Unsung Heroes Art Competition Awards $7,500 Grand Prize to Georgia 9th Grader

FORT SCOTT, KS (April 1, 2016) – A Georgia ninth grader has won the $7,500 grand prize in the inaugural Unsung Heroes Art Competition, an international contest for students in grades 6-12. Liran Hu’s award-winning project, a stunning oil painting measuring 30 x 40 inches, depicts “unsung hero” Jacob Valentine, an environmental activist who saved the Mississippi sandhill crane from extinction when construction of Interstate 10 in the 1970s threatened the bird’s natural habitat. His painting is currently being displayed at Chattahoochee High School, located in Johns Creek, GA.

“Somebody in every generation can pass the candlelight of their spirits onto the next generation, until they have lit the whole world,” Hu wrote in his artist’s statement. The student’s painting, along with the other winning student art projects, will be displayed in LMC’s Hall of Unsung Heroes in Fort Scott, KS, a state-of-the-art museum and exhibition space opening in May 2016.

“The Unsung Heroes Art Competition provides art students a deep and meaningful learning opportunity as they apply the lessons of history to their lives today and draw inspiration from universal values like courage and compassion,” says LMC Executive Director Norm Conard. “We are thrilled to be featuring student art projects that celebrate positive role models from history in our new Hall of Unsung Heroes.”

The competition’s $3,500 second place prize goes to 12th grader Mollie Probst of Northlake Christian School in Covington, Louisiana for her project “Bound Together.” Probst’s mixed media piece visually interprets the legacy of Meva Mikusz, a 15-year-old Polish teen who rescued a 2-year-old Jewish girl from the Czortkow Ghetto and secretly raised her for the duration of World War II.

Twelfth grader John Crittenden of Delcambre High School in Delcambre, Louisiana, won the $2,000 senior division prize for his project “Mad Jack.” Through his research and artwork, Crittenden brought a new Unsung Hero to LMC’s attention: Lieutenant Colonel John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, a British Army officer whose actions during WWII helped Crittenden confront the complexities of his own Japanese-American heritage.

The $2,000 junior division prize went to 8th grader Maia Castro-Santos of Stoneleigh Burnham School in Greenfield, Massachusetts, for her paper collage on civil rights pioneer Sylvia Mendez. Castro-Santos’ collage portrays a portrait of a young Mendez surrounded by words that defined the racism and discrimination of her time.

Eleventh and twelfth graders in Poland won the $1,000 international prize for their graphic novel depicting the story of Irena Sendler, a Catholic social worker who saved 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto during the Holocaust. Student winners Julia Zaks, Emilia Kutyla, and Anna Wojtala plan to use their prize money to publish a complete Irena Sendler biography in the form of a graphic novel.

In addition to LMC’s executive leadership, the art competition’s judging panel was comprised of experts in the fields of art history, design, and museum education, including representatives from the Getty Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and the Art Center College of Design.

LMC’s Unsung Heroes Art Competition, a cross-curricular and holistic art program, offers cash prizes totaling $16,000 and is open to U.S. and international students in grades 6-12. Eligible students are invited to submit high-quality art projects interpreting an Unsung Hero’s character and actions in the following two categories: (1) Celebrating Unsung Heroes and (2) Discovering Unsung Heroes. Students are required to submit a 500-1,000 word artist statement articulating their interpretation of the Unsung Hero’s story and their personal connection to the subject matter. Winning art projects are displayed physically at LMC’s Hall of Unsung Heroes and virtually on LMC’s website.

View All the Winning Projects

Established in 2007, the Lowell Milken Center (LMC) for Unsung Heroes works to transform classrooms and communities through student-driven projects that discover Unsung Heroes from history and teach the power of one to create positive change. To date, LMC has reached over 1,100,000 students and 8,000 schools in all 50 states, with growing global reach. Learn more about LMC and its Unsung Heroes Art Competition at www.LowellMilkenCenter.org. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Media Contact: Sonia Lowman, Director of Communications and Partnerships, (310) 570-4744