- Sponsorship -

SmartArt competition winner finds inspiration in art, science classes

C.A. Frost student wins $1,000 scholarship from Consumers Energy

When Cindy Mazariegos-Barrios headed downtown to Rosa Parks Circle on Sept. 9 for the unveiling of the winner in the 2019 SmartArt competition, she went with her sister but didn’t tell her parents.

The GRPS junior had been shocked enough when her piece, “We Are All in This Together,” had made the top 10 in May, in the seventh annual ecology-themed competition. She was certain four months later that she had no shot at the top prize, which was being announced as part of the opening ceremonies for Project 1 by ArtPrize, now running through Oct. 27.


It made it a little tough to explain the giant check she brought home later that night as the first-place winner — a $1,000 college scholarship check courtesy of Consumers Energy, the SmartArt sponsor, that Cindy said is about as big as she is.

“They were surprised,” she said of her parents’ reaction, “but they know I’m a perfectionist and that I didn’t want to waste their time.”

The 10 finalists, along with their artwork titles and schools:
• Jaheem Aubrey, “Powering the Earth,” Ottawa Hills
• Nate Beurkens, “Crude,” Museum High School
• Lux Howell, “Present Projection,” C.A Frost
• Emilia Jasinski, “Save,” City
• David Johnson, “Two Different Worlds,” City
• Cindy Mazariegos-Barrios, “We Are All In This Together,” C.A. Frost
• Jack McKellar, “What Side Will You Choose?,” City
• Ruby Taylor, “Fabric of Our Future,” C.A. Frost
• Kamryn Wezeman, “Energy Conscious,” City
• Natalie White, “Code Blue,” City

‘We Are All in This Together,’ student Cindy Mazariegos-Barrios’ winning entry in the 2019 SmartArt competition

Inspired by Art and Academics

But, she added with a laugh: “My dad’s initial reaction when he found out I won was ‘Good, that’s how it should be because we work really hard for you!’ It’s true, and I appreciate it.”

Cindy also appreciates the education she’s getting at C.A. Frost Environmental Science Academy, a GRPS theme school she has attended since sixth grade. In fact, her winning entry was inspired by both an art class and an AP environmental science class that included a focus on renewable energy.

It shows four such energy sources surrounded by flags of countries that either use them heavily or produce too much carbon dioxide, suggesting a thought bubble of a person picturing the future. In her artist statement, Cindy said public awareness is key to sustainability, adding: “My art piece is trying to communicate to the audience that renewable energy is important and something that should always be in our minds.”

ArtPrize is a sponsor participant in School News Network’s Education Everywhere feature. 

She also credits art teacher Megan Talmage with inspiring the medium, rolled paper, for her project. Talmage had done her research and noticed a few media that hadn’t been used much in prior competitions, including rolled paper. So Cindy dove in and made that the centerpiece of her project, a decision she came to regret more than once as she continued with the work.

“Using pieces of rolled paper to form an image seemed really interesting, and the videos said it was time consuming,” she said, “but I had no idea. I spent a lot of time rolling, unrolling, re-rolling. And then gluing and taping.”

She submitted her piece right at deadline, though not without second thoughts.

“I looked at it and felt like I could have done better,” she recalled.

But a panel of judges from Kendall College of Art and Design at Ferris State University, Grand Rapids Community College and Grand Valley State University begged to differ, sending “We Are All In This Together” to the top 10 and then to the top of the podium.

Cindy was one of three students named to the top five from C.A. Frost — joining Ruby Taylor and Lux Howell — much to the delight of Talmage, who had the trio in her drawing and painting class and made the contest part of the curriculum.

“They each chose to step out of their comfort zones, and it’s great to see that it paid off,” Talmage said. “I hope this encourages them to continue to challenge themselves to be the best they can be in life, and to see that taking risks is sometimes necessary for success.”

A large banner with the Top 10 finalists in SmartArt (Students Making Art with a Renewable Theme) is displayed at Consumers Energy’s Ellsworth Substation at Fulton and Market streets in downtown Grand Rapids. The pieces also are on display inside downtown’s JW Marriott.

‘Save’ by Emilia Jasinski won the People’s Choice Award in the 2019 SmartArt competition

“People’s Choice” Winner

Consumers Energy also hosted a “People’s Choice” contest on its Facebook page, and “Save” by City High 10th grader Emilia Jasinski garnered top honors. The award earned Jasinski a $200 Visa gift card and her art teacher, Meagan Whittle, a $200 gift card toward classroom supplies.

A record-number 81 entries were submitted this year by GRPS students, something that Interim Superintendent Ronald Gorman found very gratifying.

“GRPS made a commitment to going green in our Transformation Plan,” he said, referring to the district-wide improvement effort of recent years, “and this is a tremendous opportunity for our students to be educated about those efforts and participate through their art.”

C.A. Frost’s Talmage agrees.

“I hear the way these students talk about the need for humanity to be better stewards for the environment,” the art teacher said. “The SmartArt contest helps highlight both the creative talent and genuine desire of our students to advocate for a sustainable future.”


Top 10 finalists in ArtPrize 2019 SmartArt competition

Project 1 ArtPrize

- Sponsorship -
Phil de Haan
Phil de Haan
Phil de Haan covers Grand Rapids and Kelloggsville and also is a general assignment reporter and the point person for the SNN Facebook and Twitter feeds. He hails from Exeter, Ontario, but has called Grand Rapids home since 1985. He is the son of a longtime public school teacher who taught both English and machine shop! Phil took both classes at South Huron District High School, but English stuck, and at Calvin College, where he met his wife, Sue, he majored in English and minored in journalism. His background includes both freelance writing and public relations work, including teaching an advertising and PR course at the college level. In the summer of 2019, he began his own freelance writing and communications business. In his spare time, Phil plays pick-up hockey and pickleball and tries to keep tabs on his two adult children.  Read Phil's full bio or email Phil.


‘Hope on the horizon’ as local teachers start getting COVID-19 vaccine

Lincoln School special education teacher, Ann Post believes there is 'hope on the horizon' for Kent ISD teachers and educators across Kent County after receiving her first round of the COVID-19 vaccine...

Sisters land grant to help those who ‘aren’t as lucky as we are’

Sisters at Page Elementary researched and wrote a grant to help homeless kids at Family Promise of Barry County...

Virtual counseling office offers ‘one-stop’ services

The site offers new ways for students to connect, on anything from academic questions to mental health issues...

Good behavior encouraged at home

For students learning from home, positive behavior rewards are still possible...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Online poetry, multimedia course encourages mental well-being for middle schoolers

A Grand Rapids nonprofit has made online writing and mental health materials available free of charge. At least one local middle-school teacher says the series is powerful and helps build community among classmates...

Equity and inclusion leader named interim director of UPrep association

The founding director of the Bob and Aleicia Woodrick Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Grand Rapids Community College is the new interim director of Grand Rapids University Preparatory Association...

Through screens and technical glitches, learning goes on

In a year of forced online learning, teachers themselves have had much to learn in keeping students engaged and progressing...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU