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Race Matters Committee Reveal Student Art Contest Winners

Hastings High School student Ciara McConnell's artwork for the Race Matters Committee art contest.While the Race Matters Committee’s Multicultural Book Fair highlighted authors, they did not forget about the artists!

As a way to promote the fifth annual Multicultural Book Fair and support student-artists, the Race Matters Committee held an art contest for poster designs. Receiving submissions from all three high schools, the committee selected three winners, one from each school and one overall winner.

The theme of this year's art contest was the quote: “I walk in and out of several worlds every day,” by Joy Harjo, an internationally renowned poet who was named the first Native American Poet Laureate of the United States in 2019. The quote had a multitude of takeaways among students who put their creativity to work for the contest.

“I took it to be a quote about intersectionality and different identities,” said Hastings High School freshman and overall winner Ciara McConnell. “I wanted it to be more about striking conversation about people with these different marginalized identities living in the United States.”

For McConnell, the conclusion she drew from the quote struck a chord and gave her a  specific image, something she had to replicate on the canvas. However, this required her to pick up the paintbrush and do something she had not done before.

“It was one of the first times where I was really experimenting with doing something more realistic and doing something really in depth with acrylic paint,” said McConnell. “Painting is something that's really new to me because I always just sort of stuck to pen and pencil.”

Going out of her comfort zone for her artwork, McConnell wanted those viewing it to perhaps do the same and take a moment to think about intersectionality and other prevalent issues that affect her.

“It is something that I care a lot about and something that I think is important,” said McConnell. “Representing people with these different identities, specifically living in a time where there's a lot of harm going on right now, it’s really important.”

While McConnell took the chance to be able to represent issues important to her in a medium she holds dear, members of the Race Matters Committee said the art contest’s purpose was exactly that: to give students a way to be heard.

“It's really come a long way, and it is another way to get kids involved,” said Race Matters Committee member and Coordinator of Diversity and Inclusion Dr. Jenice Mateo-Toledo. “The reality is that we are all about kids and centering students and centering their voices, their talents, and their diversity, so I think the artwork speaks for itself.”

You can find the full list of winners for the Race Matters Committee art contest here.