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International 2024 ARTEFFECT Competition Awards Over $26,000 to Talented Students

20 middle and high school students recognized for visual art projects celebrating Unsung Heroes from history

June 3, 2024


FORT SCOTT, KS — The Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes (LMC) has named 20 winners in the 9th annual ARTEFFECT competition. The international competition invited students in grades 6-12 to explore and champion the stories of LMC Unsung Heroes—individuals who took heroic actions that made a positive and profound impact on the course of history. Students creatively interpreted the inspiring stories of Unsung Heroes through original works of art accompanied by artist impact statements. In total, $26,250 in cash prizes were awarded to 20 winners across the middle and high school divisions. Rachel Han, an 11th grade student at Newport High School in Bellevue, Washington, earned the $6,000 Grand Prize

"ARTEFFECT is a robust opportunity for students to explore the stories of Unsung Heroes as role models as well as the power of artmaking," said ARTEFFECT Director Dr. Toni Guglielmo. "As students develop their artworks and impact statements, they also experience how they themselves can make a positive difference by creatively interpreting and sharing these inspiring stories with others through their visual art projects." 

Han's charcoal and pastel drawing Visions of Light depicts Unsung Hero Karl Ernst von Baer, a 19th century Prussian-Estonian scientist who laid the foundation for modern comparative embryology. Struck by Baer's intellectual curiosity and enduring quest for knowledge, Han creates a drawing that depicts the rigorous and wondrous nature of scientific observation. "In this piece, I wanted to incorporate Baer's primary method of discovery, focused on the principles of patience and perseverance, which was through careful observation of natural phenomena around him," Han writes in her impact statement.

"The award-winning ARTEFFECT artworks are exceptional in their integration of the Unsung Heroes stories and artistic skills," said LMC Chief Executive Officer Norm Conard. "Our team at the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes applauds the creativity of these student champions and the excellence of their work." 

The $3,000 High School Best in Show prize was awarded to Katelyn Lowe, an 11th grade student at George Washington High School in Charleston, West Virginia. "As a biracial female teenager, it did not take too long to decide on Jackie Ormes as my Unsung Hero. As a self-taught artist, I was mesmerized by her artwork in the Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem comic strip and the Patty-Jo 'n' Ginger cartoons," writes Lowe. "As the first Black woman cartoonist published in newspapers, she portrayed the actual issues of racial segregation and discrimination in real-time." In A Woman Ahead of Her Time, Lowe incorporates Ormes’ comics as the background for striking graphite portraits of the artist. 

Winning the $2,000 High School Second Place prize was Sophia Cabalfin, a 12th grade student at San Dimas High School in California. Her watercolor painting, Blossoming of New Life, honors the story of Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga, a Japanese American political activist whose advocacy and research played a fundamental role in securing reparations for fellow survivors of World War II internment camps. Cabalfin's impact statement discusses the personal dimension of this project: "Not only did it influence my desire to want to learn more about my culture, but it also influenced my desire to become more active in Asian American activism." 

The recipient of the $2,000 Middle School Best in Show prize was eighth grade student Chuheng Lou from Jericho Middle School in New York. In an oil painting entitled School trip to visit Dr. Helen Brooke Taussig's portrait in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lou imagines a future where Dr. Helen Taussig, the founder of pediatric cardiology, is commemorated in the art on display at a major museum. The research process did not just help Lou learn about Taussig's advancements in cardiology; the artist's impact statement notes: "[Taussig's] story also inspired me and taught me about perseverance and how important it is to help others." 

Jordyn Sledge, an eighth grade student at Ida B. Wells Academic and Performing Arts Complex in Jackson, Mississippi, won the $1,000 Middle School Second Place prize for Heartstrings Unraveled. The mixed-media artwork celebrates Unsung Hero Dr. Vivien Thomas, whose personal relevance to Sledge informed the creative process. Thomas changed the medical field through transformative work in cardiovascular surgery despite being unable to earn a formal medical degree and having his research go uncredited by other surgeons who depended on his findings. "The story of Vivien Thomas is one that speaks to me because my mother is an African American doctor and my sister is working to be a physical therapist," Sledge writes. "Neither of them would have been able to attain these positions if not for the work of Dr. Thomas." Sledge used a host of materials and processes—including painting, embroidery, and woodburning—to assemble a multifaceted portrait of this inspiring individual. 

Four students received a $1,000 Spotlight Prize. Benjamin Gu, a sixth grade student from Kerrisdale Elementary School in Vancouver, Canada, won a Spotlight Prize for Finding Links from Tracks, a Kandinsky-inspired mixed-media portrait of astrophysicist Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin. Lambert High School ninth grade student Cailyn Yoon of Suwanee, Georgia, received the award for Shadows of War, a graphite drawing inspired by the story of Chester Nez, one of the "First Twenty-Nine" Navajo Code Talkers in World War II. An Unwavering Spirit—painted by 11th grade student Sarah Kang from Bergen County Academies in Hackensack, New Jersey—depicts the story of educator and civil rights advocate Autherine Lucy Foster. Elizabeth Jennings Graham, also an educator and civil rights activist, was the inspiration for My Right to Ride, an acrylic painting by 10th grade student Cailyn Choi of Lakeside School in Seattle, Washington. 

From a highly competitive pool of finalists, eleven other student artists received a $750 Certificate of Excellence in recognition of the superior aesthetic and conceptual quality of their submissions. 

Certificate of Excellence awardees Kelly Kullman and Moheb Asimi, both members of the Savannah Arts Academy 2024 graduating class, selected ichthyologist Dr. Eugenie Clark and Islamic Golden Age mathematician Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi as the inspiration for their respective projects. Kullman's etching, "Squalus clarkae", depicts Dr. Clark engrossed in her fieldwork studying a shark. In Asimi's mixed-media work, Completing the Square, al-Khwarizmi stares up at a golden square in the sky, "watching his own mathematical treatises successfully unfold before his eyes, surrounded by a large audience who also watches alongside him in awe while the rays cast a shine on their clothes," reads Asimi's impact statement. 

Two California 11th grade students also earned Certificates of Excellence for their artworks: Hannah Yee from Anaheim's Esperanza High School and Callie Lonowski from Brea Olinda High School. Yee's drawing, Sword of Injustice, explores the life of Corky Lee, a Chinese American activist who documented the lives of Asian American communities through his photographs. Lonowski's Residing Within the Stars: Eugene Shoemaker is a colorful mixed-media portrait that depicts significant moments in astrogeologist Gene Shoemaker's life. 

In crafting A Hero Holding A Syringe Not a Gun, Minjae Kim, an 11th grade student at North London Collegiate School Jeju in South Korea's Jeju Province, uses graphite and watercolor to reflect on the heroic life of Eugene Lazowski, a doctor who saved 8,000 Jews during the Holocaust. Sister Matylda Getter, a Polish Catholic nun who saved hundreds of Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto, inspired Dyne Kim, a 10th grade student from Seoul International School in Seongnam-si, South Korea, to render Getter's heroic acts with gouache and graphite in In The Arms Of Hope

Alyssa Knapper, an 11th grade student at Coweta High School in Oklahoma also earned a Certificate of Excellence for an artwork inspired by a WWII hero. Knapper interpreted the life of Irena Sendler, who saved 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto, through a mixed- media sculpture entitled Jar Of The Known Truth. Evelin Jimenez—a Claremore High School 11th grade student in Oklahoma—looked to Elizabeth Catlett, a Black and Mexican American artist, for inspiration. In Sculpting Justice, Jimenez pays tribute to the colors, materials, and social justice advocacy that shaped Catlett's career. 

Certificate of Excellence winner Jewel Feng uses watercolor to paint Sir Nicholas Winton – The Man with 6,000 Descendants, which celebrates Sir Nicholas Winton, the Jewish children he saved during the Holocaust, and those children's current and future descendants. Feng, an 11th grade student at Jericho High School, is the second student from Jericho Union Free School District to win a 2024 ARTEFFECT award. San Dimas High School, another learning community with two 2024 ARTEFFECT awardees, is the school of 11th grade student Vanessa Hoyt, who was recognized for Martin A. Couney's Show, an acrylic portrait of an Unsung Hero whose life-saving advancements in neonatal technology were displayed in carnival and amusement park sideshows. 

Jimin Lee, an 11th grade student from Lincoln High School in Portland, Oregon, was also awarded a Certificate of Excellence for The Voice That Broke Them Free. Lee uses a blend of colored pencil, digital drawing, and digital collage to craft a poignant portrait of Kim Hak-Sun, a South Korean survivor and advocate who broke the silence surrounding the issue of "comfort women," speaking out about the sexual enslavement of Korean women by the Japanese military during World War II. 

The ARTEFFECT judging panel consisted of LMC's executive leadership as well as visual arts experts at the Skirball Cultural Center, CalArts, Museum of Ventura County, and ArtCenter College of Design. 

Award winners receive cash prizes and their projects showcased on LMC's website, listed along with their sponsoring teachers. Award-winning artworks are displayed in LMC's Hall of Unsung Heroes in Fort Scott, Kansas, and will be featured in future exhibitions. 

The next ARTEFFECT competition will open for submissions in November 2024. Visit the ARTEFFECT website for more information. 

About ARTEFFECT: Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes
Established in 2016 by Lowell Milken, ARTEFFECT is an expanding arts education initiative that includes an annual student art competition, professional development offerings, and exhibitions. ARTEFFECT invites learners and their communities to engage with the stories of the LMC Unsung Heroes— individuals who took heroic actions that made a positive and profound impact on the course of history. These diverse stories span the centuries and cut across multiple disciplines including STEAM, social justice, the environment, wartime history, and education. Each year, hundreds of students in grades 6-12 from around the world build their creative and critical thinking skills by crafting visual art submissions for the competition. Launched in 2023, the ARTEFFECT Ambassadors online fellowship offers a learning community for educators who are committed to fostering the visual arts through teaching and learning around the stories of the LMC Unsung Heroes. The yearlong fellowship provides professional development and curricular resources to support Ambassadors in deepening their instructional practice and completing a capstone project in their classrooms and communities. The ARTEFFECT initiative affirms the message that one person has the power to make a positive and profound difference in the lives of others. Connect with ARTEFFECT on Facebook and Instagram.