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The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

Students win titles in National YoungArts competition

Seven students won recognition in the annual Young Arts competition. The students and their artwork are highlighted here.
Printed with permission of Claire Wu
“Chinatown” by Claire Wu ’24 was one of the winners in photography.

Seven students won recognition in the National YoungArts Foundation’s annual competition for the 2023-2024 school year. YoungArts submissions were open to 15-18 year olds in visual, literary and performing arts. The submissions were reviewed through a blind judging process by a panel of professional artists, and nearly 700 awards were given out. The foundation provided each winner with an award of $250.

Certain winners in the Distinction category were also invited to participate in the National YoungArts Week, held from Jan. 7-13, 2024. Hosted at the New World Center in Miami, they have the opportunity to participate in interdisciplinary classes and workshops, be mentored by leading artists in their fields and win further cash prizes worth up to $10,000. The winners are also eligible to be nominated to become United States Presidential Scholars in the Arts, whose top works are selected by the White House Commission.

In the Distinction category, Ian Kim ’24 was awarded for his documentary film, “My Sisters In The Stars: The Story of Lee Yong-soo,” a stop-motion animation depicting the life of a Korean woman who fell victim to Japanese sexual slavery during World War II. The film also won the Gaulke Award and the Audience Award at Westflix last year.

Kim said the process of creating his film took several months.

“I spent around 18 months interviewing, animating and editing before the film was completed,” Kim said. “I spent several months working with a homemade [polyvinyl chloride pipe] animation stand to turn the interview testimony into a fully animated short.”

Kim also said winning the award strengthened his sense of artistry .

“Being selected as a Winner with Distinction in YoungArts gave me an extra layer of confidence in this story’s ability to resonate with audiences both on a storytelling and on a technical level,” Kim said.

In addition to his skill, Kim said being a winner with distinction reaffirmed his faith in mediums he does not typically use.

“As someone who primarily does animation, it also gave me confidence in the medium’s ability to compete with live-action as a documentary medium,” Kim said.

The winners in the regular category were Sabrina Liu ’24 in Classical Music, Abe Effress ’25 in Jazz Music and Claire Wu ’24, Laila Vasandani ’26, Samaya Sayana-Manchanda ’26 and Tehmina Malhotra ’26 in Photography.

Upper School Photography Teacher Alexandra Pacheco-Garcia said she loves seeing her students succeed and feel good about their work.

“I’m so proud,” Pacheco-Garcia said. “In my six years of teaching, I’ve had students make it to nationals nearly every year and twice we have had students go on to become Presidential Scholars in the Arts. That’s the highest level of recognition in the arts that a high school student can achieve. I think for many of my students it’s an enormous boost of confidence, and can shift their perception of themselves as genuine artists whose voice is valuable.”

During the process, Pacheco-Garcia said she puts in a lot of effort to help students put forth their best portfolio.

“Typically, when a student is interested in applying [for YoungArts], we have an initial meeting to look at the work they’ve made and to discuss the motivations behind their work,” Pacheco-Garcia said. “I often meet several times afterwards depending on the student’s need, particularly if they are producing more images to expand their series and well as to flush out their artist’s statement. It’s a lot of work and for many, it’s their first time producing that kind of portfolio package that includes a written statement.”

Pacheco-Garcia also said the process of a YoungArts submission can help students develop the skills of professional artists.

“For those that go on to continue in the art field, this is something they will do again and again,” Pacheco-Garcia said. “In applying for colleges, grants, exhibition opportunities, or more, it’s the first in many instances where they will put together materials like these. It’s as much about the process as it is the awards.”

Upper School Performing Arts Teacher Chris Sullivan said said the whole process was student driven.

“I didn’t have any role whatsoever in [Effress’s] YoungArts submission,” Sullivan said. “[Effress] pursued this all on his own — writing the music, hiring the musicians, recording and submitting.”

Sullivan said although he had little involvement this year, he looked forward to working more with YoungArts in the future.

“I put a lot of competitions on the yearly calendar, but YoungArts was not one of them,” Sullivan said. “It will be going forward.”

Wu said her photography project was a form of resistance to Asian beauty standards, providing a voice to girls who struggle with their image.

“My [photo series] is related to the beauty standard in Asian culture,” Wu said. “An increasing number of Asian girls are influenced by the intersection of Asian and Western beauty trends through social media, believing that beauty follows a fixed formula. These standards have a huge impact on young girls’ physical and mental health. As someone who has been oppressed by this set of beauty standards, I wanted to voice my opposition.”

Samaya said her photography allowed to connect better with her family.

“I created a series, ‘Generational Women’, based on my mother, grandmother and great aunt’s lives,” Samaya said. “Throughout this process I deepened my bond with my grandmother and her sister, photography being a way to connect. When I learned I’d won, I was extremely grateful that my hard work had paid off.”

Liu, a flutist, said she was thrilled to find out she won an award after the work she put in.

“This year was my first time competing in National YoungArts,” Liu said. “I auditioned with four technically and musically demanding pieces totaling one hour. I was very excited when I saw my name on the press release of winners.”

Apart from the award, Liu also said YoungArts helps support and develop artists’ work.

“While winning certainly feels nice, I also entered the competition because of its extensive resources for artists, from creative and professional development to funding for personal projects,” Liu said. “I believe organizations like YoungArts are important to encourage and support the next generation of artists to pursue their craft and passion.”

Applications for the 2025 YoungArts competition will open in June 2024.

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William Liu, Assistant Opinion Editor

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