Congratulations to the winners of the East Valley JCC (EVJCC) and Chandler-Gilbert Community College’s (CGCC) first juried art exhibition!

Five high school students in the East Valley received awards and recognition  for the “Stuck at Home But My Imagination is Free” visual arts competition.

This exhibition is a celebration of imagination and creativity and was designed to provide a place for young artists to share their interpretation of their experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. Entries were judged based on the theme, artistic merit, design, originality, technical excellence and content. 

The first-place winner is Lily Binks, a ninth-grader at the New School for the Arts and Academics, a charter school in Tempe. Tied for second place were 10th-grader Alexis Coffey and ninth-grader Anshika Kedia, both students at Arizona College Prep Erie. Rylie Dunbar, a ninth-grader at Higley High School, won third place and Emma Francisco, a 12th-grader at Arizona College Prep, received an honorable mention. Their pieces, as well as artist statements and judges’ comments, are below. 

Judges included members of the visual arts faculty at Chandler-Gilbert Community College.

First Place: Jinx by Lily Binks

Artist Statement

Digital Photography

I took this of my friend Bo when it was raining. At times like this, it seems like everything is going against you, that history just repeats itself and you are helpless against it. That is what I tried to capture in this piece.

Judges' comments

The competition committee noted the artist’s sensitivity in both the subject matter and the handling of the medium (photography) and materials, with a contrast between soft and distressed areas. “The treatment of light, the contrast, and the repetition and symmetry create a powerful composition that holds the viewer’s interest,” the judges wrote. “The fact that the figure holding an umbrella is facing us makes us feel we know her, yet the mirrored repetition of the figure turns her into a geometric pattern (motif) and adds mystery to the piece.”

Second Place (tie): Quarantine’s Caricature by Alexis Coffey

Artist Statement

Drawn on poster board, colored with alcohol ink markers

I intended to make this piece fun and light-hearted to combat the seriousness of the time. It captures snapshots of the pandemic as I faced it.

Judges' comments

The competition committee “appreciated the artist’s skill in illustrating a meaningful and humorous reflection of our experiences with quarantine, as well as the effective use of color and text in telling a story related to the theme of the competition.”

Second Place (tie): Reel Heroes vs. Real Heroes by Anshika Kedia

Artist Statement

Watercolor and colored pens

The interactive element of this piece presents itself when shown under colored lights. When under the blue light, the drawing of the superhero stands out, and vice versa with the red light and the doctor image. The element of the switch is meant to imply the connection between classic movie superheroes, and the real superheroes risking their lives for their communities during this pandemic.

Judges' comments

The judges noted the artist’s effective use of superimposed images, the iridescent colors, and the progression from cool to warm, with the warm colors providing visual weight in the composition.

Third Place: Creativity Tree by Rylie Dunbar

Artist Statement

Procreate drawing program

The tree represents creativity branching out even when it was restricted.

Judges' comments

The competition committee noted the powerful image of the tree breaking free from the house. “The tree emerges from the house with a mass of color, enhanced by sensitive line work,” the judges wrote. “The colorful presentation of the work adds to its presence.”

Honorable Mention: Before Your Eyes by Emma Francisco

Artist Statement

Sculpture made of materials the artist found around her house.

I made my piece based around my own experience of going through diagnosis and dealing with my anxiety manifesting in front of me.

Judges' comments

The competition committee appreciates “the artist’s courage in submitting a sculpture and the judges note that the work is activated by the time it takes to walk around and explore it, and that this piece engages the viewer from all angles.”

The competition committee judging the competition were Louis Mendoza, who teaches drawing and painting at CGCC; Roja Najafi, Art History Residential Faculty at CGCC, where she also serves as the Art History Program Lead; Shalynn Reynolds, CGCC director of theater arts; Christy Wittmer, who teaches ceramics at CGCC; and Rabbi Michael Beyo, EVJCC CEO.

The competition was open to high school students in the East Valley. Each of the winners received a certificate and a cash prize.