Category: ATG Artistic Scholarship

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.

Musicians Ready to Rock the Runway of 2012 Fashion for a Passion

DALLAS, TX – Dallas non-profit ATG Against The Grain Productions’ much-awaited Fashion for a Passion charity event not only combines emerging fashion and art, but also brings together live musical entertainers to set the stage up for an unforgettable entertainment experience. The 4th annual event, which will be hosted at the Dallas Contemporary on Saturday, October 13th from 6:30 PM – 10:00 PM, will feature four musical entertainment acts to kick off the evening’s celebration of Asian American talent.

Three of this year’s performers were selected from ATG’s community partner, Kollaboration Dallas, and include Peter P & Robbie G, iCare and The Plinth. The fourth and final performer will be The Exchange, the band of ATG’s 2012 Artistic Scholarship winner Britt Espinosa. Each musical act includes young entertainers who have followed their path to go against the grain.

Peter P & Robbie G

Peter P & Robbie G both started out their musical career as solo artists and now have been performing together for two years and counting. An elaborate description of their music is that it’s “high energy Dance/Pop with an array of slow melodic love songs,” and they perform with charismatic personalities. Said the duo, “What [does] our music means to us – Music is us, and we are music. We create music because we love doing it. We do it to inspire, to relate and to make people feel good. Our performance means a lot, because we always want to put on a good show, and we always strive to do better than our last. With our high energy songs, we hope the crowd will have a good time with us. Maybe even get up and start dancing – but if not, we will settle for smiles on faces and nodding of heads.”

The Plinth

Music is known to be shown on a variety of levels, and every member of The Plinth brings something unique to the table. The Plinth’s musical talents create something unique that truly characterizes their musical styles. Audiences will love their innovative and fun use of sound and beats. The band’s known multi-talented beatboxer Usama Siddiquee says, “Funk. Jazz. Hip Hop. Soul. It’s what we’re all made of.”

The Exchange

ATG is again lucky enough to have both of the 2012 Artistic Scholarship winners present at FFAP. Washington state native, Britt Espinosa, and his band, The Exchange, will be FFAP’s final musical act.  Espinosa, along with other scholarship winner and exhibiting artist, Thoa Nguyen, will be recognized before The Exchange performs for the audience. Espinosa started the band in 2010, and over the years, the group has performed at almost one hundred events, playing shows, youth camps and conferences through the West Coast. Espinosa realized through these experiences how much he enjoyed leading young musicians on a musical team and was challenged by the business aspects of leading a band/team. The Exchange’s energetic, live show with guitar swings, jumping and unbridled energy creates an atmosphere where everyone wants to join in. Bridging the gap between the stage and audience, The Exchange quickly created a community that readily absorbs their optimistic music. Said Espinosa, “The Exchange is very excited to be a part of FFAP this year. It is a great honor to play at an event that holds so much meaning and does so much good! We love music! We love to play it, perform it, sing it. Wherever we play, our hope is that our love is seen and that the audience experiences some of that love as well.”

Tickets to Fashion for a Passion range from $50 to $100 and are on sale exclusively at the FFAP Event Page.  For more press/media information on the event, please contact 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 an annual scholarship to exemplary Asian American students 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.

2012 Fashion for a Passion Exhibits Work of Emerging Asian American Artists

DALLAS, TX – Dallas-based non-profit ATG Against The Grain Production’s upcoming annual charity event Fashion for a Passion has become known not only for the exciting runway show, but also as an event where guests can enjoy and even bid to own emerging Asian American art.  This year’s Exhibiting Artists are an eclectic group that include graphic artist Ha Mai aka “Fur Face Boy,” 17 year-old fashion photographer Ann He, recent  SMU MFA Meadows graduate Anh-Thuy Nguyen, Tam Nguyen (brother of designer Khanh Nguyen of Nha Khanh),  ATG Artistic Scholarship Winner Thoa Nguyen and Artistic Scholarship Finalist Melissa Woodbridge. Each artist will exhibit a piece as well as donate a piece of their original work in the silent auction. This exhibition, along with musical performances and a runway show, takes place at the Dallas Contemporary at the Dallas Design District from 6:30 PM – 10:00 PM on Saturday, October 13th.

While the name of the event connotes the focus on fashion, the addition of art has become just as much a part of the night’s experience to celebrate Asian American talent.  This year, President/Founder Tammy Nguyen Lee tasked and worked with Marketing/PR Director Nikki Duong Koenig (who works professionally as the Creative Director of Envision Interactive and is the founder of Cykochik Custom Handbags) with finding a diverse slate of artists who had a unique point of view, strong and thought-provoking work and who represented the spirit of the organization’s mantra of ‘going against the grain.’ Said Koenig, “I’m truly inspired by this amazing group of young visual artists for their talent, passion and generosity to pay it forward.”

Fur Face Boy

Ha Mai (also known as “Fur Face Boy“) was a kid who loved cartoons, comics, toys, video games, quirkiness, art and style, which led to constantly doodling and drawing whenever and wherever. Like many other artists from Asian families, Mai strived to prove to his parents that he could make his career as an artist and to make them proud. Said Mai, “I’m very excited to be a part of an event that recognizes and celebrates Asian-American artists. I’m hoping that my art / design will remind everyone that I’m still very proud of my Vietnamese roots, values and heritage. Growing up in America with American peers and culture can tend to make you forget about your background, but it can also fuse together to create a bigger meaning to art, life and personality. I hope everyone sees that my art represents that I am not just a single-sided Asian or a single-side American, but Asian American.”

Anh-Thuy Nguyen

From photography to video to performance and sound art, Anh-Thuy Nguyen is a multi-media artist who envelops her work to convey an assortment of feelings and desires. She is a recent MFA graduate of the SMU Meadows School of the Arts. Said Nguyen, “Petite Houses Series is an investigation of miniature houses that I have been working on since 2010. These houses represent one’s dream home, a place full of joy, laughing and love, yet it is just a dream.”

Tam Nguyen

Tam Nguyen comes from a talented family. He is the younger brother of FFAP veteran designer Khanh Nguyen of Nha Khanh. Said Nguyen, “I’m totally grateful for this opportunity to be a part of ATG. Most of all I’m looking forward to checking out all the creative talents. Being around designers and artists at these events can be very energizing and inspiring, especially to fellow creatives like myself. At the moment, I am in love traditional media. I simply paint and draw portraits obsessively.” He will exhibit a stunning portrait piece of his mother, who undoubtedly must be proud her talented son and daughter.

Melissa Woodbridge

This year, several of ATG’s Artistic Scholarship applicants were visual artists, and two were selected to exhibit pieces as a part of the organization’s mission to support the work of young talent. Finalist Melissa Woodbridge is a sophomore at the University of Georgia, and Scholarship Winner Thoa Nguyen is a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin. Both are pleased with the chance to share their work and attend and their first Fashion for a Passion in person. Woodbridge said, “I am incredibly excited to be apart of this amazing event that involves so many passionate, talented people, and I hope that I will be able to contribute with my own love for art and community.”

Thoa Nguyen

Added Nguyen, “It is an honor to be a part of the sea of talented artists featured at the Fashion for a Passion event. Making art has always been such a personal experience for me, so I am grateful for the recognition and the opportunity to share my point of view with other inspirational artists.”

Already starting out at a young age, Ann He of Dallas, TX, calls herself a “full-time nerd” and “a proud Trekkie,” while pursuing being a part-time fashion photographer. She is a senior at Highland Park High School, and remarkably juggles her schedule through cross country, academic decathlon and being a photo student. She has already been featured in several publications, such as Photographer’s Companion (China), Vogue Girl Korea (July 2011) and Elle Girl Korea (January 2011).

Tickets to Fashion for a Passion range from $50 to $100 and are  on sale exclusively at the FFAP Event Page.  For more press/media information on the event, please contact pr@againstthegrainproductions.com.

ATG Announces 2012 Artistic and Sunna Lee Scholarship Winners

Dallas, TX –

After a nationwide call for applicants, Dallas-based non-profit ATG Against The Grain Productions is proud to announce its 2012 Scholarship Winners.  After receiving nearly 150 applications, the scholarship committee culled down the pool to a short list of top finalists, who were then interviewed to select the final winners.

Director of Community Outreach Lily Yang, who was in charge of spearheading the search, said, “It has truly been an honor and privilege, on behalf of myself and the rest of the scholarship team, to have the opportunity to review so many wonderful and inspirational submissions from a such diverse group of artists all across the country.  Though their medium of art is different, we were blown away by everyone’s passion for the arts as well as involvement as leaders in their school and community.  It was a very tough decision.  We believe our winners not only show potential in their field, but also truly embrace our organization spirit of ‘going against the grain.'”

2012 Artistic Scholarship Winner Britt Espinosa

Candidates were scored based on GPA, an artistic portfolio, essay, demonstration of leadership/community involvement and letters of recommendation. The finalists were interviewed to see who would be the best representative of ATG and the organization’s values. There were two 2012 ATG Artistic Scholarship Winners, each of whom will receive $1,000 towards tuition and education expenses. Both candidates were articulate, energetic and showed exceptional academic prowess, dedication to community involvement, artistic talent, as well as leadership ability. The first winner is Britt Espinosa, an 18 year-old from Kingston, Washington who will attend Northeastern University to study Music Management and performance. Espinosa said, “I feel incredibly honored to be chosen out of all the very impressive entries, and participants! It humbles me to see so many young people like myself making beautiful art, and giving back to the community.”

 

The second Artistic Scholarship winner is Thoa Nguyen, who graduated from Juan Seguin High School in Arlington and

2012 Artistic Scholarship Winner Thoa Nguyen

will go on to study Radio/Television/Film at the University of Texas at Austin. Said Nguyen on winning her award, “It means the most to me spiritually. It is a sign or reassurance that what I am doing will be worth it in the end because someone out there believes in me.” Nguyen will be one of the seven exhibiting artists at this year’s Fashion for a Passion event that takes place on Saturday, October 13th at the Dallas Contemporary Museum.

For the first year, ATG offered the Sunna Lee Leadership Scholarship, a result of a generous donation from marketing executive Sunna Lee. The goal of the scholarship was to find a student who was moving to change the Asian American stereotype as a passive, showed strong leadership and ability to affect change in the community. The winner is awarded with a $5,000 scholarship towards tuition and education expenses, $1,000 of which will be donated to a 501(c)(3) non-profit of their choosing to allow them to give back.

President/Founder Tammy Nguyen Lee was honored to have the opportunity to expand the organization’s outreach efforts through this new leadership scholarship. Nguyen Lee said, “We created the Artistic Scholarship as an extension of what our organization is already doing to promote and support Asian Americans in the arts, and we hope that the Leadership Scholarship continues to cultivate those in our community who are finding unique ways to express themselves and create stories for us to share.” Nguyen Lee continued, “ATG is very fortunate to partner with pioneers in the Asian American community like Sunna Lee and be the organization chosen to broaden our scope to select and promote a leader among the Asian American student population.  It’s a huge honor and responsibility. Our hope is that that this will send an impactful message and continue to inspire others to affect change and leadership in others.”

Regarding the Leadership Scholarship winners, Yang continued, “We had high expectations for applicants of our Leadership scholarship and wanted to hear from Asian American leaders across the country.  The diversity and caliber of applicants far exceed even our highest expectations.  The submissions truly touched us and affirms the goal of our scholarship to support outstanding Asian American leaders to make a difference in the world around them.  The winner has demonstrated not only leadership skills, but also the talent, knowledge, passion, commitment and charisma to make a difference.”

The winner of the Sunna Lee Leadership scholarship is Rebekah Kim of Fullerton, California.  She will be awarded a $5,000 scholarship — $1,000 of which will be donated to a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity of her choosing. Kim the first Korean American to make the U.S. Olympic Synchronized Swimming Team and competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Teaching at the University of Southern California. Kim said, “It is extremely encouraging to know that an organization such as ATG, that is truly making a difference in the Asian American community, is supporting me in my endeavors to be who I want to be and do what I want to do.  It definitely makes a special mark in my heart and impact my life in a way that I would like to do for others.” Kim will join Sunna Lee on the Groundbreakers Speak panel event on July 28th, hosted at the Crow Collection of Asian Art.

2012 Sunna Lee Leadership Scholarship Winner Rebekah Kim

Read about Rebekah Kim in July’s Going Against The Grain Spotlight.

Read about the 2012 Sunna Lee Leadership Scholarship Finalists.

For more information on both scholarships, visit the Scholarship Page.

 

 

Dallas Morning News: Nonprofit helps orphanages, awards scholarships

Aileen Nguyen of Dallas visits an orphanage in Vietnam that is helped by ATG, a Dallas nonprofit founded by her daughter 
Tammy Nguyen Lee of Dallas.

by Deborah Fleck

dfleck@dallasnews.com

Published: 27 June 2012 10:57 PM

Against the Grain does more than produce films about the Asian-American community. Founded by Tammy Nguyen Lee of Dallas in 2006, the organization is also a nonprofit that uses media projects to raise funds for international orphanages. And last year, ATG added scholarships to support Asian-Americans.

A first-generation Vietnamese-American, Lee has long held an interest in orphans. In 2009, she made the documentary Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam.

Donations to ATG provide food and medical supplies to needy orphanages in Vietnam. ATG has volunteers in the country who distribute aid on a quarterly basis.

Lee’s mother, Aileen Nguyen of Dallas, just returned from her annual summer trip to the country. While there, she distributed nearly $2,500 in aid and supplies on behalf of ATG. This year alone, ATG plans to give $13,600 to orphanages.

ATG is also reaching out to help orphans in Thailand for the first time, with plans to expand to other Asian countries.

Back in the States, ATG just awarded $7,000 in scholarships. U.S. Olympian Rebekah Kim of Fullerton, Calif., received the 2012 ATG Sunna Lee Leadership Scholarship. The 2012 ATG Artistic Scholarship went to Thoa Nguyen of Arlington and Britt Espinosa of Kingston, Wash.

To learn more, visit againstthegrainproductions.com.

Click here to see the original article online.

Going Against The Grain: Thoa Nguyen (2012 ATG Artistic Scholarship Winner)

 

2012 ATG Artistic Scholarship Winner Thoa Nguyen

18 year-old Thoa Nguyen was born in Hue, Vietnam.  In 1996, her family (including herself, her parents and older sister) immigrated to America when she was three years-old. After living in Arkansas with her grandparents for six months, the family moved to Arlington, Texas. The family experienced culture shock, but the opportunity to pursue the American Dream was a dream come true.

Although the language barrier was initially an issue, school quickly became one of Thoa’s strengths. She challenged herself, taking advanced classes whenever possible, as well as courses that interested her artistically. After stints in choir, band and theatre, she found her passion for studio art.  She served as Vice President and then President of her school’s National Art Honor Society, Vice President of the National Honor Society, Historian of the Drama Club, was a Project SOAR mentor and part of the International Thespian Society, Environmental Club and Future Business Leaders of America. She recently graduated from Juan Seguin High School ranked number three in her class. Thoa plans to study Radio/Television/Film as well as Studio Art at the University of Texas at Austin.

Full name:

Thoa Thi Kim Nguyen

Hometown:

Born in Hue, Vietnam but I consider my ” hometown” to be Arlington, Texas

Current City:

Arlington, TX

Ethnicity:

Vietnamese

What does ‘going against the grain’ mean to you?

To me, ‘going against the grain’ is synonymous to swimming against a current, doing what your heart tells you to do, despite what is expected. By pushing yourself to reach your goals no matter the circumstances or resistance, you are going against that opposing force. We would not be where we are now if minorities throughout history had not conformed and sparked revolutions. Like they say, ‘if there’s a will, there’s a way,’ even against the grain.

How do you go against the grain?

I believe that the most important characteristic to be able to go against the grain would be courage. It takes a lot of courage to STAND UP for your ideals when everyone else is sitting. I’d also have to say that it has taken me my entire life so far to earn that courage. I go against the grain by putting full faith and spirit into what I have realized I want to do for the rest of my life: incorporate my art with my love for film(making). Any person with traditional Asian parents can agree that they want the best for their children’s futures, which means they expect us to be in high paying career like medical or engineering fields. Having come from an immigrant family, I was expected to earn outstanding grades, then pack my bags for medical school. To my parents dismay, I had no interest in such fields… I had my heart set on being an art director for film. Although it may not seem like much, it took me my entire life to figure that out. To stand behind what I was passionate about, even if it was not what was expected of me. To have courage.

 

On the importance of art to a community: (excerpted from scholarship essay)

“If there were a few imperishable and infinite things in this world, art would be one of them. Art takes so many forms and is perceived by so many perspectives that it can never be nonexistent.  Lucky for us, as human beings, we need it in our world to survive. It is a wonder that something that can be seen as trivial and even unnecessary and impractical, is so embedded into ourselves, we almost forget it is there, if it were not for the people who express it so well. Art is soul, and life, and presence, and void. It is what adds color to our world, our community, and our being.”

What made you decide to pursue a career in film (art direction)?
Film production has always been interesting to me, and I believe that you should pursue a field that provokes your curiosity and interest for it. And with my art skills and creativity as a precursor, I want to associate that with film production to be an art director for film.

 

What have been some of the challenges you faced/lessons you learned as an Asian American in this field?
It is not a common field for an Asian American (especially an Asian American with traditional parents) to pursue, so the toughest challenge is proving myself based on my passion and skill, not my race, to every one else. Something that I’ve learned is to do what suits me, no matter what any one else says, and do it well to the best of my ability, because it does reflect on my culture and where I come from.

 

What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment, and why?
My greatest accomplishment would probably be making it in my graduating class’ Top 2 % and being ranked number three. I know how proud that makes my parents and that all the hard work I have put into my studies for the past four years in high school was with that goal in mind.

 

What’s up next?
The great, scary, life changing experience called ”college” is next for me! I’m so excited to be in a new city, surrounded by the immense creative atmosphere that UT will offer me!

 

Quote to live by:
”It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it.” – Albert Einstein

 

Sign (Eastern Animal Sign & Western Zodiac): Rooster/Scorpio

 

Passionate about: All forms of visual arts; learning

 

Favorite food: Barbecue chicken!

 

Can’t live without: My best friend and future roomate, Alexa Harrington

 

What it means to you to be named the 2012 ATG Artistic Scholarship Winner:  
“It means the most to me spiritually. It’s a sign of reassurance that what I am doing will be worth it in the end, because someone out there believes in me.”

 

To read more about Thoa, visit the  2012 ATG Scholarship Finalist Announcement.

Going Against The Grain: Britt Espinosa (2012 ATG Artistic Scholarship Winner)


2012 ATG Artistic Scholarship Winner Britt Espinosa
Britt Espinosa graduates this June after being homeschooled with a variety of academic courses through public school, online, community private courses and self-directed learning.  His community service and leadership experience includes a month long service trip to South Africa with Global Expeditions, Food packaging and shipping (Children of the Nations), Sharenet Christmas Shop volunteer, Small Group Leader and Kairos Youth Group Leadership Team.  Britt is an Awana Citation Award winner after serving for 10 years with Awana International.

Britt studied classical piano for 10 years and had formal voice training for 2.5 years. He quickly discovered he loved music and found himself on various musical groups singing and playing; not only piano, but also guitar, bass, and the occasional drums.  Britt is actively involved in leading a musical ministry team, teaching younger and newer musicians.  He has received multiple artistic awards, including Superior Ranking in Male Vocal Solo and Superior Ranking in Christian Band.   In the past two years, Britt has performed and toured regionally throughout the West Coast with his band, The Exchange, playing about 100 events during that time.   Whether it is through singing with fellow team workers in South Africa, performing for youth on stage or leading a team of young musicians, Britt values the power of music.  “When words fail, music speaks. – Hans Christian Anderson  Britt will attend Northwest University this coming fall, with his anticipated major being Music Business Management and Performance.

Full name:

Britt Larson Espinosa

Hometown/Current City:

Kingston, Washington

Ethnicity:

Filipino/Caucasian

What does ‘going against the grain’ mean to you?

To me ‘going against the grain’ means having the discipline and drive to pursue a dream in the midst of hardship, stigma, and setbacks. Discipline includes dedication to education, working when you don’t think you can go anymore, and having foresight. Having a ‘drive to pursue’ means to make the most out of every opportunity, and to also hold onto to the dream when things are slow and require patience.

How do you go against the grain?

I live to pursue and accomplish. When I set my sights on a goal, I will do everything to accomplish that goal. I go against the grain because I know that education, foresight and patience are essential to success.

On the importance of art to a community: (excerpted from scholarship essay)

“A man named Thomas Merton once said, ‘Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.’ Art plays a huge role in culture, community, relationships and everyday life. In my opinion, a society without art is a society that has no identity or soul. Art is an expression of the soul, like Thomas Merton said, it pushes us to ‘find ourselves’ and lose ourselves’…Art affects much of our culture and the way we identify with our culture.  From branding to movies, art is the aspect that our souls react and respond to. Art is important in our society and community because it gives meaning, purpose and identity to individuals and groups. Without art, the world would be a bland place, full of people without an identity and without the desire to find one.”

What made you decide to pursue a degree in music/music management?

I’ve always loved music, and musical performance. I started the band, The Exchange,  in 2010.  Over the next two years, we went on to perform almost 100 events, playing shows, youth camps and conferences throughout the West Coast. As we gained more experience and play time, I started to fill the role of managing the business and road management aspects of the band. Through this and also my years of leading young musicians on a musical team, I came to find that I greatly enjoyed and was challenged by the business aspects of leading a band/team.  I want to sharpen my skills as an artist in my college years.  Additionally, I believe an artist can be much more effective and influential if combined with skills of leadership and management expertise.  A possible outcome of my combined education would be to become an artist developer and manager.

What have been some of the challenges you faced/lessons you learned as an Asian American in this field?

As an Asian American, I have always been aware of the undercurrent that exists, that I may not be given the “benefit of the doubt” as to my abilities or education.  Sometime during my middle school years, I read a book entitled Do Hard Things – A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations.  I came to realize I may not be able to change people’s initial perceptions about me based on their first impression. However, if I personally pursue excellence and not make excuses, in the end, I would become the best I could be and would eventually earn the trust and confidence of those I am working with.  Serving overseas in South Africa as well as through the various countries that I have traveled has also allowed me to apply this same principle of acceptance and openness to others, no matter what culture I may find myself in.

What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment, and why?

While I could initially say it could be my band, grade point average or even my overseas service project, as I truly reflect on a personal accomplishment, I would say it would be completing 10 years of classical piano training. This is my biggest accomplishment, not because of the years or even the hours of practice, but because there were several times I wanted to quit.  During my 8th and 9th year of piano lessons, I doubted whether sticking with piano was even worth it. What kept me going was simply my personal discipline and knowing that even though it was not always easy or enjoyable, I wanted to finish strong with my piano training.  Now, looking back, I can see how my piano training has opened so many doors and possibilities, even allowing me to learn other instruments more quickly.  I learned perseverance.  I learned that hard work can pay off and that reaching for excellence, even when there is no motivation, is truly the most rewarding after all.

What’s up next?

I will be attending Northwest University, where I will be working towards obtaining a degree in Music Business Management and Performance.  I also plan to continue touring with my band, The Exchange.  Recently, I was asked to be in Northwest University’s choir called Choralons.  This is an innovative choir comprised of 110 vocalists and a 7 piece rhythm section, of which I will be the piano player.

Quote to live by:

“He is no fool who gives, what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliot

Sign (Eastern Animal Sign & Western Zodiac): Rooster/Capricorn

Passionate about: Music, Jesus Christ and Rock-n-roll!

Favorite food: Lumpia

Can’t live without: Listening and playing music on a daily basis

What does it mean to you to be named the 2012 ATG Artistic Scholarship Winner?

I feel incredibly honored to be chosen out of all the very impressive entries and participants! It humbles me to see so many young people like myself making beautiful art and giving back to the community. To be chosen out of this group is a very great honor!

Learn more about Britt in the 2012 ATG Artistic Scholarship Finalist Announcement.

Congratulations to 2012 ATG Artistic Scholarship Finalists

This year, we had an overwhelming response for our scholarships, with nearly 150 applications from across the country!  The ATG Scholarship Committee was incredibly impressed by the breadth of community service, leadership and talent in our young Asian American student community. It was an incredibly difficult decision process, but with great pride and excitement, we announce the following students are 2012 Artistic Scholarship Finalists. They were scored based on GPA, Leadership/Community Involvement, Artistic Portfolio, Letters of Recommendation and Essay.  The final two winners of this $1,000 scholarship will be announced in the next week, so stay tuned!

2012 ATG Artistic Scholarship Finalists

Christina Chang (Germantown, MD)

ATG Artistic Scholarship Finalist Christina Chang

Age: 19

GPA: 3.93

About: Freshman at Ringling College of Art and Design

Major: Computer Animation

Community Service/Leadership: Ringling Tour Guide, Editor-in-chief of Rockville High School literary magazine, Founder/President and Treasurer of Rockville High School National Honor Society, over 1000+ hours of volunteer at various organizations

On the importance of art to a community:

“…From daily happenings to more momentous occasions, I have observed art’s varying impacts and uses, both minuscule and incredible, on others and in myself.  And from these exposures, I realized that subconsciously, I am always left with a new perspective.  I believe it is a primal form of communication.  In the beginning before words found their way onto paper, pictures on cave walls reflected the stories and histories of the earliest societies.  Even then, many civilizations retained the drawings’ essence in the form of Chinese pictographs and Egyptian Hieroglyphs. Then and now, art withstands time and its importance is ever more elevated in the present. The world is rapidly advancing to become a global community, which strives to connect despite its different backgrounds and cultures. Where words in writing may fail us, I believe art and all of its substances can help bridge the gap.”

What does ‘going against the grain’ mean to you?

“In my shoes, ‘going against the grain’ is to stand firm against the current and and swim against it to pursue unconventional goals. But my experiences have also taught me to trust my choices in the face of adversaries, even if they may be family, faculty or employer.”

How do you go against the grain?

“In a nutshell, I do so by taking risks but not blindly signing my fate completely to luck and will. Going against the norms or anything has their package of obstacles, and I’ve learned the best to overcome them is to be proactive, listen to others, take in new perspectives and opinions, so at the end of the day I can see which are the right steps to take.”


Keila Cone-Uemura (Salt Lake City, UT)

ATG Artistic Scholarship Finalist Keila Cone-Uemura

Age: 17

GPA: 3.99

About: Senior at West High School accepted into Berklee College of Music

Anticipated Major: Music

Community Service/Leadership: Humane Society, Salt Lake Buddhist Temple

On the importance of art to a community:

“Art is what makes us fundamentally human. It is what separates us from the cold, hard machines that we’ve created to do our work, from the computers that are smarter and faster than we will ever be.  It helps mankind retain its morality, the sense of compassion that can often go missing in the fast-paced modern world.  Within a community, an honest sense of human emotion is vital in protecting our values and moral codes.  Art plays a vital role in this, as it provides the artist and the viewer alike an escape from the tedious superficialities of day-to-day life…Art is much more than an end product — it is a journey, a depiction of the human experience, a portal into the lives of our ancestors, a tool for social revolution, and a thread of sorts, weaving together various people and perspectives.  Communities need art to bring them together and celebrate the vibrant individuality and self expression that will shine on for centuries to come.”

What does ‘going against the grain’ mean to you?

“As an Asian woman in modern society, I often experience some common racial stereotypes. We are thought of as the ‘model minority,’ quiet and obedient. To ‘go against the grain,’ to me, means to directly defy this stereotype. It means fighting for your opinions, getting your voice heard and pursuing your passions without regard for what people expect from you.”

How do you go against the grain?

“I go against the grain by writing and composing songs and aspiring to enter the music industry, even though the business is risky and the competition is high. I have decided to jump into my passions headfirst by graduating high school a year early and entering the Berklee College of Music at age seventeen. I go against the grain because even though the path is scary and the going may be rough, I will continue to chase this dream of mine with all of my heart.”


Britt Espinosa (Kingston, WA)

ATG Artistic Scholarship Finalist Britt Espinosa

Age: 18

GPA: 3.88

About: Homeschooled and accepted to study at Northwest University and Seattle Pacific University

Anticipated Major: Music Business Management and Performance

Community Service/Leadership: Global Expeditions Service Trip to South Africa, Food packaging and shipping (Children of the Nations), Sharnet Christmas Shop volunteer, Small Group Leader, Kairos Youth Group Leadership Team, Citation Award (Awana International)

On the importance of art to a community:

“A man named Thomas Merton once said, ‘Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.’ Art plays a huge role in culture, community, relationships and everyday life. In my opinion, a society without art is a society that has no identity or soul. Art is an expression of the soul, like Thomas Merton said, it pushes us to ‘find ourselves’ and lose ourselves’…Art affects much of our culture and the way we identify with our culture.  From branding to movies, art is the aspect that our souls react and respond to. Art is important in our society and community because it gives meaning, purpose and identity to individuals and groups. Without art, the world would be a bland place, full of people without an identity and without the desire to find one.”

What does ‘going against the grain’ mean to you?

“To me ‘going against the grain’ means having the discipline and drive to pursue a dream in the midst of hardship, stigma, and setbacks. Discipline includes dedication to education, working when you don’t think you can go anymore, and having foresight. Having a ‘drive to pursue’ means to make the most out of every opportunity, and to also hold onto to the dream when things are slow and require patience.”

How do you go against the grain?

“I live to pursue and accomplish. When I set my sights on a goal, I will do everything to accomplish that goal. I go against the grain because I know that education, foresight and patience are essential to success.”


Thao Nguyen (Arlington, TX)

ATG Artistic Scholarship Finalist Thoa Nguyen

Age: 18

GPA: 3.98

About: Senior at Juan Seguin High School accepted into University of Texas at Austin College of Communication

Anticipated Major: Radio/TV/Film

Community Service/Leadership: National Art Honor Society (President and Vice President), International Thespian Society, Environmental Club, National Honor Society (Vice President), Future Business Leaders of America, Drama Club (Historian), Project SOAR mentor

On the importance of art to a community:

“If there were a few imperishable and infinite things in this world, art would be one of them. Art takes so many forms and is perceived by so many perspectives that it can never be nonexistent.  Lucky for us, as human beings, we need it in our world to survive. It is a wonder that something that can be seen as trivial and even unnecessary and impractical, is so embedded into ourselves, we almost forget it is there, if it were not for the people who express it so well. Art is soul, and life, and presence, and void. It is what adds color to our world, our community, and our being.”

What does ‘going against the grain’ mean to you?

“To me, ‘going against the grain’ is synonymous to swimming against a current, doing what your heart tells you to do, despite what is expected. By pushing yourself to reach your goals no matter the circumstances or resistance, you are going against that opposing force. We would not be where we are now if minorities throughout history had not conformed and sparked revolutions. Like they say, ‘if there’s a will, there’s a way,’ even against the grain.”

How do you go against the grain?

“I believe that the most important characteristic to be able to go against the grain would be courage. It takes a lot of courage to STAND UP for your ideals when everyone else is sitting. I’d also have to say that it has taken me my entire life so far to earn that courage. I go against the grain by putting full faith and spirit into what I have realized I want to do for the rest of my life: incorporate my art with my love for film(making). Any person with traditional Asian parents can agree that they want the best for their children’s futures, which means they expect us to be in high paying career like medical or engineering fields. Having come from an immigrant family, I was expected to earn outstanding grades, then pack my bags for medical school. To my parents dismay, I had no interest in such fields… I had my heart set on being an art director for film. Although it may not seem like much, it took me my entire life to figure that out. To stand behind what I was passionate about, even if it was not what was expected of me. To have courage.”

Melissa Woodbridge (Fayetteville, GA)

ATG Artistic Scholarship Finalist Melissa Woodbridge

Age: 19

GPA: 4.00

About: Freshman at University of Georgia

Anticipated Major: Studio Art/International Affairs

Community Service/Leadership: Gamma Sigma Sigma (service sorority), CHROMA (Vice President of service-oriented art organization), Art History Society, National Art Honor Society, Beta Club, National Honor Society

On the importance of art to a community:

“I believe that experiencing the arts means understanding perspectives other than your own, finding multiple solutions to one problem, creating large effects with small differences, and using this knowledge t inform decisions. To be able to put these ideas into practice will be a powerful experience that I can use to benefit the community as well as aspects of my own life. Not only is art beneficial to the community, it is beneficial to the individual, the building block of something greater.”

What does ‘going against the grain’ mean to you?

“‘Going against the grain’ to me means recognizing the individuality within yourself and using it to follow your dreams. No two people are alike, and everyone has the ability to think creatively; this unique identity must flourish, not be suppressed by societal pressures or fear of failure. Going against the grain is the key to feeling comfortable and happy in your skin and in the life you choose to lead.

How do you go against the grain?

I am always excited to try new things and start a project with fresh eyes; I co-founded a student organization, which ended up being a daunting but incredibly rewarding task. I love learning how to play a new instrument, or learning a new language, or reading a book about a subject I know little about. I will double major in Studio Art and International Affairs not because it is practical but because they are the two areas that fascinate me most. My determination allows me to pursue all of my interests and goals, and that is how I go against the grain.

 

For more information on the ATG Artistic Scholarship, visit the Scholarship Page.

 

Against The Grain Productions Announces Additional Leadership Scholarship

Non-profit to Award Three Scholarships to Exemplary Asian American Students

DALLAS, TX – Dallas nonprofit ATG Against The Grain Productions proudly announced the addition of the Sunna Lee Leadership Scholarship to its already existing Artistic Scholarship, to be awarded to Asian American students who are breaking the mold through their work in the arts and/or leadership in the community.  Last year’s Artistic Scholarship winners were Texas students Monika Hoang and Dorcas Leung. Both Hoang and Leung were awarded a $1,000 scholarship for their exceptional artistic ability, talent, community involvement, leadership and academics. The addition of the Sunna Lee Leadership scholarship is a $5,000 commitment from business executive Sunna Lee, a powerhouse in the business and fashion world who previously attended ATG’s Fashion for a Passion charity event as a guest and was moved to do her part by motivating and celebrating a young Asian American leader who is changing the stereotype of Asian Americans.

2011 ATG Artistic Scholarship Winner Dorcas Leung
2011 ATG Artistic Scholarship Winner Monika Hoang

ATG Founder/President Tammy Nguyen Lee is excited to include this Leadership Scholarship as an extension of the organization’s already strong commitment to community outreach. Nguyen Lee said, “We created the Artistic Scholarship as an extension of what our organization is already doing to promote and support Asian Americans in the arts, and we hope that the Leadership Scholarship continues to cultivate those in our community who are finding unique ways to express themselves and create stories for us to share.” Nguyen Lee continued, “ATG is very fortunate to partner with pioneers in the Asian American community like Sunna Lee and be the organization chosen to broaden our scope to select and promote a leader among the Asian American student population.  It’s a huge honor and responsibility. Our hope is that that this will send an impactful message and continue to inspire others to affect change and leadership in others.”

Leadership Scholarship Founder Sunna Lee

Sunna Lee is a first-generation Korean American with 25 years as an executive in product development, which includes trends, design, marketing and sourcing for brands and retailers small to large, private and publicly traded companies with $7 million to $2.5 billion in revenues. She has served as Vice President of Marketing for Priss Prints and NoJo, Vice President of New Business Development for Crown Crafts Infant Products, Vice President of Merchandising for Riegel, Director of Fashion for Dorel Juvenile Group and is currently the Director of Product Development for Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. At Cracker Barrel, she leads the women’s group, Woman’s Connect, as a member of the steering committee to develop future women leaders of the organization. She previously founded her own line of high-end handmade handbags, which were sold at Stanley Korshak and Neiman Marcus. Lee said, “Being a female Asian growing up in the Deep South, I have had to overcome double the challenges of prejudice and ignorance and have chosen to convert what others may perceive as a disadvantage to a competitive advantage.” Lee is passionate about empowering others to tap into their own potential. “Teach someone to fish instead of giving them fish.  Fish can feed them for one meal.  The skill to fish will feed them for a lifetime.”

Lily Yang, ATG’s Director of Community Outreach, spearheads the review process for both scholarships and highlights the principles of the funds. “The Artistic Scholarship embodies ATG’s mission of promoting awareness of art in all media and a commitment to the community. The scholarship program is not limited to only financial assistance, but also provides the winner with mentorship, exposure and a support group both within and outside of the art community.” Yang continues, “The addition of the Leadership Scholarship allows us to reach out to an even wider group of Asian American students who have demonstrated exemplary leadership skills and made a difference by challenging the conventional Asian American stereotype.  We are looking for candidates who truly embody the spirit of “going against the grain.”

Both the Artistic and Sunna Lee Leadership Scholarship applications are online at www.AgainstTheGrainProductions.com/Scholarship, and the application deadline is April 15th. Scholarship winners will be invited to attend ATG’s 4th annual Fashion for a Passion charity event, to be held on Saturday, October 13, 2012, at the Dallas Contemporary in Dallas, TX, where they will be presented with their scholarship, as well as showcase their talent amongst other Asian American artists.

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 and outreach. Their first project, Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam, has 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 scholarship details, visit www.AgainstTheGrainProductions/scholarship. For more information, visit www.AgainstTheGrainProductions.com or www.TheBabylift.com.