Art captured the attention of Soma Andrews, a recent Friday Harbor High School graduate, from an early age. Andrews is the winner of the silver medal in the National Scholastics Art and Writing Competition.
“Art is so extremely important because it’s such a powerful method of expression. Art is able to tell stories words cannot,” Andrews said. “The beauty of it is that it’s completely up to the artist what they create and what they want it to convey.”
Her father is also an artist, Andrews explained, and she credits him for opening her eyes to the world of creating.
“Without him I know I wouldn’t be half as far as I am today in my artistic career, and certainly not winning a national award,” she said.
Andrews explained in a press release announcing her award that, “Art has always been my favorite thing to do when I am bored, stressed, or sad because it has a way of calming me down.”
Andrews had previously won the Gold Portfolio at the Western Region at Large Scholastics Art and Writing Competition before winning a silver at the national competition.
A Friday Harbor High School press release explained that the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards are the nation’s most prestigious recognition program for students in grades seven-12.
“This year, students submitted nearly 320,000 works of visual art and writing. Only the top 18,000 Gold key regional level winners’ artwork advances to the national competition,” the press release stated. “There are many individual awards but only eight visual art students are awarded the highest honor, the Gold Portfolio $10,000 scholarships.”
Andrews was one of 15 visual art students to receive the “Silver medal with Distinction Portfolio” which comes with a $1,000 scholarship. The 23 gold and silver winning students are considered amongst the most talent in the country, the press release said, explaining that panelists look for works that best exemplify originality, technical skill, and the emergence of a personal voice or vision.
“I couldn’t believe it at first, I had one of my friends read the words ‘national winner’ to me again to double-check I wasn’t misunderstanding the information,” Andrews said.
Andrews’ entry portfolio contained a variety of mediums that focused on homelessness. She explained she chose that topic because she felt it is a social issue that is extremely relevant. With each art piece Andrews created for the portfolio, she researched extensively to educate herself about the multifaceted aspects of homelessness.
“I learned many facts and statistics,” Andrews said. “But I think the most important thing I learned was that every one of those people on the streets has a story and a reason how they become impoverished.”
Andrews continued, adding that she is now aware of the mental effects of homelessness and how those living without shelter often feel ignored and invisible. To express that emotion, Andrews used white outlines or partial people throughout her work.
“I would like to make clear to society the enormity of this social issue and how ignored it is in American,” Andrews said. “Every one of those people has a story and a meaningful life and should be acknowledged in some shape or form.”
Under normal circumstances, a huge ceremony at Carnegie Hall in New York City to honor the national winners. Famous celebrities, authors and distinguished speakers present the awards and discuss the importance of the arts in society. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremony will not take place this year. Andrews said she still feels honored.
Andrews is currently forward to attending Western Washington University in Bellingham in the fall.
“I felt right at home and knew it was where I was going to feel comfortable,” Andrews said, adding that several Friday Harbor alumni who have attended WWU and majored in fine art, loved both the school and the program.
Though she has chosen to major in fine art, she has not yet chosen a career to pursue.
“I hope whatever I do it’s making a difference in the world, whether that involves art or not,” Andrews said, noting that if her career does not include art, she hopes to continue creating during her free time.
Given how much more Andrews has to express, she believes art will continue to be important in her life. One topic she would like to tackle, she explained, is animal extinction.
“During my sophomore year I began a series on animal extinctions in charcoal pencil,” Andrews said. “If I was to do another portfolio … I would continue this idea.”
She would use multi-reference images, Andrews explained, much like her homeless portfolio. To portray the collection more powerfully, Andrews explained that she would push the envelope, experiment with alternative materials rather than sticking to drawing straight from photographs.
Whatever tomorrow brings, Andrews said she is grateful for her island family.
“I want my community to know that I am beyond grateful for all the support and love I have received growing up,” Andrews said. “It means the world to me knowing I have people that care about me and my art and are cheering me on as I take this next step into the future.”