works that received golden keys will move on to the national level for judging.

The competition also provides the opportunity for scholarships. At the regional level, award-winning seniors have access to more than $3.5 million in scholarships from local institutions. It can also leverage partial to full-ride scholarships from a network of 60 art universities and institutes. “It is a symbol of excellence that can bolster resumes, college applications and scholarship applications. All National Award recipients earn a place on the National Recipient list,” said Jonathan Johnson, Executive Director of Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.

Work starts at the beginning of the school year as teachers introduce the competition to their students and as the year progresses, encourages them to partake in the competition. “Usually I see which students have potential by the first photo portfolio they submit. The ones that do have the potential, I tell them they should practice their lighting and their perspectives and really hone their skills so they can enter the competition,” said Photography Teacher Francine Sandell. Fine Arts Teacher Ruth Ravina-Koethe added, “I’ll let them know ahead of time; ‘I think your work can get into the art contest, so I need you to either finish it up or we need to get this entered.’ I know the type of criteria the judges are looking at and it’s super high quality.”

Students draw inspiration from everyday things in order to capture specific emotions and feelings that they would like to incorporate into their artwork. “I have a lot of eureka moments throughout the day, so really, anything kind of just comes and goes. It’s hard to explain,” said Hoeft. “The photo that got me (the gold key) was taken at a small diner my family and I went to. The atmosphere felt welcoming and I was having such a great time with my family so I took the photo because at that moment, everything just looked and felt right.” Kochi added, “Most of the pictures I take are when I’m with my friends and we’re just hanging out. I like to capture moments that happen spontaneously so I can see the real emotion.”

The most difficult part, however, is translating their ideas into pieces of artwork. “The most frustrating part for me is when I have an idea that is really great, but I can’t transform it into a physical thing, because I really think that skill should be learned first before you start blabbering out your creativity,” explained Hornback. “If you had a sketch in your head and you wanted it to be a painting and if it came out to be a pretty successful painting, that’s the most rewarding part.” Hoeft added, “It’s really hard to translate what you see in your mind to a single image.”

The artwork of the six students has been showcased at the 54th Annual Hawaii Regional Art Awards Exhibition in the Diamond Head Gallery and will be displayed until April 7.