Growing up in Cedar Rapids, Elizabeth Barroso remembers watching bunnies hop through her backyard.
At 16, Barroso now has the animals appear in her paintings — artwork that earned the teenager regional distinction Sunday at the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards in Iowa City.
One of her two surrealist works that won top honors was her first self-portrait, Barroso said, that shows five bunnies painting the young artist.
“They’ve always been around me,” she said. “They’re painting me because it’s what makes me up. They’re a part of me, something I always paint and that inspires most of my art. ... I think of my ideas by the world around me, my experiences, people — anything that comes to me.”
For more than a decade, the University of Iowa has hosted the regional Scholastic awards.
On Sunday, 280 Midwest students were on campus to be recognized.
Students who won gold, like Barroso, are in the fifth percentile of 7,000 submissions, said Scholastic Midwest region Director Jan Warren.
“We hope it can be the thing that keeps them going and inspires them to take another class, come to a residency, consider this as a career,” Warren said. “Just that little push from somebody in this career is validating. We hope the awards will encourage these kids to consider it — instead of listening to society’s messages that say this is not a valid career path.”
The event is also a way to move forward the mission of the UI College of Education’s Belin-Blank Center, said Warren, who also works as its assistant director of student services. The center’s programs focus on gifted and talented students.
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“It’s not just talented kids in STEM,” she said. “This is a wonderful way to focus on and to identify more kids that are talented and gifted” in art and writing.
For Barroso, a sophomore at Jefferson High School, painting is her “own personal voice,” she said, and how she best expresses herself.
“I draw to give a sense of surrealism, and it’s been a surreal experience being recognized,” she said. “I didn’t think I would get recognized so much, this far. ... It’s something I’m still trying to figure out right now, if I want to continue doing art as my career, or if I want to do something else.
“Now, I think I might have a chance to have an art career.”
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