FORT SCOTT, Kan., (June 3, 2021) – The Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes (LMC) has announced 11 winners of the 6th annual ArtEffect Project, an international art competition that challenges middle and high school students to honor unsung heroes through art. Taylor Yingshi, a 12th grader at Issaquah High School in Issaquah, Washington, swept the $6,000 grand prize. LMC awarded an additional $10,500 to 10 other talented students across high school and middle school divisions.
Yingshi’s digital artwork, “Illuminating the Unseen,” explores the courageous efforts of Minoru Yasui, a Japanese orchardist from Hood River, Oregon, who initiated the first Supreme Court case testing the constitutionality of Japanese internment during WWII. During the war, Yasui was incarcerated at the Multnomah County Jail in Portland for violating a Japanese-American curfew and was later sent to the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Idaho. After the war, Yasui became a lawyer in Denver and served as Executive Director of the Mayor’s Commission on Community Relations, which advocated for equality and other social justice issues under his leadership.
“As an Asian American residing in the Pacific Northwest, I felt an immediate connection with Oregon-born Minoru Yasui,” said Yingshi in her artistic statement. “By artistically commemorating the life of a local activist, I hope to shed light on the complex, oft-forgotten history of injustice and reform experienced by the Asian diaspora. Since childhood, I have often felt disconnected from my Asian American heritage. In school, I was taught little about Asian leaders from the Pacific Northwest, and I had never heard of somebody like Minoru Yasui until stumbling upon the Unsung Heroes project.”
Of her artwork, Yingshi said, “I decided ukiyo-e would be an apt way of symbolizing this Japanese pride. Following the ukiyo-e style, I drew a grassy background reminiscent of Yasui’s childhood fruit farm in Oregon. Combining Japanese artistic technique and American subject matter, this represents the synthesis of Yasui’s Asian and American identities.”
In addition to taking home a cash prize, Yingshi, along with the 10 other award-winning students, will have their artwork displayed virtually on LMC’s website and physically in LMC’s Hall of Unsung Heroes in Fort Scott, Kansas, a museum and research center visited by thousands of people annually.
The High School $3,000 Best-in-Show prize went to Seoul, South Korea 11th grader Hara Choi, who attends Asia Pacific International School. “Wept together, Lived together and Died together,” Choi’s mixed-media piece pays homage to Elizabeth Shepping, who was a missionary nurse in the greater areas of Gwangju, one of the most impoverished regions in Korea with no access to medical care.
Natalia Sulukhia, a Tbilisi, Georgia 9th grader at Guivy Zaldastanishvili American Academy, received the High School $2,000 Second Prize. She submitted “The Lawmaker,” a fine-art profile of Emmeline Pankhurst, a British political activist known for organizing the UK suffragette movement and helping women win the right to vote.
Four High School $500 Certificate of Excellence prizes were also awarded. Among those recognized was Amy Tan, a 12th grader at Ann Arbor, Michigan’s Pioneer High School. Tan’s “Hope, Determination, and Song” is a pastel, acrylic and pencil rendering of antiapartheid singer Miriam Makeba. Zoe Spikerman, a 12th grader at Parker School in Waimea, Hawaii, created “Separate Will Never Be Equal,” a mixed-media piece celebrating civil rights activist Sylvia Mendez. Alexandra Carson, a 9th grader at Joplin High School in Joplin, Missouri, made her mixed media work, “Through Their Eyes: A Glimpse into Jane Elliott’s Classroom,” honoring Jane Elliott. The final Certificate of Excellence Award went to Sofia Venezia, an 11th grader at Hopewell Valley Central High School in Pennington, New Jersey. Venezia’s “Colonel Gail S. Halvorsen’s Candy Land” is a mixed media art piece that pays tribute to Colonel Gail S. Halvorsen during World War II.
In Jacksonville, Florida, LaVilla School of the Arts 8th grader Naomi Alcantara received the middle school's $2,000 Best-in-Show prize. Through “A Terezin Diary,” Alcantara’s mixed-media creation represented Pavel Weiner, a Holocaust survivor who spent his childhood in the Terezin ghetto. He wrote articles for a magazine secretly distributed throughout the ghetto that reflected his hope, patriotism, maturity, and belief in the victory of truth.
LMC awarded the middle school $1,000 Second Prize to Bloomington, Indiana’s Anya Figert, an 8th grader at Batchelor Middle School, who made “The Real Monster” with a combination of acrylic paint, Styrofoam, glass and markers to spotlight Walter Sommers, a Jewish witness of Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass). Sommers’ family immigrated to Terre Haute, Indiana, where he dedicated himself to opposing the racism and segregation prevalent throughout Indiana.
Two other students from LaVilla School of the Arts in earned $250 Certificates of Excellence in the Middle School division. Sophia Waller, a 7th grader, clinched one award for her mixed-media work “Sylvia Mendez: An Unsung Hero” in civil rights. The other award went to Luella Legene, a 7th grader whose mixed media creation “Thoughts of a New World” celebrates suffragette and political activist Emily Newell Blair.
“ArtEffect winners show visionary thinking and creative skills of a superior nature,” said LMC Executive Director Norm Conard. “We, at the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes, salute excellence and the active imagination of our student champions.”
The ArtEffect judging panel consisted of LMC’s executive leadership and notable figures in the art design world, including professionals from ArtCenter College of Design, California Institute of the Arts, Scripps College and Pomona College.
Submissions for the next competition season will open in early 2022.
“In every endeavor, people make the difference, and just one person has the power to make a profound difference in the lives of so many people.” - Lowell Milken