Viela, Guzman create award-winning art


Senior Connor Viela received an honorable mention, January 20, in the regional Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. This is the photo of the artwork he submitted.

Junior Mākena Guzman and senior Connor Viela have been recognized in this year’s Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

Guzman submitted a photo titled Resilience

“At the beginning, it was just an assignment for Mrs. Abe. It was a part of our final project, so we were given the task to do portrait photography. I chose to do my mom because of the backstory of her childhood and the obstacles she has gone through in her teen years and throughout her life,” Guzman said. “I wanted to reflect her past and her future. I named the photo Resilience because she is very resilient in the things that happened throughout her life, and it’s kind of like she is looking forward into the future.”

Mākena Guzman's Gold Key-winning photo of her mother, entitled "Resilience."
Mākena Guzman’s Gold Key-winning photo of her mother, titled “Resilience.”

Guzman presented her photo to her digital photography class, and Mrs. Abe encouraged her to submit it to the 58th Annual Hawai’i Scholastic Art Awards. 

“I didn’t know I would be able to submit it into a competition. … I wasn’t sure it was going to get through because it was for fun, but then [Mrs. Abe] told me that it got accepted, and I was super excited,” she said. 

Guzman won the highest recognition in the state, the Gold Key award. Her piece now goes on to the national competition, where she has the potential to win a gold medal, a silver medal without distinction, a silver medal, or direct scholarship awards. The national awards will be announced on March 17.

Guzman said that her friend, Amedee Conley-Kapoi, sent her a picture of the Daily Bulletin, which had the announcement that she won. 

“I was like, ‘I didn’t see that yet. Where is it?’ and [Amedee] said it was in the bulletin, and I was, like, ‘Wow! It’s so cool that I got a gold key!’”

Art teacher Mrs. Angie Abe said that she was “very surprised and very happy and excited” to hear that Guzman and Viela placed. 

“This year was especially challenging because we started the year off in distance learning, but [the event organizers] said there were just as many entries as a pre-COVID year, so a lot of students around the state were entering this particular competition,” Mrs. Abe said. “It was kind of a spontaneous thing where I said, ‘There is an art contest, but if you have something that you’re working on and you want to submit, go ahead,’ so it was almost like an afterthought.”

From there on, Guzman and Viela were in.

“They came in, we did a little concepting of what could possibly be worthy to be submitted into a competition, and they put it together. Lucky for us, we were recognized because these two students always consistently do good work, and I think that’s reflected in this competition,” Mrs. Abe said.

Viela submitted a drawing composed with graphite and ink, which is a part of his AP Studio Art 2D portfolio. The portfolio concept is about self-discovery, inner feelings and developing character. 

“It was the end of first semester when I finished contextualizing that concept for my AP portfolio and really getting into the depths of making it. That piece was one of the first pieces for the AP portfolio,” he said. 

A month and a half later, an announcement in the Daily Bulletin congratulated Viela and Guzman. 

“I read the Daily Bulletin and found that my name was celebrated for getting Honorable Mention, so I found out when everyone else found out!” Viela said. 

Viela said that all he could think about when he won Honorable Mention was “wait a minute, what just happened?”

Since he hadn’t spent that much time on it, the recognition came as a surprise.

“In truth, I did [this piece] in about 5 hours. It had my concept and my sketch, and I was really confident in it, but I never thought that something like this–and in my mind thinking that it’s simple–would’ve gotten something even close to honorable mention.”

With hundreds of other Hawaiʻi art students submitting their work to the competition, the chances of winning any level of award is slim. 

“I may not have gotten a Gold Key or a Silver Key or links to scholarships or even to national competitions, but it’s still a way to think that my art, or the piece specifically, is recognizable and worth being recognized for,” Viela said. 

All winning artworks will be on display in the Turnaround Gallery at the Hawai’i State Art Museum on O’ahu, Friday, March 12 to Friday, April 16, 2021.