It’s no secret that Orange County, North Carolina, is home to an astounding number of artists. We see their art in galleries, hear their words at readings, and view their productions both onstage and on the screen. But, what many may not be aware of, is the incredible young artists we have in our schools.
Recently, four young Orange County artists were recognized for their talents in two competitions. Jennifer Wah, a senior from Carrboro High School, was awarded first place in visual art in the state level of the PTA Reflections contest. Griffin Kalavsky, of Carrboro Elementary School, won second place in dance/choreography for the same contest. Jihee Seo, a senior from East Chapel Hill High School, won first place in Congressman David Price’s Fourth District 2019 Congressional Art competition. Melissa Ordonez Gonzalez, a senior from East Chapel Hill High School, won third place in the same competition.
Jennifer Wah, who won for her piece “Togetherness,” which depicts a multitude of mannequins surrounding the globe, said that she wanted the figures to be ambiguous because “leaders are born every day.” The prompt for the competition was “heroes around me” and Wah said that she was inspired by the passion and drive to help others that leaders exhibit.
In the video of Griffin Kalavsky, he dances in front of a fireplace, saying “This is dedicated to Malcolm, because he inspires me and he’s my hero.” In a press release on CHCCS’s website, Griffin’s father, Mickey, is quoted saying that his son has only been taking dance classes for a year, but practices any chance he can get.
Both students were recognized at the NCPTA Reflections Celebration on April 6, and Jennifer’s piece will move on to the national level of the PTA Reflections contest.
Congressman David Price calls the Congressional Art Competition “a unique opportunity to recognize and encourage the artistic talent of students in my district and across the nation.” There is no prompt for the competition, which encourages the students to be creative with their submissions. This often leads to the artists taking inspiration from their own lives, as Jihee Seo and Melissa Ordonez Gonzalez did.
Jihee Seo’s piece “You are Worthy” depicts herself as a young child surrounded by many hands and is meant to represent the unwavering happiness that a parent feels when their child is born. As the first place winner, her piece will hang in the United States Congressional Tunnel for one year.
“I’ve only been [to the Capitol] once,” she said. “It’s cool to think it’s going to be in such a large building and that so many people are going to see it.”
Melissa Ordonez Gonzalez said that she is a really big family person, which is why her piece “Los Tres Generaciones” reflects three generations of women in her family. Her piece will hang in Congressman Price’s office in Raleigh.
Both East Chapel Hill High School seniors emphasized that practice and passion are two key elements that helped them grow as artists.
“Just keep practicing, that’s really the thing,” Melissa said. “The amount of work you put into your art is going to show.” Jihee agreed, adding, “Paint or draw what you love because that shows in the artwork in the end.”