Ariana Smith, a senior at Las Vegas Academy of the Arts, is one of the gold recipients of the 2019 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, which according to the program is “the nation’s longest-running and most prestigious recognition program for creative teens” in the visual and literary arts.
According to the Las Vegas Sun, Smith is biracial. Her mother is Filipina and her father is African-American. The high school senior addresses her mixed ethnic background and her identity as a gay woman in much of her work.
“Your identity is all of you, not just some parts,” she told the news publication. “I feel like making space being both black and queer … it’s a complicated dynamic.”
“That idea of coming from an immigrant family … it’s interesting how it kind of confronts my African-American identity,” Smith added. “Being enslaved and brought here unwillingly as well as conquering the American dream is an interesting dynamic on both sides of my family.”
The teen earned the gold medal for her comic art titled “what’s another black body to go,” and the American Voices medal/gold medal for the poem “heaven is black?”
The high school senior is among the 16 students nationally selected for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. They join the ranks of notable writers that includes Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates. The prize includes a $10,000 scholarship, a weeklong stay in New York City and a celebratory event at Carnegie Hall on June 6.
“I remember feeling like it felt good to get my words out on the page,” Smith said. “Feelings of vulnerability … they are hard to feel in the world, but when you force yourself, it can be therapeutic.”
She wants to study film and social justice after high school.