Meet the visual arts contest winners

Dec 08, 2022

The week before Thanksgiving, Newman University students from a variety of majors submitted art to a campus visual arts competition for the chance of winning a cash prize. 

Some of the best ideas come at 3 a.m., and this was the case for Newman student Daniel Cubias, who initiated the visual arts competition with the help of Student Life.

“This idea came to my head and I immediately started brainstorming things I could do,” Cubias said. “At 3 a.m. I email Kaitlyn Matthews (former director of student activities) about it, and I think I was very mysterious. I said ‘I have an idea, can we talk about it,’ and that was it.”

Daniel Cubias, Newman University student
Daniel Cubias, Newman University student

Cubias said he didn’t have a specific goal at the start of the competition, he just wanted to build awareness of the artistic talents within the Newman community. 

Eighteen art submissions later, Cubias said he was in awe at what students on campus took the time to create. For Cubias, “18 submissions for something that was kickstarted and organized by a few people feels like a success.”

“I’m not an artist, so everything was so interesting to see because I love art in all forms and mediums,” he said. “It was so awesome to see familiar names that I wouldn’t have thought would join.”

Submissions came in the form of illustrations, paintings, photographs and even ceramics projects. After careful deliberation from an anonymous panel of judges, three students walked away with cash prizes for their artwork.

Meet the winning artists

First place: Lily Hilgenfeld

How did you find out about the visual arts competition and what inspired you to enter?

I heard about this competition through the university-wide GroupMe. I knew I had some art pieces that would be good enough to enter, and the process was pretty easy, so I entered the one that I thought was best. 

Lily Hilgenfeld's art submission (courtesy photo)
Lily Hilgenfeld’s art submission (courtesy photo)

What is the story behind your illustration?

I created this piece in April of this year to enter in an art festival that my high school was a part of. I knew I wanted to do something incredibly detailed and in Sharpie, and that is where this piece came from. I was very inspired to create something so detailed with a permanent marker because I wanted to see if I could create a final piece I was proud of without being able to erase or backtrack on any marks that I made. 

What art medium(s) did you use?

Lily Hilgenfeld
Lily Hilgenfeld (courtesy photo)

This piece was done entirely in black Sharpie. 

What was your reaction to winning first place?

I was surprised when I found out I had won; I knew the piece was good, but the first place really just reaffirmed what everyone had been telling me. I put a lot of hours into creating this piece, so it was also very gratifying.

How does art play a role in your life?

Art is definitely a large contributing factor to my wellbeing. When I find myself to be stressed out, I make art. It allows me to take time for myself, express myself creatively and do something fun. It is definitely one of the biggest self-care activities that I do. 

Anything else to add?

I would just like to say thank you to the judges that voted on my art and thank you to all who have said such kind words about the piece; it is greatly appreciated.

Second place: Ashley Harrel

How did you find out about the visual arts competition and what inspired you to enter?

I was walking through Eck leaving a late class with my friend and classmate Mihret. We both noticed the huge purple sign for the visual arts competition and she was adamant that I enter with my photography.

Ashley Harrel's photo entry (courtesy photo)
Ashley Harrel’s photo entry (courtesy photo)

What is the story behind your photograph?

I love photography so I started a small business with it when I lived in Missouri. This photo was taken during a client’s in-home documentary newborn session. I started to do these sessions instead of in the hospital (fresh 48 sessions) which had to stop when COVID hit. The goal for these sessions is a natural aspect, documenting what it was like within the first few weeks at home with a brand new baby. I absolutely love to focus on macro newborn details (hands, feet, ears, nose, lips) which is how this photo came to be. And it’s been a favorite ever since.

Ashley Harrel (courtesy photo)
Ashley Harrel (courtesy photo)

What camera/ equipment did you use?

I used a Canon 5D mark IV with a Canon 35 1.4L lens and natural light from a window. 

What was your reaction to winning second place?

I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t expect to win anything of course and feel blessed that I placed at all. 

How does art play a role in your life?

Art is an outlet for me. It’s the one thing that I do for myself. I have four children and I document them constantly, making sure I don’t let much time go by without photographing them to lock those memories in. As a professional photographer, freezing time for others brings me joy as well. 

Third place: John Suffield

How did you find out about the visual arts competition and what inspired you to enter?

I found out about the competition a while back in its early creation since Daniel and I are around each other a lot and I was inspired to enter because there are not many opportunities to showcase student art anymore at Newman if you’re not a senior. And who doesn’t love a good competition to test out one’s ability?

John Suffield's illustration (courtesy photo)
John Suffield’s illustration (courtesy photo)

What is the story behind your illustration?

My illustration started with me thinking about the competition and what to enter and I couldn’t decide whether I should make a new piece or not. Then, I thought about Rambo randomly and why he never has a full beard, because I feel like he should. So then I visualized it and drew it.

What art medium(s) did you use?

The art medium I used was pen and ink on paper.

What was your reaction to winning third place?

John Suffield (courtesy photo)
John Suffield (courtesy photo)

I was surprised for sure, I heard from Daniel about how many people entered and I know how talented our Newman community is so I wasn’t sure if I would even place, but I am very glad and thankful I have. 

How does art play a role in your life?

For me, art is like breathing, I can’t live without it and I’ve never known a time art has not been a part of my life. Art has influenced who I am, my relationships, and I know for certain that God gave me this talent. I don’t know where art will take me, but it’s taken me this far and I trust that God will take me and my art wherever it needs to go.

Anything else to add?

A big thank you to Daniel Cubias for making this all possible. He did an amazing job putting it all together and I commend him for all the work he’s done and will do in keeping art alive at Newman University.

Leaving a mark at Newman

Cubias hopes to continue the visual arts competition each semester at Newman.

“There are many incredible artists at Newman University,” Cubias said. “I highly encourage everyone that joined to continue pursuing art, because the submissions were all amazing.”

Explore fine arts at Newman University

We continually produce successful, skilled artists, with many of our students hosting exhibitions of their own works in conjunction with Final Fridays.