What started as a regular classroom assignment for Sarah Mahdesian has turned into a national honor.
Mahdesian was chosen to represent Rhode Island at the Youth Art Month National Flag Event, "School Flags Across the U.S. ... Flying High" on March 21, at the Rayburn House Office Building, in Washington, D.C.
“One of the reasons I got into art was my teacher at Park View Middle School. Back then she was Ms. [Alicia] Urban, now she’s Mrs. Hawkins,” she said. “She was bold and spunky, never afraid to express herself through art. I looked forward to her class every day.”
Working closely now with Cranston East art teacher Kirsten Sorensen for all four years, Mahdesian took her assignment and used mixed media deconstruction to create her award-winning project.
“I saw all my friends getting awards for academics or sports, and I wanted something for myself,” she said.
So, she entered a competition at the state level, which in turn, resulted in her piece being entered into the YAM event. The Council for Art Education and the Art & Creative Materials Institute, Inc. sponsored the competition
Mahdesian’s collage, "Turn Your Scars into Stars," was made up of torn pieces of magazines that she had collected in assorted colors.
“I kept all the pieces in baggies. I had a layout idea in my head,” she said.
The actual assignment from Sorensen was to take a message on a fortune cookie and turn it into a piece of art.
“The message truly spoke to me,” she said. “I’ve been in situations where I’ve buried deep issues. It is important to turn struggles into positives,”
Mahdesian said she wanted to create something that made her feel hopeful. Her message is be proud of who you become. With that message, Mahdesian and her parents flew to D.C. for the day as guests of the competition sponsor.
A staff member from Rhode Island Congressman James Langevin's office attended the event and brought Mahdesian and her parents to his office after the ceremony. Senator Jack Reed’s office contacted Mahdesian’s parents and arranged for a meeting as well. Mahdesian was presented with a citation from Mayor Allan Fung at his office on Tuesday, April 3.
Cranston East Principal Sean Kelly is also a fan.
“I am so proud of all the hard work and time Sarah put into her art. We have great students who do great things, and we love to see them get recognized for it,” he said.
Sorensen and Mahdesian are hopeful that the flag will hang in the halls of East for all to see and enjoy. Sorensen had only positive things to say about Mahdesian and her project.
“I am so happy the judges recognized her artwork as inspiring, as well as the design quality,” she said. “She has truly blossomed, she is a creative problem solver and an organized thinker.”
For more opportunities to view CHSE art students’ work, check out the Senior Studio opening on Wednesday, May 16, at Cranston Central Library from 5 to 7:30 p.m.