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Two Washington state high school students were honored for their artwork in the Art of Conservation Fish Art Contest. In Washington state, Alana Yang's piece, left, took first place followed by Celine Min, second, in the grade 10-12 division. Both students chose Arctic char as their subject. // Images: Wildlife Forever

Mercer Island student honored in national art contest for her painting of Arctic char

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A 16-year-old Mercer Island High School artist, Jingyi “Alana” Yang, received multiple awards this month in the annual Art of Conservation Fish Art Contest, sponsored by the conservation group Wildlife Forever. Her painting showed an Arctic char in its natural cold-water surroundings.

Alana said she was inspired to paint the colorful fish during a family trip to Alaska, where a tour guide told her about the unique Arctic char, a migratory fish related to salmon and trout that resides in the northern regions of the world.

Arctic char by Alana Yang, winner of several awards, including second-place in national competition (click to enlarge) // Image: Wildlife Forever

“I thought it was really cool, and I wanted to showcase this fish, making sure that water was part of the conversation,” she said of her acrylic painting (top left and right). “I also wanted to show what was going on underneath and outside the water.”

Alana’s artwork was honored with a second-place award for grades 10-12 among all the entries nationally and internationally. Her piece also took first place in the Migratory Fish Division for grades 7-12 and first place in the Western Native Trout Division for grades 10-12. In the state-level competition, she took top honors among Washington state artists in the grade 10-12 category. Alana is a junior this year.

In a related writing category in the contest, Alana’s one-page essay on the importance of water was judged the best among grades 10-12 in the Fish Habitat Writing Awards.

Another Washington state winner in the national contest is Celine Min, who took second place in the Western Native Trout Division and second place to Alana among Washington state entries for grades 10-12 (top right and below). Contest organizers were unable to connect me with Celine or provide additional information.

Arctic char by Celine Min, second-place winner in Washington state. // Image: Wildlife Forever

The Best of Show Award went to Sehyun Choi, a Virginia high school student who painted an Atlantic tarpon. A third-grade artist, Lusia Gu of Massachusetts, took the Smile Award, which was “created to celebrate one artist’s unique perspective on fish” and “given to the student whose piece makes the judges ‘smile’ inside and out,” according to contest rules. See Wildlife Forever’s contest page for all the winning pictures.

The art contest, created to encourage young people to think about fish, fishing and the environment, received more than 4,000 entries from 48 states and 43 countries.

“Art helps to build the foundation for youth development,” said Pat Conzemius, president and CEO of Wildlife Forever. “Through the Fish Art Program, young people learn the value of our natural resources and their role in protecting it. The artwork this year was incredible, showcasing world-class talent and future conservation leaders.”

An international panel of distinguished judges utilized an innovative online platform to select this year’s winners, according to Conzemius.

Atlantic tarpon by Sehyun Choi of Virginia, Best-of-Show award winner in the Art of Conservation Fish Art Contest (click to enlarge) // Image: Wildlife Forever

Alana Yang, daughter of Jun Yang and Yan Hong of Mercer Island, said she learned of the contest from her art teacher, from whom she takes private lessons. Alana also is interested in music. She plays the clarinet and was named to this year’s All-State Band/Orchestra by the Washington Music Educators Association (Mercer Island Reporter).

Alana said she is passionate about the environment and was glad she could combine her interests.

“In terms of career plans, I want to go into marine biology or environmental science,” she said. I would like to work around water, doing research or maybe advocacy.”

Art of Conservation Fish Art Contest
State winners, Washington state

First place

This clever portrait of a Garibaldi earned Virginia third-grader Bohan Jin the “Smile Award” in the Art of Conservation Fish Art Contest. (Click to enlarge) // Image: Wildlife Forever

Agnes Resa Martin Parambeth, K-3 grade, Atlantic blue marlin
Mia West, 4-6 grade, Atlantic sailfish
Diane Park, 7-9 grade, rainbow trout
Jingyi “Alana” Yang, 10-12 grade, Arctic char

Second place
Nolan Pan, K-3 grade, Atlantic blue marlin
Hayool Park, 7-9 grade, Arctic char
Celine Min, 10-12 grade, Arctic char

Third place
Rita Lorik, K-3 grade, Russian sturgeon
Megan Kassebaum, 7-9 grade, bonytail chub
Junho Yeo, 10-12 grade, Arctic char

Atlantic sailfish by Mia West was the first-place winner in Washington state among 4-6 grades. (Click to enlarge) // Image: Wildlife Forever

Excerpt from Alana Yang’s essay

Clean water is vital to our health; in fact, all living organisms rely on water. This is especially true for the life forms that live in the water. Through bioaccumulation, the gradual build-up of harmful substances in an organism… Our pollution to the waters impacts virtually every part of our ecosystem…

If we want to preserve our cultures for the next generation, we need to ensure that these water bodies are protected…

How, you may ask, should we, as ordinary people, preserve our water? While governmental actions like setting sustainability limits, creating animal conservation programs, assessing and improving water quality, and much more, there are more that we can do. By actively using less water, taking care of runoff, properly disposing of chemicals and medicine, you and I can contribute. Let’s not only do it for ourselves but also for the future generations and those who share the same home as we do.

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