The Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes recently announced the winners of their annual ArtEffect project, which highlights the positive impacts of historical heroes who frequently go unrecognized.
This year’s grand prize winner is Overlake High School student, Chloe Kim, who took home $6,000. Newport High School student Yerim Lee won the High School Best-in-Show prize, and took home $3,000. A $1,000 prize was awarded to Abbie Ahn, an 8th grader at Cougar Mountain Middle School.
“ArtEffect winners submit works of art that show visionary thinking and creative skills of a superior nature,” said Norm Conard, Lowell Milken Center executive director. “We at the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes salute excellence and the active imagination of our student champions.”
Kim’s work “Will You Swim?” examines the selfless efforts of Polish social worker, Irena Sendler, who rescued hundreds of children from the Warsaw ghetto during the Holocaust. While Sendler was a young girl her father told her, “If you see someone drowning, you must jump in to save them, whether you can swim or not.” It was these words that prompted her heroic actions during the time where the Nazi’s invaded Poland.
While the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes told Chloe about her artwork win, she put a hand over her mouth and when she removed it, there was a large smile that could not be wiped away.
Kim relayed how the quote from Sendler’s father stood out to her and put her life into perspective. During her drafting process, Kim was able to implement the churches and war into the background.
“There was a bunch of different ways she saved a lot of kids,” said Kim. “I wanted to depict one of those ways, and one of those ways was through the churches, and so I wanted to draw some of that in the background.”
Lee is an 11th grader who payed homage to Olaudah Equiano through her piece, “Explore The Unknown.” After buying his freedom from slavery, Equiano publicly campaigned against the slave trade. He also went on to write an autobiography, which helped with passing the British Slave Trade Act of 1807. Lee was not expecting to win, she said.
“I thought Olaudeh Equiano would be just the perfect person for me because I personally struggle with expressing myself and my opinions,” said Lee. “He was really independent and he really had the courage to share a story to bring awareness, and finally, influence people to abolitionism.”
Ahn created a piece titled “Through The Eyes Of A Silent Hero,” which highlights photographer Will Counts, who captured images of anger and violence during Arkansas’ 1950s public school desegregation. Counts’ coverage of the event continues to inspire and pave pathways for photojournalists to this day, while having documented American history through visual storytelling.
At the beginning of 8th grade, Ahn’s class spent a unit on the book “Warriors Don’t Cry.” Counts’ photographs of events are trickled throughout the book, and Ahn thought it would be interesting to dive deeper into the history.
“One of his most famous pictures is hanging from the ceiling, and you can just see it and he’s looking through the rest of the film,” said Ahn.