11th Grader Molly Cahill Wins International Student Art Competition Honoring Unsung Heroes from History

  • ArtEffect Project

Other Cash Prizes Awarded to U.S. and International Students

FORT SCOTT, Kan., (April 17, 2017) – Eleventh grader Molly Cahill of Independence High School in Spring Hill, Tennessee, has won this year’s $7,500 grand prize in The ArtEffect Project, an international competition for students in grades 6-12 hosted by the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes (LMC). Cahill’s award-winning project, “Hope for the Verdict,” depicts Unsung Hero Mitsuye Endo, a woman who challenged Japanese-American internment all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court and won in 1944. The project was selected from 430 high-quality art submissions from students across the world.

“After doing this project my whole perspective of art making has changed,” writes Cahill in her artist statement. “I feel now that I want to have emotional ties to my pieces and be able to tell a story or present a feeling without having to explain it with words.” Cahill’s artwork, along with the other winning student art projects, will be displayed in LMC’s Hall of Unsung Heroes, a state-of-the-art museum and exhibition space in Fort Scott, Kansas.

“The ArtEffect Project teaches students the power they have to create positive change through compelling visual storytelling that inspires their peers, communities, and the world at large,” 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 $3,000 second place prize went to 11th grader Gabrielle Van Allen of Lanier High School in Buford, Georgia, for her project “A Truly Dear Friend.” Van Allen’s acrylic painting and collage tells the story of Cher Ami, a pigeon whose brave actions during WWI saved the lives of over 200 American soldiers. Writes Van Allen in her artist statement, “I will never forget the importance of remembering that there are most definitely times where great courage comes in small packages.”

Twelfth grader Maggie Mincek of Mill Creek High School in Dacula, Georgia, won the $1,000 senior division prize for her project “Protector of the Dunes.” Mincek’s acrylic painting honors Dorothy Buell, a nature activist whose lifelong commitment to preserving the Indiana Dunes fought off decades of industrial encroachment. The $1,000 junior division prize went to seventh grader Elizabeth Sturgeon of LaVilla School of the Arts in Jacksonville, Florida, for her acrylic painting on Dorothea Lange, a photographer who captured the plight of migrant workers during the Great Depression and exposed the injustices of Japanese-American internment.

Finally, Polish high school senior Karolina Drozdowska won the $1,000 international prize for her Unsung Hero discovery project on Marek Kotański, a Polish charity worker who devoted his life to serving disadvantaged populations, including the homeless, people with HIV/AIDS, and ex-prisoners. Drozdowska made a collage of black and white photos depicting the numerous people impacted by Kotański’s compassion, which she overlaid with a painting of his face in green to symbolize hope.

This year marks LMC’s second annual art competition, and drew 430 student entries from across the U.S. and abroad. In recognition of the high-caliber submissions received this year, LMC selected six additional art pieces for “Honorable Mention.” These include:

  • “Inquisitive Beauty” by Alexandra Cass, 10th Grade, Bloomington High School North (Indiana)
  • “Amos-Hope” by Liran Hu, 10th Grade, Chattahoochee High School (John’s Creek, Georgia)
  • “A Vision of Blossoms” by Sarah Vargas, 11th Grade, Bergen County Academies (Hackensack, N ew Jersey)
  • “Hope in Concealmentby Adriana Herrera, 11th Grade, Cypress Springs High School (Cypress, Texas)
  • “Starry Heavens” by Teresa Napolitano, 12th Grade, North Gwinnett HS (Suwanee, Georgia)
  • “Moche Kraus: A Lesson in Literary Stealth” by Ian Pomery, 12th Grade, Hugoton High School (Hugoton, Kansas)

 In addition to LMC’s executive leadership, the art competition’s judging panel consisted 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 $13,500 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.


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 1,300,000 students and 8,500 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