Sweeping the competition

Coppell student artworks receive majority of VASE gold seals

Trisha Atluri, Staff Writer/Photographer

With tedious hours spent gridding a 24×26 in paper, the anticipation of adding a gold leaf accent and grueling days spent waiting for layers of oil paint to dry behind them, four Coppell students received the gold seal honor at the Visual Arts Scholastic Event (VASE) competition on April 24-25.

The online judging panel at state VASE awarded gold seals to CHS senior Celeste Wang, CHS junior Ishita Sisodia, CHS sophomore Jaserah Chowdhury and CHS9 student Ashley Zhang, meaning that the majority of gold seals given in Division 2 had been received by artists in Coppell ISD. The gold seal award is the highest distinguishing honor a high school artist can receive in VASE. State qualifiers must place at regionals as silver medalists. At state, they may medal but very few receive a gold seal. 

Out of around 35,000 total artworks entered from high schools around Texas, 150 were awarded the distinguished gold seal. This number includes the seven reserved for Division 2 participants.

“It is pretty competitive,” CHS9 art teacher Elsa Reynolds said. “I see that extra time and dedication the student put into their work. [I am] very glad it was actually recognized.”

Beyond being recognized, gold seal artworks are seen by thousands of people around Texas as part of a traveling display. The artworks will be displayed at stops such as the capitol building and returned in November.

The story behind each artwork varies from a lightning strike of inspiration to hours of meticulous research and brainstorming. For Wang, it started with a random photo she took on the bus while her friend slept.

“We were on a band trip to St. Louis,” Wang said. “My friend hates when I take pictures of her when she’s sleeping, so I just did it as sort of a joke, but it was just so compositionally nice that I ended up using it.”

Having previously won two gold seals, the award did not surprise Wang as much as it did Sisodia, whose gold seal was three years in the making.

“I could not believe it,” Sisodia said. “I’ve been going to state for three years now, but I’ve never actually gotten a gold seal, so when I did get it this year, I was very excited.”

Unlike previous years, VASE judging was held online due to the state-issued stay-at-home order. Students did not get the opportunity to travel, attend workshops, win scholarship money and view other state-qualifying pieces. 

“We would have normally taken the kids down for the whole weekend and competed at state VASE,” CHS art teacher Michelle Hauske said. “With everything happening right now, obviously we didn’t get to and it was kind of depressing. Then, when we saw the statistics, I was really excited. When you look at the work, you can see why.”

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