See the Winners of This Year’s Hawai‘i Regional Scholastic Art Awards Exhibit at HiSAM

The best of more than 2,000 entries from student artists across the Islands opens this month at the Hawai‘i State Art Museum.


Hestias Armour

“Hestia’s Armour,” by Yuri Kato. Jewelry. Educator: Holly Chung. Courtesy of ‘Iolani School


Another wild year has passed as students navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. And for some, getting to their happy places has meant making art. See the fruits of their perseverance and creativity in the 59th annual Hawai‘i Regional Scholastic Art Awards exhibit.


The Hawai‘i State Art Museum proudly hosts the exhibit each year, with award-winning artwork from students in grades 7-12 from across the Islands. Kamakani Konia, project manager at the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, tackles the herculean task of organizing the largest student art competition in Hawai‘i; this year a record was set, with more than 2,390 entries from more than 44 schools. In its role as the regional affiliate for the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers—the nonprofit behind the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the nation’s most prestigious recognition program for creative teens—the SFCA handles all of the logistics of organizing the art competition from start to finish, which takes months.


“It’s been a crazy fall semester for our educators, especially when so many are having to navigate the challenges of returning to in-person teaching in the midst of a pandemic,” Konia says. “It was refreshing to see that students and teachers were eager to get back in the classroom to produce work after a tough year of virtual learning.” Students submitted artwork in 17 different categories representing a wide variety of creative media, from photography to ceramics. Like last year, entries were submitted and judged digitally, which made it easier for Neighbor Island students to participate. Many of the jurors who volunteered last year returned, but doing everything virtually had its challenges, such as reviewing 3D sculptures and ceramic pieces through flat screens. In the end, 253 pieces were chosen for display, by 173 student artists.


The pandemic is still a recurring theme in many of the student works, but others touch on the idea of emergence. “Take our photography category for example: Last year’s body of work consisted of a lot of intimate portraits taken within student homes or their backyards, but this year we got to see more images of subjects engaging in public spaces, including those outside of Hawaiʻi,” explains Konia.


Unapologetically Me

“Unapologetically Me,” by Daniel “ʻEkolu” Martinez III, grade 10. Drawing & Illustration (color pencil). Educator: Deatri Nakea. Courtesy of Kawaikini New Century Public Charter School


Out of the many winners this year, two in particular made huge impressions on Konia.


“One that I really enjoyed seeing was ‘Unapologetically Me’ by Daniel ‘‘Ekolu’ Martinez III,” who uses they/them pronouns. “It’s a fantastic portrait that to me speaks to embracing personal identity and celebrating that which makes us all unique,” Konia says. “We’ve seen a few works from ʻEkolu over the years and it’s exciting to see how their creative style has developed.”


Another piece that stood out is “Transience” by Linda Schmitt. “Her approach to surrealism is absolutely incredible and her sense of depth and space has this powerful effect of grounding the viewer in this whimsical and otherworldly composition,” he says.


Transience Web

“Transience,” by Linda Schmitt, grade 12. Painting (acrylic on canvas board). Educator: Lenda McGehee. Courtesy of Seabury Hall


There won’t be a formal awards ceremony, but you can show your support for the student artists by experiencing their artwork in person and tagging your photos on Instagram with @artandwriting and #scholasticawards. If you find yourself inspired and wanting to get involved, consider volunteering to help judge the next event. Konia says: “We welcome anyone with a passion for our young people and the arts to inquire about becoming a Scholastic judge. Past panels included not just local artists but writers, gallery docents, educators and cultural administrators.” Teachers from schools with students actively participating in the competition are not eligible. Email Konia at with a little bit about yourself and your experience with the arts.


On view Feb. 18 to March 12, 250 S. Hotel St., second floor, open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Saturday, closed on state holidays, free admission. For more information follow @hawaiistateartmuseum


Lisa Shiroma


Lisa Shiroma is a correspondent for HiSAM and is an artist and art educator. Lisa is the former owner of the HiSAM Museum Gallery Shop, which she ran with partners Aly Ishikuni-Sasaki and Travis Sasaki from Mori by Art + Flea from 2017 to June 2020.