Bayside High School junior Ashley Virgo was awarded the Gold Medal and the American Visions Medal by the 2021 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards National Competition.
Her winning work, titled Eyes on the Road, depicts a black man in his car driving at night with his baby daughter in the back seat as they see the police lights flashing in the rear view mirror.
“While brainstorming ideas with my art tutor, I realized that I had always wanted to tackle social justice issues about police brutality,” Virgo says, reflecting on her family’s own experiences with police encounters. “The police are supposed to make us feel safe, but sometimes we feel fear instead.”
That fear is indeed palpable in her work. The father tries to hide the sudden panic from his daughter, but, from the looks of the baby’s face, the jig is up; this inevitable anxiety and anger resonates a powerfully familiar note in countless fathers within the black community today as they struggle in the failed balancing act between protectiveness and reality when it comes to educating their children about the current society.
While scrutiny in cases of Rayshard Brooks, Daniel Prude, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many more concentrates on victim-police interactions, Eyes on
the Road brings to focus the paternal angst that has always been boiling under the radar.
“As a mother myself, I tremble to think what might be going through the father’s mind,” says Sarah Jung, Virgo’s art tutor at Choi Art Studio where Virgo goes to work on her artworks. “Ashley, as a half black, half Asian girl, actually possesses the trifecta of current epicenters of social justice issues. This, I believe, provides her with a tremendously unique perspective in what is going on in our society today.”
“I am glad that the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards can give her a mouthpiece with which to share that perspective among others in our greater community,” she added.
The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards is the nation’s largest, longest running, and the most prestigious recognition program for creative teenagers. Partnering with regional organizations, it recognizes students across the nation with exceptional aesthetical skills through awards, exhibition and publication opportunities, and scholarship.