From ATG Artistic Scholarship

Going Against The Grain: 2015 ATG Scholarship Winners

2015 WinnersThe ATG Scholarship Committee is proud to announce the 2015 Scholarship Winners.  Scored based on strength of GPA, leadership/community involvement, portfolio/video submission, essays, letters of recommendation and a final phone interview, we again chose TEN students who are brilliant, shining examples of what it means to go Against The Grain. We are truly proud of this exceptional group and all that we know they will accomplish for their vocation and for the Asian American community in the future. We are also grateful to the family of Lyly Koenig Mendez and Bruce & Pat McRae for generously donating so that we could give three special scholarships this year!

And the winners are:

#LiveLikeLyly Memorial Scholarship

  • Lauren Padilla 
  • Tiffany Piko

ATG Artistic Scholarship

  • Elizabeth Chung-Brown
  • Katherine Del Rosario
  • Evan Harris
  • Rialin Jose
  • Suttinee Hannah Sansavath
  • Shine Wu
  • Angeline Young

Bruce & Pat McRae Scholarship

  • Sophie Chien

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#FinalistFriday: Meet Our ATG Scholarship Finalists!

Through our Scholarship Program, ATG proudly awards Artistic, Groundbreaker Leadership and #LiveLikeLyly scholarships to a select group of amazing Asian American high school seniors, college undergraduate and graduate school students who are shining examples of what it means to go Against The Grain. Since 2011, we have awarded 20 scholarships. In 2014, we awarded a record ten to deserving students across the country – and look forward to doing the same in 2015!

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Congratulations to Our 2015 ATG Artistic, Groundbreaker Leadership & #LiveLikeLyly Scholarship Finalists!

ATG_logo_tagline - SQUARE

Through our Scholarship Program, ATG proudly awards Artistic, Grounbreaker Leadership and #LiveLikeLyly scholarships to a select group of amazing Asian American high school seniors, college undergraduate and graduate school students who are shining examples of what it means to Go Against The Grain. Since 2011, we have awarded 20 scholarships. In 2014, we awarded a record ten to deserving students across the country – and look forward to doing the same in 2015!

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Apply Now: 2015 ATG Artistic/Groundbreaker Leadership Scholarships

Image - All Scholarship Winners

The 2015 Against The Grain Artistic and Groundbreaker Leadership Scholarship applications are now available! These scholarships, funding for which is provided by generous sponsors and donors as well as special fundraising events that ATG produces each year, honors a select group of amazing Asian American high school seniors, college undergraduate and graduate school students who exemplify the true meaning of “Going Against The Grain” as leaders in their communities (Groundbreaker) and those pursing a degree or career in the arts (Artistic). All scholarship applications are available at www.AgainstTheGrainProductions.com/scholarship and must be postmarked by April 15, 2015 for consideration.  Read more

In Memoriam: Lyly Koenig Mendez, Operation Babylift Adoptee

Lyly Koenig Mendez

Against The Grain was saddened to learn of the passing of a very special member of the ATG family Lyly Koenig Mendez. Lyly was an orphan brought to the United States through Operation Babylift and whose story is highlighted in ATG’s documentary feature, Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam.

A great supporter of ATG and the arts, Lyly grew up in Festus, MO, graduated from Crystal City High School in 1993 and earned degrees from the University of Missouri at St. Louis and the Miami International University of Art and Design. She worked in TV and film production, was a skilled graphic designer and fashion designer who also had her work featured in ATG’s 2010 Fashion for a Passion. In addition, she was a cheerleader for the St. Louis Rams in the 1990s as well as the San Diego Chargers from 2000-2001.

She died on January 20, 2015, near Houston, TX, at the age of 40, after an eight-year fight against breast cancer. Throughout, she never let the disease take her joy, humor, creativity, compassion, humanity and passion for family, friends and life. A shining example of what it means to “Go Against The Grain,” this memorial artistic scholarship was created in her name specifically to support talented emerging graphic/fashion design students like her and dedicated with love as a reminder of her unique spirit and legacy…to #LiveLikeLyly.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch featured a special article on Lyly on February 2, 2015.

 

 

Going Against The Grain: 2014 Artistic & Groundbreaker Leadership Scholarship Winners

The ATG Scholarship Committee is proud to announce the 2014 Scholarship Winners.  Scored  based on strength of GPA, leadership/community involvement, portfolio/video submission, essays, letters of recommendation and a final phone interview, we chose a record TEN students who are brilliant, shining examples of what it means to go Against The Grain means to receive scholarships this year. We are truly proud of this exceptional group and all that we know they will accomplish for their vocation and for the Asian American community in the future. We are also grateful to Dr. & Mrs. Paul Cho and Bruce & Pat McRae for generously donating so that we could give two additional scholarships this year! Read more

Congratulations to 2014 ATG Scholarship Finalists

After weeks of reviewing and deliberation, The ATG Scholarship Committee is proud to announce the 2014 Scholarship Finalists. We scored them based on GPA, leadership/community involvement, portfolio/video submission, essay and letters of recommendation. This group in particular is one of the strongest groups we’ve ever had. They are brilliant, shining examples of what it means to go Against The Grain means. Drumroll, please… Read more

Exhibiting Artists Reveal New Depths to Fifth Annual Fashion for a Passion

FFAP5_artists_collage

DALLAS, TX – Dallas-based non-profit ATG Against The Grain Productions puts on more than just a fashion show every year; the innovative organization’s overall purpose and goal is to support and promote Asian American artists, and this event has become a platform to share fashion, music and the latest emerging art. The anticipated Fashion for a Passion No. 5 will be held at the Dallas Contemporary on Saturday, October 12th from 6:30 PM – 10:00 PM, and this year there will be an eclectic mix of eight Exhibiting Artists who represent different genres and styles. Guests will not only get to view but even bid to own one of a kind pieces from this granted group of rising stars, including ATG Artistic Scholarship Winners DJ Wang, Grace Kwon, Xiaoye Jiang and  Catherine ‘Kit” Zauhar, alongside local artists Jody Pham, Trung Vuong of Loyal K.N.G, Kathy Tran and Cameron Lee Phan. From photography to painting and even the newest addition of short films, several types of art media created by Asian American artists will be on display for guests to enjoy. Proceeds of the event go to benefit ATG’s supported orphanages in Asia, artistic and leadership scholarship funds and outreach programs.

“What ATG is trying to do is not only encourage art appreciation but also to build a community of artists and bring together those who love it and are passionate about it  to support one another,” said ATG President/Founder Tammy Nguyen Lee. “Whether it’s on a canvas or on a TV screen, ATG wants to share the talent and unique message that these artists have and hopefully bring some inspiration to others.”

There are more ways than one to show how much you love to exhibit your passion through art, and Jody Pham truly exhibits a wide array of creative skill — from providing illustrations for Stripmall Architecture’s last album, creating bag designs for a collaboration with Cykochik Custom Handbags, to illustrating the winning canvas-wrapped cooler for Red Bull’s Canvas Cooler competition this summer. Before donating her pieces to Fashion for a Passion, Jody has previously donated original works for various fundraisers and charity events like Artists Healing Japan in Dallas and Anatomy for Life in the U.K.

“I am thrilled to be an exhibiting visual artist for Fashion for a Passion! I am especially excited to be a part of an event that not only works to help those in need through creative expression, but also brings both the talents and unique struggles of the Asian community to the forefront.”

Most people make their life choices and decisions to better comfort themselves when it comes down to it, but Trung Vuong made his choices by living a lifestyle that commonly beat all odds. A dropout pre-med student, he chose to pursue his passions in the artistic fields through developing his own T-shirt brand, Loyal K.N.G. Throughout the past 4 years since the brand’s inception, Trung, along with his teams of passionate artists and leaders, have grown Loyal K.N.G. into a full-fledged lifestyle brand that sells jackets, button-downs, hats and more.

“It’s an honor to be apart of such a positive cultural community event, and to be able to showcase our artwork at Fashion for a Passion really invigorates our resolve to keep creating and contributing our artwork to the world.”

Beaumont, Texas native Kathy Tran carries around a sketchbook, knows how to handle various professional cameras and some nights may be seen sporting a pair of boxing gloves. Because Kathy likes to do so much, she doesn’t consider herself just a photographer, designer or sketcher – but instead, a creative individual. Kathy is currently studying at Brookhaven College, working on an Associate of Arts degree and plans to transfer to Southern Methodist University to study Creative Writing, all while donating her time to this year’s show.

“It means a great deal to be a part of this event, because it hits home for me in every aspect with the arts, fashion, my culture and the charity connection to the orphanages, because I myself have recently been adopted. I’m living in two worlds of culture and class as a Vietnamese American artist, and Fashion for a Passion ties my worlds together.”

Currently based in North Texas, Cameron Lee Phan is a Vietnamese American photographer whose work focuses on fashion and portraiture. He develops more for his work each year and continues to grow in the field and path that he follows.

“Being a part of the 5th annual Fashion for a Passion is an honor! It means breaking down limitations and paving the road for innovation!”

Five seems to be the magic number for ATG this year, as the organization recently awarded a record five artistic scholarships to graduating high school seniors, all of whom are participating in Fashion for a Passion No. 5.  One of the biggest benefits of winning the scholarship as an artist is to be able to be connected immediately to a community of fellow artists and art patrons who can help bolster, mentor and launch these budding careers. Included are 18 year-old Grace Kwon, a Tigard, Oregon native who is majoring in Visual and Fine Arts and 17-year-old Xiaoye Jiang, an adopted Chinese Jew who grew up in Minnesota who is attending New York University double majoring in Photography and Sociology.

Dih Jiun “DJ” Wang just began his freshman year at The Parsons School of Design in New York City, majoring in Communication Design. DJ is Taiwanese from Virginia Beach, VA who has a wide-range of artistic talents, from fashion design to the visual arts.

“Being a part of the 5th annual Fashion for a Passion means being a part of something greater than myself. Something phenomenal. Something inspiring,”

For the first time, ATG is incorporating film into its line-up of exhibited art. “It’s so ironic that we never had film in our previous FFAP,” said President/Founder Tammy Nguyen Lee. “Considering film is my first creative passion, it only made sense to bring it into spotlight now. We’re thrilled to show the work of one of our scholarship winners and partner with The Asian Film Festival of Dallas to bring you some of the coolest ‘visual wallpaper’ to enjoy.”

“I’m really excited to be going to Fashion for a Passion, because I am obsessed with all things fashion, and this will be my first time getting to go to such an event,” said Catherine ‘Kit’ Zauhar, a Philadelphia native who is majoring in Film and Television Production at the elite Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Art is a deep part of Catherine’s life, and she aims to use her talents to tell compelling stories. “I am so happy and inspired by a lot of current Asian American designers (Anna Sui, Alexander Wang, etc.), and I can’t wait to see what kind of interesting and unique looks are put forth. I feel like fashion is still an industry that Asian Americans are breaking into, so it’s really exciting to be apart of such an interesting and unique time for Asian American designers. I absolutely cannot wait to be in the same room as so many talented Asian American artists!” Her short film, IT WAS FALL, will play on a screen in addition to the short film, THIEF, directed by Jay Chern (a Taiwanese filmmaker who grew up in Texas).

Tickets to Fashion for a Passion range from $50 to $100 and are on sale exclusively online at the FFAP Event Page.

For more press/media information on the event, please contact Elizabeth Dinh or Annie Tran at pr@againstthegrainproductions.com.

ATG Against The Grain Productions, a Dallas-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, promotes Asian American cultural awareness through compelling media projects and raises funds for international orphanages. In addition to giving out annual scholarships to exemplary Asian American student leaders and those pursuing a degree in the arts, they also produced the feature documentary, Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam, which has screened at over a dozen film festivals nationwide and received the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Film at the Vietnamese International Film Festival and the Documentary Audience Choice Award from the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival. For more information, visit www.AgainstTheGrainProductions.com or www.TheBabylift.com.

Congratulations to the 2013 Artistic Scholarship Winners

You impressed us. You inspired us. You are the reason why ATG exists. Congratulations to our five 2013 Artistic Scholarship Winners. We are thrilled to present…

CATHERINE “KIT” ZAUHAR

Kit Zauhar

Age: 18 yrs old; GPA: 4.04; Ethnicity: Chinese-Caucasian; Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Intended college/university and major: New York University in New York City, NY, Tisch School of the Arts, majoring in TV and film production

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you? For me, to go Against The Grain is to embrace all the passions one has in life, regardless of stereotypes and cultural expectations. It means to embrace all the wonderful aspects of one’s Asian heritage and from it craft stories that holistically recreate the Asian American experience for everyone. For me, this phrase means to not succumb to stereotypes, to not strive to fit the mold of a test taking, subservient and silent student just because it is what society expects of someone. Instead, it means to be a unique individual who gives new meaning to their culture, to show the world the much too often overlooked creativity, innovation and artistic expressions that exists within the Asian population. To go Against The Grain is to know that your culture will love you no matter what you do, you must only be genuine and true to yourself, and others will embrace and respect you for your bravery, innovation and craft.

How do you go Against The Grain? I go Against The Grain by breaking the stereotypes of a Chinese student and expanding the definition of what it means to be an Asian American adolescent. I believe that I showed my class how multifaceted, artistic and idiosyncratic a bi-racial Chinese student could be. Though I was an extremely diligent student who took her academics very seriously, I was also an avid, outspoken and strong president of my school’s Drama Society, an editor for our arts and literary magazine and a member of the poetry club. I was usually the only person of Asian heritage at these meetings and groups, but they allowed me the valuable experience of letting people know that Asian Americans were indeed a gifted and artistically driven group of individuals, that perhaps some were just afraid to go Against The Grain.

Though I appeared only “White” in most people’s eyes, I prided myself on my Chinese features and heritage because I was so happy to be a part of two different cultures, therefore able to draw from two unique backgrounds to create a holistic, multi-layered and diverse personality. I, unlike many other bi-racial students, wanted to show my school that race should have no limitations; that I could be a good student and a goofy Drama geek, that I could be proud of my race, speak the language with pride, bring my mother’s delicious home-made dumplings to school for lunch and not let these actions define me, but instead show my classmates that I could be everything I wanted to be: a writer, an academic, an actress, a debater, an American and a proud member of the Chinese community. I go Against The Grain because I am proud child of my culture as well as a brave explorer of this ever-changing world, working to break stereotypes. I broaden the definitions of what it means to be Asian American and do not allow myself to be limited by my race. I am working to become a filmmaker so that I can show the world through thought-provoking stories just how diverse, multifaceted and relatable the Asian American experience is for people of all races, cultures and backgrounds.

Essay highlights: “Art has always been my solace. It has appeased my hunger for the incredible, the provoking, the new and the dangerous, and purged me of evil emotions and thoughts through a powerful catharsis. I believe that art can make a difference, not just in an individual’s perceptions but but the sentiments and outlook of a society as a whole. Thought I wan to experiment with many different styles in my films, I know for certain that I want to focus on telling true stories: narratives that develop empathy, expand the range and intensity of human emotion, and bridge gaps of understanding between people of different perspectives and backgrounds.”

Watch Kit Zauhar’s Artistic Portfolio Sample.


DIH JIUN “DJ” WANG

DJ Wang

Age: 18 yrs old; GPA: 3.9; Ethnicity: Taiwanese-Chinese; Hometown: Virginia Beach, VA

Intended college/university and major: Parsons School of Design in New York City, NY, majoring in communication design

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  Going Against The Grain means facing challenges, taking on challenges that test one’s basic morals, traditional standards and even relationships between friends and family. The greatest challenges that we face are also our greatest teachers.

"East Meets West Over One Horizon" by DJ Wang
“East Meets West Over One Horizon” by DJ Wang

How do you go Against The Grain?  Growing up with traditional-minded immigrant parents, the last thing any parent would want to hear from their child is, “I want to be an artist.” However, it is the arts that transformed me into a self-made man. In the beginning, I didn’t have the privilege of absolute support from friends and family as I was set to pursue the arts as a child. I had to prove myself. I had to overcome challenges and negative opposition from all corners, because the art world is not the friendliest of places either. As an artist, you are exposing your vulnerability through your creations, showing your core to the eyes of an audience that may not even understand you, but the magic happens when you find the support and appreciation every artist craves. 2011 marked my first big break through, placing 1st in Wacom’s International Art Contest. In 2012, I was among the Top Ten Young Artists Nationally Published in Celebrating Art. That same year, I debuted my first fashion collection at Virginia Fashion Week, was invited to Teen Vogue Fashion University and also won “Best in Show” at the Neptune Festival Art Show following with a Gold Key presented by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Scholastics. None of these accomplishments would have existed without my insatiable passion within, driving me to exceed all my limits.

Essay highlights: As a distinguished leader within my school and community, I not only strive to push myself to reach my maximum potential, but I also challenge my peers so that we can all grow in support of each other. What truly distinguishes me as an individual is my exceptional level of innovation. I am determined to not only solve problems, but how I can make things better for the future. Through my dedication, innovation, and undeniable passion, I strive to make a name for myself and positively impact the world.”


GRACE KWON

Grace Kwon

Age: 18 yrs old; GPA: 4.0; Ethnicity: Korean; Hometown: Tigard, OR

Intended college/university and major: University of Oregon in Eugene, OR, majoring in visual/fine art

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  To me, going Against The Grain is bravery. It is doing something even when I am aware that I will get stared at, laughed at, yelled at or judged. It is doing this something anyways, because I know it is the right thing for me.

"How We Connect" by Grace Kwon
“How We Connect” by Grace Kwon

How do you go Against The Grain?  In both my life and my dreams, I have been forced to decide between two actions: doing what I want and what I believe is right, or “doing what everyone else is doing.” I Against The Grain to uphold my personal moral standards, even if that means breaking off friendships. When my best friend got into drugs, I made the hard decision of cutting ties with her. Though it was extremely difficult, I did not want to be a part of a lifestyle that messed with your mind and body. Going Against the Grain also applies to my dream of being an artist. Whenever I say I want to be an artist, I am met with raised eyebrows and condescending “oh, that’s interesting” looks. But despite the unconventional path, I have chosen it anyways, because I know it is what I love and what will make my life happy and fulfilled.

Essay highlights: “I believe this catalyst of change is most effectively expressed by the arts. Literature, dance or painting are all forms of self-expression that reflect the ideas most personal to the creator. Yet they have a curious tendency of finding their way into our own thoughts. Art alone reveals the important truths of humanity. I do not think my piece is quite like the rallying, picketing, shouting works of Ai Weiwei, but I hope I have at least spurred the mind of a viewer. To me, a successful art piece is not when a viewer stops for a moment and says: ‘That’s pretty.’ A successful artwork is when she stops, looks and absorbs quietly, and walks away filled with new thoughts in new territories. And maybe, just maybe, she will rev the engine of change.”


KENDYL ITO

Kendyl Ito

Age: 18 yrs old; GPA: 4.17; Ethnicity: Japanese American; Hometown: Sacramento, CA

Intended college/university and major: Pace University in New York City, NY, majoring in musical theatre

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  The literal definition of going Against The Grain means to do something opposite of what is usually expected. To me, going Against The Grain means to do something different than the norm and to make yourself unique and original. It means having confidence in yourself to do what may be unpopular, uncommon, and unexpected. It means taking risks, exploring the unfamiliar, and placing yourself in situations where you may be vulnerable.

Kendyl Ito as Elle Woods in "Legally Blonde"
Kendyl Ito as Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde”

How do you go Against The Grain?  When I was searching for scholarships and discovered your organization, I immediately connected with the name… Against The Grain. I felt it described me perfectly in the music theater world. It is not uncommon for me to be one of few Asians at a music theater audition.  It is even more rare to be considered for a lead part not originally meant for someone who looks like me – petite and Asian. I have had the privilege of being cast as Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde,” Sandy in “Grease,” Eve in “Children of Eden” and most recently Rosemary in “How To Succeed In Business”.  It has not always been easy. I knew I had to sing, act and dance much better than others considered that already “looked the part” and more importantly convince the audience. Instead of letting this defeat me, it motivated me to work harder for those coveted roles. Nothing has been more rewarding than to hear from a director that they made the right casting decision. Though these roles were unfamiliar and risky for me, I took that as a challenge to go that extra mile to impress audiences with my talents and ignore my looks and appearances.

I have gained a lot of experience wearing a variety of wigs that have helped make me “look the part.”  However, I look forward to the day when I won’t have to wear one and the way I look is just fine. I look forward to being a part of this change when being Asian in the performing arts will no longer go Against The Grain.

Essay highlights: “Though my “petiteness” and heritage pose a challenge in the theatre world, as I create a personal valley among the other actors, it motivates me to work twice as hard so directors can focus on my talent rather than my appearances. I look forward to a day when someone Asian or of color no longer “doesn’t look the part.”  When one doesn’t have to consider not pursuing something they are passionate about because of the way they look, which is what I almost did. I am so grateful to the director who encouraged me to pursue the performing arts where I may have opportunity to make positive changes in people’s attitudes and perceptions. I also know my accomplishments may pave the way for others and it will be a way I can give back to the community that has been so supportive of me. One of the things I like most about theatre is it always tells a story and a perfect place to break barriers.  Musical theatre has had a huge influence in my life and has made me into the woman I am today. It’s more than just a safe haven where I can express myself. Theatre is my passion. Theatre is my life. Theatre is my home. I can hardly wait for the next chapter of my life to begin and to discover what contributions I will make.”


XIAOYE JIANG

Xiaoye Jiang

Age: 17 yrs old; GPA: 3.8; Ethnicity: Chinese; Hometown: Minneapolis, MN

Intended college/university and major: New York University in New York City, NY, double majoring in photography and sociology

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  To me, going Against The Grain means deviation from the norm. It is easy to do what everyone else is doing, but it is harder and more worthwhile to follow your passions.

"Darkroom 2" by Xiaoye Jiang
“Darkroom 2” by Xiaoye Jiang

How do you go Against The Grain?  I go Against The Grain with my identity and my drive. Being an adopted Chinese Jew in Minneapolis, Minnesota is definitely not the norm. I let my differences, and the experiences those differences have given me, influence my life and my work. I believe in myself and the work I can do. I got accepted into the program I wanted for this coming fall and have spread my work to screenings and exhibitions all over the country, even reaching as far as China. I hope to continue going Against The Grain and sharing myself with others so that they, too, can go against their own grain.

Essay highlights: “Art provides culture, stimulation, innovation, beauty and calls attention to various topics as a tool for communication. It is a language that enhances cultural appreciation and awareness. We can use it to analyze, question, criticize, promote and explore. Art teaches me humility. Every once in a while, I begin to think that I have somewhat of a “handle” on this world…until I encounter a work of art that leaves me in awe, with the realization that I not only didn’t have the right answers, but not even the right questions. It teaches me that there is so much more to experience. I believe this type of thinking and learning is something everyone can grow from.”

Congratulations to 2013 ATG Artistic Scholarship Finalists

After several months of reviewing some truly talented individuals, our Scholarship Review Committee is proud to announce the following ten students as our 2013 ATG Artistic Scholarship Finalists, who impressed us with their academic excellence, leadership, dedication to community service and artistic talent. Due to the number of outstanding candidates, we decided to increase this year’s scholarship recipients. Instead of the usual two winners, this year, there will be FIVE.  Each will receive a $1,000 scholarship to attend his/her intended college/university to pursue his/her career in the arts.  Way to knock our socks off!  The Final Five will be announced in this month’s August Back to School newsletter, so be sure to sign up for our Mailing List to hear the news!

And here they are! (Drumroll, please…)

ALLIE POLTANIS

K_M_Robinson_Photography_Allison_Poltanis_Image_Used_With_Permission_for_scholarship_website_only_copyright_K_M_Robinson_Photography

Age: 18 yrs old; GPA: 4.0; Ethnicity: Chinese; Hometown: Waymart, PA

Intended college/university and major: Carlow University in Pittsburgh, PA, majoring in art therapy

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  I believe that many people have a misconception about individuality, believing that wearing certain clothes, listening to certain music or voicing certain opinions marks one as a great individualist. To me, this way of thinking is more of an easy way out- telling yourself that you stand for something greater than the rest when in reality going “Against the Grain” entails much more. Now of course, to go “Against the Grain” requires individuality, however responsibility, leadership and a full understanding of self are necessary. Inspiring and influencing a community requires knowledge of the world around you in relation to the message you want to convey. I believe that going “Against the Grain” means standing for something in the world that has the ability to positively affect those around you regardless of the opposing thoughts of the masses.

How do you go Against The Grain?  I have demonstrated the ability to go “Against The Grain” through my career choice. Majoring in art therapy, I have received my fair share of criticism from my friends and even some family who believe that art therapy “isn’t a real job”. It would have been easy to succumb to their ideas of what art therapy is, believing that my profession entailed holding up ink blobs and putting a fancy title to a seemingly simple task. I however, chose to believe that art therapy goes above and beyond that of a “real” profession. As a therapist, one must be fully committed and interactive 100% of the time to best benefit the patient at hand. A therapist acts not only as a confidant, but also as a ‘safe’ person to talk to, one who doesn’t pass judgment when it would be so easy to do so. The trust that is crucial in establishing a relationship with any other individual must be doubled when acting as a therapist, as both parties must delve deep into issues that may have been suppressed for years. I am extremely passionate about the art therapy profession, and regardless of what negative connotations the profession may carry, I will continue to full heartedly support the actuality of this “real” job.

DJ WANG

DJ Wang

Age: 18 yrs old; GPA: 3.9; Ethnicity: Taiwanese-Chinese; Hometown: Virginia Beach, VA

Intended college/university and major: Parsons School of Design in New York City, NY, majoring in communication design

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  Going “Against The Grain” means facing challenges, taking on challenges that test one’s basic morals, traditional standards and even relationships between friends and family. The greatest challenges that we face are also our greatest teachers.

How do you go Against The Grain?  Growing up with traditional-minded immigrant parents, the last thing any parent would want to hear from their child is, “I want to be an artist.” However, it is the arts that transformed me into a self-made man. In the beginning, I didn’t have the privilege of absolute support from friends and family as I was set to pursue the arts as a child. I had to prove myself. I had to overcome challenges and negative opposition from all corners, because the art world is not the friendliest of places either. As an artist, you are exposing your vulnerability through your creations, showing your core to the eyes of an audience that may not even understand you, but the magic happens when you find the support and appreciation every artist craves. 2011 marked my first big break through, placing 1st in Wacom’s International Art Contest. In 2012, I was among the Top Ten Young Artists Nationally Published in Celebrating Art. That same year, I debuted my first fashion collection at Virginia Fashion Week, was invited to Teen Vogue Fashion University and also won “Best in Show” at the Neptune Festival Art Show following with a Gold Key presented by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Scholastics. None of these accomplishments would have existed without my insatiable passion within, driving me to exceed all my limits.

EMILY FLEISIG

Emily Fleisig

Age: 18 yrs old; GPA: 3.57; Ethnicity: Korean-Caucasian; Hometown: Birmingham, AL

Intended college/university and major: Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, AL, double majoring in musical theatre and media & film studies, minoring in Spanish

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  Individuality leads to infinite possibilities as an artist. Judy Garland once advised: “Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.” I believe this idea truly captures what it means to go Against The Grain. By human nature, we sometimes find ourselves distracted by the stereotypes or idealizations defined by society. However, to go Against The Grain is a way to defy such expectations made by others, and take the necessary action to fully be you.

How do you go Against The Grain?  My mere existence as a Korean-American Jew in Alabama is almost by definition Against the Grain. From the moment I drive up – wearing my neon pink Converse with a dress – in my purple and lime green minivan, it is pretty clear that I am not the typical teenager. While I do spend a good amount of time working on my academics, my real passion and the most significant amount of my time is dedicated to performing. Unlike my parents and grandparents, who all have M.D.’s or Ph.D.’s, I am going Against The expected Grain. Fortunately, it was pretty evident from the time I was a toddler, so my family has been very supportive. I have always been extremely interested and active in musical theatre – singing, dancing, acting and directing – in school musicals, dance classes and voice lessons, community theatre productions and even founding and directing the show choir at my high school. Besides live theatre, I am also interested in film work for acting and directing, too. I plan to continue performing and directing in college and beyond.

KIT ZAUHAR

Kit Zauhar

Age: 18 yrs old; GPA: 4.04; Ethnicity: Chinese-Caucasian; Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Intended college/university and major: New York University in New York City, NY, Tisch School of the Arts, majoring in TV and film production

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  For me, to go Against The Grain is to embrace all the passions one has in life, regardless of stereotypes and cultural expectations. It means to embrace all the wonderful aspects of one’s Asian heritage and from it craft stories that holistically recreate the Asian American experience for everyone. For me, this phrase means to not succumb to stereotypes, to not strive to fit the mold of a test taking, subservient and silent student just because it is what society expects of someone. Instead, it means to be a unique individual who gives new meaning to their culture, to show the world the much too often overlooked creativity, innovation and artistic expressions that exists within the Asian population. To Go Against The Grain is to know that your culture will love you no matter what you do, you must only be genuine and true to yourself, and others will embrace and respect you for your bravery, innovation and craft.

How do you go Against The Grain?  I go Against The Grain by breaking the stereotypes of a Chinese student and expanding the definition of what it means to be an Asian American adolescent. I believe that I showed my class how multifaceted, artistic and idiosyncratic a bi-racial Chinese student could be. Though I was an extremely diligent student who took her academics very seriously, I was also an avid, outspoken and strong president of my school’s Drama Society, an editor for our arts and literary magazine and a member of the poetry club. I was usually the only person of Asian heritage at these meetings and groups, but they allowed me the valuable experience of letting people know that Asian Americans were indeed a gifted and artistically driven group of individuals, that perhaps some were just afraid to go Against The Grain.

Though I appeared only “White” in most people’s eyes, I prided myself on my Chinese features and heritage because I was so happy to be a part of two different cultures, therefore able to draw from two unique backgrounds to create a holistic, multi-layered and diverse personality. I, unlike many other bi-racial students, wanted to show my school that race should have no limitations; that I could be a good student and a goofy Drama geek, that I could be proud of my race, speak the language with pride, bring my mother’s delicious home-made dumplings to school for lunch and not let these actions define me, but instead show my classmates that I could be everything I wanted to be: a writer, an academic, an actress, a debater, an American and a proud member of the Chinese community. I go Against The Grain because I am proud child of my culture as well as a brave explorer of this ever-changing world, working to break stereotypes. I broaden the definitions of what it means to be Asian American and do not allow myself to be limited by my race. I am working to become a filmmaker so that I can show the world through thought-provoking stories just how diverse, multifaceted and relatable the Asian American experience is for people of all races, cultures and backgrounds.

GRACE KWON

Grace Kwon

Age: 18 yrs old; GPA: 4.0; Ethnicity: Korean; Hometown: Tigard, OR

Intended college/university and major: University of Oregon in Eugene, OR, majoring in visual/fine art

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  To me, “Going Against The Grain” is bravery. It is doing something even when I am aware that I will get stared at, laughed at, yelled at or judged. It is doing this something anyways, because I know it is the right thing for me.

How do you go Against The Grain?  In both my life and my dreams, I have been forced to decide between two actions: doing what I want and what I believe is right, or “doing what everyone else is doing.” I “go Against The Grain” to uphold my personal moral standards, even if that means breaking off friendships. When my best friend got into drugs, I made the hard decision of cutting ties with her. Though it was extremely difficult, I did not want to be a part of a lifestyle that messed with your mind and body. “Going Against the Grain” also applies to my dream of being an artist. Whenever I say I want to be an artist, I am met with raised eyebrows and condescending “oh, that’s interesting’s.” But despite the unconventional path, I have chosen it anyways, because I know it is what I love and what will make my life happy and fulfilled.

KENDYL ITO

Kendyl Ito

Age: 18 yrs old; GPA: 4.17; Ethnicity: Japanese American; Hometown: Sacramento, CA

Intended college/university and major: Pace University in New York City, NY, majoring in musical theatre

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  The literal definition of going against the grain means to do something opposite of what is usually expected. To me, going against the grain means to do something different than the norm and to make yourself unique and original. It means having confidence in yourself to do what may be unpopular, uncommon, and unexpected. It means taking risks, exploring the unfamiliar, and placing yourself in situations where you may be vulnerable.

How do you go Against The Grain?  When I was searching for scholarships and discovered your organization, I immediately connected with the name… Against The Grain. I felt it described me perfectly in the music theater world. It is not uncommon for me to be one of few Asians at a music theater audition.  It is even more rare to be considered for a lead part not originally meant for someone who looks like me – petite and Asian. I have had the privilege of being cast as Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde,” Sandy in “Grease,” Eve in “Children of Eden” and most recently Rosemary in “How To Succeed In Business”.  It has not always been easy. I knew I had to sing, act and dance much better than others considered that already “looked the part” and more importantly convince the audience. Instead of letting this defeat me, it motivated me to work harder for those coveted roles. Nothing has been more rewarding than to hear from a director that they made the right casting decision. Though these roles were unfamiliar and risky for me, I took that as a challenge to go that extra mile to impress audiences with my talents and ignore my looks and appearances.

I have gained a lot of experience wearing a variety of wigs that have helped make me “look the part.”  However, I look forward to the day when I won’t have to wear one and the way I look is just fine. I look forward to being a part of this change when being Asian in the performing arts will no longer go against the grain.

NATASHA YEH

Natasha Yeh

Age: 17 yrs old; GPA: 3.5; Ethnicity: Taiwanese American; Hometown: San Jose, CA

Intended college/university and major: Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, majoring in illustration

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  I believe that to go Against The Grain means to express your natural character or embrace your individualism.

How do you go Against The Grain?  Be yourself, stand up for your beliefs even if it means being the opposite of your peers or the authority.

TALIA CONNELLY

Talia Connelly

Age: 18 yrs old; GPA: 3.8; Ethnicity: Chinese American; Hometown: Bellevue, WA

Intended college/university and major: Pratt Institute in New York City, NY, majoring in fashion design

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  Going Against The Grain is the questioning of accepted beliefs, opinions or behavior that people, school, books, movies – any source of information – attempts to instill in you. When you witness something that doesn’t sit right with you – when it makes the inside of your chest to start to feel heavy – don’t guiltily accept it and quickly move on. Let that feeling stay with you. Be uncomfortable! It is the discomfort which nudges, pricks, then whacks you over the head to stand up and challenge it. Going Against the Grain is not about “being different” just for the sake of “going against the mainstream.” It’s about letting yourself  – your values and opinions, then your habits and actions – be changed, even when it may make your life more difficult, because you realize it is the right thing to do. In doing so, you become an example to follow.

How do you go Against The Grain?  Stumbling upon articles and books about the fashion industry that left me feeling horrified and disgusted, I stopped shopping in stores filled with cheap dresses and trendy ten-dollar tops. Instead, I turned towards alternative apparel companies that promote fair wages and environmentally-responsible practices. Changing the way I consume extends far beyond my clothing or beauty products, it applies to larger purchases like food, cars and housing – the more complex decisions I will face in the future.

I understand living “sustainably” is not economically feasible for everyone, but in my studies to become a designer, I am working to make “sustainable fashion” the “mainstream fashion,” and to raise awareness about an industry most people do not think about, but one we all buy from. Simply educating consumers through my designs, regardless of whether the information will permanently change their buying habits, will make my efforts worthwhile. That is all I can do: let you know what’s going on, offer a solution and hope my art will inspire you to go Against The Grain. 

VERONICA BLANCO

Veronica Blanco

Age: 18 yrs old; GPA: 3.6; Ethnicity: Filipino; Hometown: Virginia Beach, VA

Intended college/university and major: Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Richmond, VA, double majoring in sculpture + extended media and general psychology

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  People who are “Going Against The Grain” are individuals who believe in what they wish to achieve or are striving for. Whether what they want to achieve is excellence in their field, an award for their abilities, or simply acceptance from their own family, people have to reach these dreams by overcoming hardship and constant obstacles in their lives. In their eyes, these obstacles are not gigantic buildings standing in their way, but mere weeds that they can simply pull out because their dreams are greater than any problem in the way. The faith they have in themselves, their determination to succeed in the midst of hardship, and their ability to never give up is what makes the impossible very possible for them.

How do you go Against The Grain?  My perseverance, my failures and believing in what the future holds has allowed me to reach places that I could have never imagined. There have been times when I felt like my dreams were merely illusions and that my abilities or position in life were not enough to reach them. However, I realized that I could never achieve anything if I simply stopped and gave up everything. This is why perseverance is so important when it comes to going Against The Grain. When people fall a million times and fail to the point where they feel lost, if their belief in their dream and in themselves are strong enough, then they will have the ability to get right back up just as many times. When they persevere a million times, those millions of failures turn into millions of learning experiences and blessings. Despite having obstacles and problems that seem incredibly intimidating and difficult to overcome, I continue to see the light in every dark situation that comes. Although everyone’s time is limited on this earth, I use my time to persevere through everything in order to be a part of something greater. This is how I go Against The Grain.

XIAOYE JIANG

Xiaoye Jiang

Age: 17 yrs old; GPA: 3.8; Ethnicity: Chinese; Hometown: Minneapolis, MN

Intended college/university and major: New York University in New York City, NY, double majoring in photography and sociology

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  To me, Going Against The Grain means deviation from the norm. It is easy to do what everyone else is doing, but it is harder and more worthwhile to follow your passions.

How do you go Against The Grain?  I go Against The Grain with my identity and my drive. Being an adopted Chinese Jew in Minneapolis, Minnesota is definitely not the norm. I let my differences, and the experiences those differences have given me, influence my life and my work. I believe in myself and the work I can do. I got accepted into the program I wanted for this coming fall and have spread my work to screenings and exhibitions all over the country, even reaching as far as China. I hope to continue going against the grain and sharing myself with others so that they, too, can go against their own grain.