Human Rights Arts Festival Award Winners Announced

Human Rights Arts Festival Award Winners Announced

Feb 9, 2020 | The Human Family | 0 comments

Human Rights Arts Festival Award Winners Announced

The Jury of the North Dakota Human Rights Arts Festival is excited to recognize the official award-winners for the third annual festival.

More than 65 artists were selected to be a part of the traveling exhibition that opened in January at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo and is presently on display through February at the Bismarck Downtown Artist Cooperative.

Sixteen artists are being recognized and honored for their creativity, talent, approach to content, and overall excellence of their work. In recognition of thier achievement, each artist will receive a unique hand-crafted painted egg fashioned by Fargo-based artist MaryJo Cayley. “As long as eggs are painted,” MaryJoe said, “goodness prevails.”

The award winners include:

Best of Show

Title of Work: “Pull It Together”
Artist: Christina Johnson
Medium: Drawing | 40″x 80″
Origin: Fargo, ND

Pull It Together is a self-portrait about what happens when making simple choices becomes an ever-present exercise in risk assessment. Something I believe many women adjust to as they learn to navigate parts of our current society. As humans, I fully believe we need to express some level of vulnerability–to take on certain opportunities for failure–in order to deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. And regardless of gender, I want to work toward a world where none of us feels like we have to hide ourselves away to feel safe.

Jurors Choice for Historical Significance

Title of Work: “Love Letters to the Water Protectors”
Artist: Medic Healer Council
Medium: Multiple handwritten letters
Origin: Bismarck, ND

Love Letters to the Water Protectors illustrates the outpouring of worldwide support shown to the Water Protectors at Standing Rock. These letters accompainied thousands of donations from individuals and communities across the world. We hope the letters here demonstrate what is possible when people come together to protect the water, earth, and those who walk upon it.

Best Drawing

Title of Work: “Guns”
Artist: Ted Martin
Medium: Drawing | 38″ x 26″
Origin: Fargo, ND

The random and focused mass shootings in this country are a haunting concern. No one is really safe because of the randomness of the attacks, though groups like the gay community, have been the focus of mass shootings. From my point of view, the amount of money that the NRA spends to ensure almost unlimited access to different weapons makes them complicit in every mass shooting.

Best Acrylic

Title of Work: “The Things We Fight For Become The Cages We Live In”
Artist: Ali LaRock
Medium: Acrylic | 28″ x 48″
Origin: Bismarck, ND

There are many types of cages, whether they are actual bars of iron, brick walls, thoughts that imprison us, or the many rights human beings fight for. This painting explores what is happening on a global level: People standing up for themselves and others as well as people waking up to the injustice of what is actually happening around us. I chose to represent the people as cage- like characters. We are all caged in some way. This is not to minimalize those who are forced to unjustly live in actual physical cages. It is to say there many levels we as human beings can be trapped. It may be oppression and persecution by others, or a trapping by our own entitlement which limits us from seeing others and their rights. Even when we believe we are fighting for a good cause we can become trapped in one view point and become intolerant of others.

Best Collage

Title of Work: “I Love America”
Artist: Anna Johnson
Medium: Collage with birch bark, fabric. acrylic transfer | 24″ x 32″
Origin: Fargo, ND

The work is about oil and it’s impact on native Americans in ND. The land and what we are losing because of the destruction the oil fields, Including the oil spills.

Best Ceramics

Title of Work: “Self”
Artist: Karren Perry
Medium: Ceramics | 10″ x 17″
Origin: Fargo, ND

Inhabitants on the planet share similarities at the cellular level, relying on air, sun, food, and water. Calling attention to the cellular commonality of all beings may inform our first response when we interact with other humans or species.  I dream of a world where we avoid scanning for the differences and the hierarchies placed mentally on the value of those beings existing outside of ourselves.

This piece reminds us of shared biological systems with the other beings on the planet. Mother Nature is blind to the echelons of importance humans consider in formulating interactions with other humans and species.

Best Three-Dimensional Work

Title of Work: “When Freedom is Bound”
Artist: Jeremy Colbert
Medium: Cast aluminum | 6″ x 8″ x 16″
Origin: Lexington, KY

When Freedom is Bound is a reflection of the political landscape we have found ourselves facing. The struggles of human rights have always remained issues within our nation and across the world but it seems we have taking step backwards on the subject in the past few years. When the flag symbolizes the fight for human rights and freedom yet we see such a lack of compassion for each other, our freedoms our bound. The piece is a cast aluminum American flag wrapped and bound in rope to suggest our basic freedoms and rights have been tied up or restricted. The casting is powder coated with Gold to represent the hopefulness and preciousness of what it stands for.    

Best Oil

Title of Work: “The Sun Does Not Shine”
Artist: Guvanchmyrat Hojanyyazov
Medium: Oil on Canvas | 31″ x 39″
Origin: Turkmenistan

I write works on social themes and try to display  the problems of society that concern me. Developing the composition and working on the picture I first of all try to express the theme, meaning and plot. My works can be characterized by one in a word – Relationships. Everything in the world is interconnected, consistent and harmonious. The past has created the present, and the present creates the future. Relationships in nature, in society and in various spheres of human activity determine the state of the surrounding world and ourselves. In case of distortion, violation or; which is unacceptable; the destruction of relationships and reciprocal links – humanity begins to shake social disasters, which can subsequently lead to the degradation of society. And I consider it my task to explain this to people.

Photo of Cultural Significance

Title of Work: “Standing for Us All”
Artist: Shane Balkowitsch
Medium: Ambrotype Reproduction | 16″ x 20″
Origin: Bismarck, ND

Full-length portrait of climate change activist Greta Thunberg at the Prairie Knights Casino, Fort Yates, North Dakota, on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, during her visit with Native American activist who opposes the Dakota Access pipeline. Archived at the U.S. Library of Congress.

Best Poem

Title of Work: “There and Here”
Artist: Nita Ritzke
Origin: Bismarck, ND

These two poems, There and Here, were inspired by instances when I met people whose lives were shaped by events and luck starkly different than mine. Despite the contrasts of our lives, in one moment we shared a purely human exchange.  Turnout CA 1 occurred in the expansive agricultural stretch in California. Ten to One occurred in North Dakota when I was aiding a couple who felt ostracized by their community.

Narrative Cohesion (Tie)

Awarded to recognize outstanding cohesion between image and narrative

Title of Work: Days and Nights: Silenced in Kashmir
Artist: Gaurav Datta
Origin: Grand Forks, ND

On the midnight of August 5, 2019, India snapped all forms of communication in Jammu and Kashmir and placed the entire population under military curfew. Completely unannounced, there was no internet, cell phone and fixed line connection, no text messaging, tens of thousands of additional soldiers deployed, and all local political leaders detained or arrested. A few days earlier, all non-Kashmiris and foreigners have been forcibly evacuated citing a possible terror threat, a number of schools and colleges have been converted to army camps; the locals began to stock on food, medicines, and fuel in a panic, not exactly knowing what was about to happen. Barring those who made this decision, the entire country was kept in the dark.

This darkness continued as over the next few weeks, the Indian government unilaterally passed the decision in the parliament that Kashmir was an integral part of India and scrapped its disputed status, completely disregarding it’s fight for independence. Seen as a great victory by the majority of India, Kashmiris were utterly stunned at this utter disregard of human rights and democratic process. This period coincided with my visit to Kashmir. Belonging to the majority Hindu population of India and a non-Kashmiri, I was completely ashamed and disgusted at this. Overcoming the initial impulse to run and hide, I made my way there.

The curfew still continues partially; though post-paid cell phones and fixed lines are working, there’s still no internet, and the soldiers are still there. The Government boasts that not a single person has been killed by bullets during this time and that this reflects “normalcy”. After all, in the face of mass arrests, midnight raids, unlawful detentions, and allegations of torture, what else would people do but to look after their families and loved ones.

These are not sensational photos of protests, torture, and human rights violations. Mostly I was too scared to step outside and lift the camera, so I used a polaroid camera instead. These are photos of what it feels like to be rendered completely helpless and disempowered in the face of violence, of being shell-shocked in “normalcy”, photos of hushed tones and never knowing what would be the right thing to say, photos of fearing that you or the people you love would disappear if you protest, photos of long nights and even longer days.

Narrative Cohesion (Tie)

Awarded to recognize outstanding cohesion between image and narrative

Title of Work: You Are Not Forgotten
Artist: Liz Pawlak
Medium: Oil | 20″ x 24″
Origin: St. Paul, MN

I dedicate this painting You Are Not Forgotten to the refugees along the southern border. This painting consists of reds and oranges and violets to convey my strong reaction that these members of the human family are forced to face. They flee from their homes and walk thousands of miles through rough terrain, facing massive obstacles and injustices. When they attempt to cross the border, they must travel through deserts or mountains, only to be confronted with the cruelty of U.S. border security and regulations.

The painting depicts the path of refugees wandering through the southwestern mountains. The baby doll and shoes are remnants dropped along the way. Did this family successfully reach a safe haven? God only knows! The skull itself represents those who didn’t make it!

I was motivated to paint this because I feel a personal connection to the refugees. After we adopted our son, Miguel, from Mexico in 1985, his heritage became our heritage. He showed love and reverence for everyone. Although he was a naturalized U.S. citizen, he began to have violent nightmares about ICE chasing and deporting him in 2017. News of deportation of naturalized citizens worsened his depression and he numbed himself with drugs. Finally, he overdosed. When I see the faces of these children and adults caged, I see his face.

Hopefully, the angel in the sky will guide policy makers to think of the refugees as members of one human family. As climate change accelerates, we must alter the borders of the planet. Each of us should find a way to “welcome the stranger” into our lives and honor the nobility of all!

Best Script

Title of Work: “Made in America”
Artist: B.K.
Origin: La Quinta, California

Made In America is based on the true story of Rikki Rivera, whose life parallels the inception of the notorious MS13. From having a father who fought as a guerrilla soldier in El Salvador’s civil war, her challenging escape with her mother into America, and growing up on the violent streets of East LA as an active gang member, Rikki was exposed to much but somehow managed to never allow her integrity to be compromised – even when facing perilous conditions. In the end she becomes pregnant and is forced to emulate the path of her past to escape the treacherous world she inherited in order to rescue her unborn child from the chains of a similar fate.

Best Musical Peformance

Title of Work: “Acheropita”
Artist: Davide Caprelli
Origin: Italy

Live performance for the soundtrack of the film RWANDA. Performed by Orchestra A.Corelli, directed by Silvia Biasini, recorded live by Stefano Cappelli Creative Mastering

Best New Media Work

Title of Work: “Watching Leo”
Artist: Raymond Rea
Origin: Moorhead, MN

Watching Leo is a look at one Italian immigration journey, my grandfather’s, presented as a connected viewer experience. Using interactive means, the viewer can sort through a series of surveillance documents and other letters surrounding Rea’s grandfather’s request to stay in the U.S. during WWII. Using a raw DIY aestehic, the piece speaks to the narrative aspect of family history and memory.

Watching Leo is currently avilable online to experience. Click the image below to be taken to the site.

Best Experimental Film

Title of Work: “Umbrella Dance for Hong Kong”
Artist: Wong King Fai
Origin: Hong Kong

Umbrella Dance for Hong King is a response to the Hong Kong Anti-extradition Bill Movement in 2019. The umbrella dance movement translates to a recorded history of Hong Kong, from when Mainland China took over Hong Kong in 1997, to the Umbrella Revolution in 2014. The revolution taking place today continues to add to the history of the umbrella revolution. The film features the movement of celebrated Hong Kong modern dancer and choreographer Mui Cheuk Yin.

Best Animated Film

Title of Work: “Wardi (The Tower)”
Artist: Mats Grorud
Origin: France

Stuck between heaven and hell, forever camping. The history of Palestine told from a refugee camp in Beyrouth.

The mission of the North Dakota Human Rights Arts Festival is to educate, engage, and facilitate discussion around local and worldwide human-rights topics through the work of filmmakers and artists.

The touring exhibition will be hosted in cities throughout North Dakota: In January 2020 in Fargo at the Plains Art Museum; in February 2020 at the Bismarck Downtown Artist Co-Op; and in June 2020 in Minot at the Taube Museum of Art.

The Fargo exhibition and theatrical screening are made possible in part through the generosity of The Arts Partnership. with support from the Cities of Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo; and the Fargo Human Relations Commission. The traveling exhibition is supported in part by the North Dakota Council on the Arts, which receives funding from the state legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts.


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The Human Family promotes human rights and social justice through film and art.


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