The Reflections Program is an annual student art contest sponsored by the National Parent Teacher Association, awarding student work in the categories of dance/choreography, photography, film production, music composition, visual arts and literature. Designed to encourage and celebrate young artists, the contest welcomes submissions as early as October and doesn’t conclude until the announcement of the national award winners on March 1, 2018.
The winners of this year’s contest, themed “Within Reach,” will be announced at each of South Pasadena Unified’s five school sites after school resumes on Jan. 9.
At South Pasadena Middle School, 7th grader Aidan Howard-Rede is eagerly awaiting the announcement of the five 2017 middle school winners, who will have the opportunity to move on to the First District Competition, where a group of judges will decide which works from South Pas Unified they will submit to the state level.
Howard-Rede earned the next highest honor, the award of excellence, last year as a 6th grader. His submission this year is one he is and should be proud of, because more than his artistic skill, it displays his intellectual capability. Painted on canvas, the work (shown on pg. 1) represents a completed vision.
Attention is directed to the center of Howard-Rede’s painting by his self-portrait’s eyes and the many hands–offering, reaching, grasping–that enter the frame. The STEM curriculum, science, technology, engineering and math, is the fuel for the future, the painting suggests. Gears are positioned near different scenes that are environmentally sustainable. This literal application of a theme as open to interpretation as “Within Reach” reflects the personality of the artist.
When Howard-Rede talks about his own future, he talks about solving large, global issues. “We can solve the energy problems in the world by converting to electricity,” he says matter-of-factly. He doesn’t want to be a profesional artist, but he plans to continue to draw to stimulate ideas for solving the world’s problems.
One more thing about the picture: in the bottom right corner, a dark blue puzzle piece is missing. The national symbol for the complexity of Autism Spectrum Disorder, the puzzle piece represents to the artist, who himself was diagnosed with autism at the age of three, yet another unsolved challenge in the world.
Howard-Rede is remarkably high-functioning. His unusual behavior was spotted by his mother Erica at a young age, at which point she enrolled him in an early-intervention program. The program has been wildly successful for the 12-year-old, who today has earned the admiration of many at SPMS.