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Two Spokane Valley students among high school artists honored in Olympia

"Cartoons" by Issaquah High School artist Elisabeth Park won the Superintendent's Choice Award
"Cartoons" by Issaquah High School artist Elisabeth Park won the Superintendent's Choice Award

Annaka Hansen and Zoe Sherman were among more than two dozen student artists honored during a Tuesday ceremony in Seattle.

A West Valley High School student has won a Washington state award for her acrylic painting.

Annaka Hansen’s work was honored Tuesday during the 50th annual art show at Seattle’s venerated Benaroya Hall. It was sponsored by the state school superintendent’s office.

West Valley High School artist Annaka Hansen's painting "Beauty of Birds and Light"
West Valley High School artist Annaka Hansen's painting "Beauty of Birds and Light"

Hansen’s picture is entitled “The Beauty of Birds and Light” and she spoke about it in a video shown during the ceremony.

“This painting was a challenge in so many ways,” she said. “I don’t often paint at such a large scale and I’ve never painted a person at such a large scale either. I’m so glad I pushed through it and, after 35 hours of work, I got this result and I’m so happy with it and I hope you can appreciate this painting as much as I do.”

Hansen’s work won the award given by staff from the state’s Professional Educators Standards Board. She is among more than two dozen Washington high school students who were honored. Another Spokane Valley student, Zoe Sherman from Ridgeline, won an honorable mention award.

Ridgeline High School student Zoe Sherman's paint pens picture "Vicious Cycles"
Ridgeline High School student Zoe Sherman's paint pens picture "Vicious Cycles"

The superintendent’s art show gives a variety of educational organizations a chance to bestow awards to students. Most are given for visual art, but some in the performing arts, including a vocal group from Ballard High School and a dance ensemble from Vancouver, were given the chance to perform.

In introducing the art show, Reykdal placed it in an historical context.

“This is an interesting time, national culture wars and lots of conflict, and, as we see the art, we, of course, observe so much of the expression of the world that sort of crashes around our young people, good and bad,” he said. “Similarly, 50 years ago, 1973, we got this thing started. We were coming off a significant cultural revolution in the country. Arts were this powerful expression as people dealt with conflict globally and nationally.”

Today, he says, art is an important tool for young people trying to navigate their lives and a world emerging from the COVID pandemic.

“Arts aren’t the extra. They’re not an add-on. They’re not something we do in addition to core instruction. It is core instruction,” he said to applause.

Anacortes High School artist Clara Jeong's painting "Breathe"
Anacortes High School artist Clara Jeong's painting "Breathe"

Governor Jay Inslee honored Anacortes High School artist Clara Jeong for a digital art piece entitled “Breathe.” It’s an image of a young woman walking a forested path toward a lit horizon. Jeong says she created it as she dealt with the loss of an important person in her life.

“The girl in the painting can be seen as a symbol of my journey in grief and as a girl puts behind the darkness and finally faces the light. She takes a breath and she finally acknowledges that there is hope for her and all she needs to do is just take some steps toward the light,” she said in a video shown at the ceremony.

“The towering trees in your piece remind me of the whole rain forest and the trees stand tall and dark and eerie, but they’re still beautiful and so is the story of your journey through grief,” Inslee said.

Other art pieces honored Tuesday touched on deeply emotional and topical themes.

Kelso High School student Taryn McKay's "sHE's A REBEL"
Kelso High School student Taryn McKay's "sHE's A REBEL"

Kelso High School student Taryn McKay’s “sHE’S A REBEL” deals with LGBTQ+ identities.

Timberline High School student Loralai Finnegan's watercolor "Looking For a Mirror"
Timberline High School student Loralai Finnegan's watercolor "Looking For a Mirror"

Timberline High School artist Loralai Finnegan’s watercolor and graphite collage “Looking For a Mirror” is a response to her family’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. It features a girl wearing a mask looking at a wall filled with pictures of her loved ones at various stages of their lives.

“Everything about these people that you see has defined who I am. They are my mirrors,” she said.

Friday Harbor High School student Larissa Mauldin's ceramic series "Broken"
Friday Harbor High School student Larissa Mauldin's ceramic series "Broken"

Friday Harbor High School student Larissa Mauldin won the Washington State Parent Teacher Association Award for “Broken,” several ceramic sculptures of injured birds. The theme, she says, is domestic abuse.

“I got the idea through my adopted sister because I wanted to create something that could share her story and anyone else’s that is similar to it. I also wanted to create an emotional response from whoever was looking at my artwork so they could get a better glimpse into her story,” she said.

Also honored was the historical documentary “Hanford,” produced by Augustin Dulauroy from Hanford High School. It covers the period from the beginning of nuclear weapons development in the 1940s in the desert in southeast Washington to the current day cleanup of millions of gallons of contaminated chemical and nuclear material.

One art teacher was also honored, Kingston High School’s James Andrews, who played an important role in geting a bill approved during Washington’s 2022 legislative session. It requires public schools to offer regular instruction in visual and/or performing arts.

“By passing that bill, we have historically changed arts education in Washington,” said Becky Broyles, co-president of the Washington Arts Education Association.

Winners of the superintendent’s arts award collected $200 cash prizes and a glass art trophy. Two students also earned $2,000 tuition waivers presented by Central Washington University.

Six students were given honorable mention awards, including Zoe Sherman.

Doug Nadvornick has spent most of his 30+-year radio career at Spokane Public Radio and filled a variety of positions. He is currently the program director and news director. Through the years, he has also been the local Morning Edition and All Things Considered host (not at the same time). He served as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network, based in Coeur d’Alene. He created the original program grid for KSFC. He has also served for several years as a board member for Public Media Journalists Association. During his years away from SPR, he worked at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Washington State University in Spokane and KXLY Radio.