In the 2020 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers recognized 16 high school seniors from across the country with the program’s highest national honor, the Gold Medal Portfolio, which includes a $10,000 scholarship. Throughout the month of May, we are highlighting and interviewing two pairs of Gold Medal Portfolio recipients a week prior to their national ceremony in June. In this Q&A, each pair of recipients were asked a few questions about their nationally recognized portfolios, craft, and future plans. And, to make it more interesting, each Gold Medal Portfolio recipient has also asked each other a question to get to know their fellow medalist.
To start off the third week of the series, we checked in with a pair of Gold Medal Portfolio recipients acknowledged for their works in both art and writing: Charles Rounds from Jackson, MS and Luz Manuñga from Jacksonville, FL.
Meet Gold Medal Portfolio recipient Charles Rounds! In his nationally recognized art portfolio, “An Abundance of Faith,” Charles explores his relationship to Christianity and God through a series of digital illustrations that juxtapose the artist and African American figures—both historical and contemporary—with religious iconography.
When did you first know you were an artist?
I was very young when I had realized that I had a passion for art. My father would draw characters from movies and my fascination with his skills influenced me greatly. It wasn't until fourth grade that I started to take my art very seriously. I would stay up late at night practicing and drawing horses.
What was the inspiration behind your portfolio?
This portfolio exemplifies how my past experiences greatly affected who I’ve become today, but it also addresses how those past experiences have allowed me to enter a state of high expectations for my future. At a very young age, I learned that having a relationship with God has a major impact on your success in every aspect of your life. I was blessed to have a mother and father who had a great adoration for Christ and that adoration sparked my interest in getting to know God for myself. Through my art, I illustrate how prayer and faith has caused me to use my hands as a manifestation of drawing what I believe can happen, into existence. The bible talks about faith being the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Through my art I exercise my faith in hopes of conveying to all nationalities that if you truly believe in something, you can achieve it.
What do you want someone to take away from reading or looking at the pieces in your portfolio?
I hope to inspire people to believe in themselves. Sometimes doubt clouds our mind when we have certain expectations we want to meet. Increasing your faith is a way of combating your doubt.
What’s next for you? Will you continue to write/create art in your future?
I plan on attending Mississippi State University and majoring in architecture in fall 2020. Hopefully in the future I will have my own business doing architecture and art commissions.
If you could have dinner with one notable/famous artist/writer (living or dead) who would it be and what would you want to talk about with them?
If I could have dinner with one notable artist, it would probably be Michael Angelo. I would ask, “How did you become so skilled in different areas of art?”
Question from Gold Medal Portfolio recipient Luz Manunga: How has your life influenced your art and the way that you reflect yourself in your art pieces?
My life has influenced my art in so many different ways. The majority of my art confronts my past experiences and how I was able to eventually learn from them. Although some of my past experiences have not been the best, being a Christian and having a relationship with God has allowed me to express myself in ways unimaginable through my art.
Meet Gold Medal Portfolio recipient Luz Manuñga! Her nationally recognized writing portfolio, “Seen Connections,” is an assortment of poems that emulate and are dedicated to various poets Luz admires. Additionally, Luz’s poetry explores her own family, the struggles they have faced, and their native culture.
When did you first know you were a writer?
I knew that I was a writer when I was in elementary school and I started writing silly comics as a way to tell stories. I was always extremely excited about the process of creating them, as well as showing them off to my parents. I knew then that I loved creating! Comics turned into short stories that turned into poetry pieces… I have truly found myself within poetry, and know that I will always be a poet.
What was the inspiration behind your portfolio?
The inspiration behind my portfolio was my family and culture, and hardships that they have faced because of it. I talk a lot about my loved ones and their experiences throughout this portfolio.
What do you want someone to take away from reading the pieces in your portfolio?
I want people to feel the love that I have written inside every word.
What’s next for you? Will you continue to write in your future?
University is next for me! I will be going off to college, and will always keep writing in my life. Even though I’m not majoring in creative writing, I will be minoring in it, and hope to keep growing with my writing every day.
If you could have dinner with one notable/ famous artist/ writer (living or dead) who would it be and what would you want to talk about with them?
I would want to have dinner with Ocean Vuong or Marie Howe; these two poets have mastered their craft, and have been able to convey their emotional and life experience in such a way that it affects the reader too. I want to be able to write in such a moving way one day. I want to talk about poetry with them, what it means to them, how it has changed their life; I would also just want to chat with them too, talk about the food maybe, talk to each other and experience each other.
Question from Gold Medal Portfolio recipient, Charles Rounds: Your work is very very unique! I’ve never read a poem that had such a sophisticated style of dialect. What experiences influenced the meaning behind your work?
For "Cali, Colombia, September 1988, After Robin Silbergleid” the inspiration behind this piece was my mother’s experience with her first born’s premature birth. I wanted to use my family’s daily life in Colombia and their customs to be shown within this piece to emulate the social standards/expectations and emotions that impacted my mom’s experience throughout her pregnancy.
Stay tuned for later in the week when we get to know another pair of Gold Medal Portfolio recipients!
If you’re interested in learning more about past and present Gold Medal Portfolio winners visit the Eyes on the Prize series on the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers blog.
Cover photo: CHARLES ROUNDS, Sacrifice, Painting; Photos in body: CHARLES ROUNDS, Headshot, Photograph; CHARLES ROUNDS, The Grace of God, Painting; CHARLES ROUNDS, Sacrifice, Painting; LUZ MANUÑGA, Headshot, Photograph; LUZ MANUÑGA,'Mis Tias, After Meghan O'Rourke,' Writing; LUZ MANUÑGA, 'Cali, Columbia, September 1988, After Robin Silbergleid,' Writing.