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Happy Hands: A Round of Applause for Two Idaho Fine Arts Academy Students

Story  by Jenny K Gilman Photo by Tia Crabtree

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” — Pablo Picasso.

In this unique time of Covid, when school activities are turned upside down and handwashing made an urgent priority, two students are finalists in a national competition to inspire cleanliness in schools with their art.

Idaho Fine Arts Academy students Isabelle Arriaga and Jamie Monson have found themselves two of the top five finalists in the SC Johnson Company’s “Happy Hands” art competition.

Inspired by their art teacher, Jenny Valenzuela, who introduced them to the contest, Isabelle and Jamie created colorful art pieces to don the covers of hand sanitizer dispensers throughout national schools.

Isabelle Arriaga’s bright and cheerful hummingbird design is created in memory of her grandmother, who loved hummingbirds. She said:

I included a colorful hummingbird in the design as hummingbirds represent joy and happiness, with the all-around message that we all could use some more positivity in our lives during this time.”

Isabelle’s love of art has her wanting to continue creating as a hobby throughout her life. Besides drawing, she loves making jewelry. She has given thought to someday selling art prints, jewelry, and hand-stitched dog clothes. She dreams of writing and illustrating a children’s book.

Usually, high school students have multiple activities after school, but with Covid happening, it is difficult. With so much home time, Isabella has learned that she has a fondness for cooking and baking. Honing her skills in the kitchen is one more art she is adding to her repertoire.

Jamie Monson created a design meant to give students a colorful adventure! She drew a spaceship that takes off into space, with stars, constellations, and vivid planets surrounding the ship. She has given her primary-colored spaceship a countdown:  “3…2…1… BLAST OFF the germs!” She said:

“I thought that this statement would encourage kids and adults to use soap or sanitizer to blast the germs off of their hands. It is so important, especially in a pandemic, to clean your hands and protect yourself and others from germs.”

 Jamie visualizes keeping art in her life as a career. She can think of two exciting opportunities to use her artistic talents: She wants to be an interior designer, someone who designs inspirational spaces while leaving each client a painting created especially for their home. She can also see herself as a cosmetologist. She loves the idea of using her visual talents to create beauty in hair, make-up, and nails.

Isabelle and Jamie are grateful for their teacher, Jenny Valenzuela. Mrs. Valenzuela encouraged them to enter their artwork into this contest. During a pandemic, having creativity and passion for the arts while staying at home is an essential and healthy tool.

Both girls have credited Mrs. Valenzuela for her encouragement and dedication to the arts. Not having the opportunity to create in the classroom could be difficult. Still, this experience shows that it worked for them.

Congratulations to them both! In the end, winning the contest is an exciting prospect for either student.  But most important is the experience that has afforded them the inspiration for creating during difficult times.