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Fairfax High School senior Jeannette Cardona remembers her grandmother, a former mariachi singer, turning up the radio and belting out lyrics to the music of Selena while they drove through Los Angeles.
Music has a special place in Cardona’s personal history as well as Hispanic culture, which is why she chose it as the subject for her entry — “Fuego y Ritmo”, or “Fire and Rhythm” — in the 2010 Los Angeles Latino Art Beat Competition.
Cardona won first place in the drawing and painting category out of 63 entries from students throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Cardona will be headed to Washington, D.C. on Friday to be recognized at the 2010 National Latino Art Beat awards. She and first place winners from across the country will be honored at a ceremony at the District of Columbia Public Schools headquarters.
This theme of this year’s contest was: “What Hispanic heritage means to me.”
Cardona, 17, said her heritage is the very definition of who she is, and it comes through language, food and music, and connecting the past with the present.
“Even though we are individuals, it is our rich and vivid past that makes us who we are,” Cardona said.
Her mixed-medium painting depicts the profile of an indigenous woman, possibly of Aztec heritage, she said, with hair made of a patchwork of Spanish musical instruments. Her face has tattoos and her hair is fashioned in part with pieces of textile.
Cardona said she spent a month working on the portrait, created with watercolor and acrylic paint.
Cardona’s teachers say she sometimes she spreads herself too thin trying to complete multiple projects, and she readily admits that she is a perfectionist.
“Even if I have to stay up until 2 a.m. to execute my vision, I will,” Cardona said.
The art competition is part of LAUSD’s Beyond the Bell program that ensures students have access to high quality academic, enrichment, and recreation programs that inspire learning and achievement beyond the regular school day.
Cardona is in three Advanced Placement classes, and has taken eight overall. She is also an art commissioner in the school’s Leadership program.
Suzanne Drake is a dean of students and the adviser for Leadership, where 35 students were elected this year to plan various school activities. Cardona is often in charge of creating posters and banners for events.
Drake said Cardona is a good student and may seem quiet, but also has a strong will.
“You know where she stands on things and she leads by example,” Drake said.
Cardona grew up just five blocks from Fairfax High School, where her parents both went to school in the 1980s. Her grandparents emigrated from Guatemala to Los Angeles when they were both young. Music runs in her family — her dad was once a DJ and her mom used to be in a chorus, Cardona said.
A self-proclaimed nerd, Cardona will be the first in her family to go to college. She is planning to apply to several University of California and California State University campuses, as well Brown University in Rhode Island.
Cardona is hoping to receive a scholarship to study art, which is something she has done as long as she can remember. Her mom showed her how to draw in the beginning, but she has learned how to sketch and paint mostly on her own. It wasn’t until last year, when she was a junior, that she took an art class.
“It was the first time I took a non-academic class, and it really sparked a passion in me,” Cardona said.
In addition to drawing and painting, she enjoyed a physiology class she took last year and is planning to minor in forensic sciences.
Most days after school, she rides a bus to visit her father in Culver City where he works at Sony Pictures Animation. Seeing the creativity in the office inspires her, and she one day wants to become a storyboard artist.
Art has also helped her to remember what her childhood was like, and this competition gave her another fond memory — being in the car with her grandmother and her cousins, surrounded by music.
“That [made] a deep impression on me,” Cardona said.
To view Cardona’s painting and other winners of the competition, visit www.btb.lausd.net/news/fil-es/2010LatinoArtBeatWinners.swf.
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