Emma Park, an 8th grader at Wahiawa Middle School, was playing with her younger sister Ava on a fall day in their backyard after school. She brought her mom’s Canon camera with her.
Emma reflected on some of the lessons learned during her art classes about photographic composition. The vertical plane and the wood grain of a shed on the property provided contrast. She ripped up some old boxes to add more texture. She played with light and angle. Ava looked up.
The result, “Waiting for You,” has been selected as an American Visions nominee in the Hawaii Regional Scholastic Art Awards. The prestigious annual showcase for students in grades 7 to 12 honors the artistic vision and skill of Hawai‘i’s students in a variety of media: Architecture & Industrial Design, Ceramics & Glass, Comic Art, Design, Digital Art, Drawing & Illustration, Editorial Cartoon, Fashion, Film & Animation, Jewelry, Mixed Media, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, Sculpture, Video Games, and Art Portfolio. A selection of nominated works will be on display at the Hawaii State Art Museum Feb. 16 to Apr. 19.
More than 500 works have been selected this year for Honorable Mentions, Silver Keys, and Gold Keys. Of those, five that are considered the finest work across the state are named American Visions. Students who earned Gold Key and American Visions nominations in the regional program are eligible for the national program of awards, exhibitions and scholarships. Those honorees will be announced March 13.
“I was shocked, actually,” Emma said when she was told of her top award. “I always saw something in my work, and it makes me really happy that other people see something in it, too.”
Even though as an 8th grader Emma is comparatively young in the competition, she’s been here before. A photo submission, “Window,” was selected for a Gold Key award last year in her first year of eligibility for the program. This year, in addition to “Waiting,” she’s earned Gold Keys for two other works that will be considered in the national showcase — “Lingering” (digital art) and “Walk in the Park” (photography).
“Emma has great vision,” said Brandy Belt, her art teacher at Wahiawa Middle who has worked with her for two years. “I really like that she introduced the ambiguity of the shed into her photo. Her sister seems like a bright and happy kid, but you can see how Emma uses her eye to change the tone.” (Photo: Emma, left, and her teacher Brandy Belt.)
In her lessons on photography, which is a student favorite, Belt said they focus on learning and playing with the components of composition. They’ll take many shots of a subject, then share work to a digital whiteboard.
“There’s a lot of higher level thinking: peer evaluation, looking at themes,” she said. “We work together as a class to decide which works to submit. We analyze and learn from each other.” A retired art teacher, Darlene Oshiro, also comes in to assist.
As the nominees are named for the regional competition, and in particular for the national level which is highly selective, Belt tells students to keep working on their own perspectives and talents. “I have to remind them that the judging is subjective. Even Emma with her work, it’s still whoever is viewing it and their past experiences and what speaks to them. We’ve looked at 8th grade work that makes it to New York. It’s not as cut and dry as, say, solving a math problem.”
Emma, meanwhile, is enjoying her strong showing in the regional program along with the pride of her teacher and her mom.
As for Ava, the subject of her latest artistic achievement? “She told me I owe her a dessert.”
"I like how you can just create anything
and just make it your own."
— EMMA PARK, on why she loves art
Below, a selection of works honored in the 2019 Hawaii Regional Scholastic Art Awards, via a Flickr photo gallery and embedded video. Congratulations!