2024 Visual and Digital Honorees

Amaya Dawson - Digital Honoree

Amaya Dawson has been drawing his entire life. For Amaya, art is a way for him to express ideas that couldn’t be fully visualized in real life; he creates characters that have aspects based on his life that helps him make sense of his experiences.

Amaya has participated as a leader in a rich variety of arts-related extracurriculars, organizations and clubs throughout his tenure at Washington High School, including set design for a one-act play and short film director, writer, producer and illustrator for several Speech Club projects and competitions. He also worked on set design for the fall 2023 musical “Mean Girls”; designed the t-shirt for the annual CWR showcase of poetry, music, and art; and have been self-taught in the areas of digital art and animation with commissioned projects for community members outside of the school community.

He intend to pursue a career in technical theater or video game design after attending college at the University of DePaul.

Amaya Dawson - digital art
Sophia Lukesh - Digital Honoree

Born into a creative family, it was no surprise that Sophia Lukesh would eventually walk her own artistic path. Primarily self-taught, Sophia began to dabble in many forms of art at an early age, including watercolor, pen and ink, as well as acrylic and oil painting. As of this moment, she leans heavily toward illustration in both traditional and digital formats, with a focus on character design.

Influenced by artists such as J.C. Leyendecker and Hayao Miyazaki, Sophia draws inspiration from elements of science fiction and horror. Additionally, her artwork is sometimes based on historical and supernatural subject matter.

In the winter of 2022, Sophia had officially established herself as a published artist when providing interior illustrations for her father’s book, “Edsel Peck in The Rusted Empire.” Currently, she’s providing interior illustrations for the book’s sequel.

When she’s not creating art, Sophia is expressing her deep appreciation and connection with literature by becoming an aspiring writer herself.

Sophia Lukesh - digital art
Adelaide Peterson - Visual Honoree

Adelaide Peterson has always been driven to create. Since she was in elementary school, Adelaide has produced and worked with art in different forms, including drawing, painting, jewelry, glass, clay, animation, latex masks and more. Adelaide has participated in summer college programs in Chicago for comics and another in Rhode Island for animation. These intense programs have given her an eye for detail, dimension and form.

Adelaide’s family has always had a love for the creepy and scary, and she has acted in family friends’ haunted houses since she was in kindergarten. This helped her learn character makeup and set building for larger, public haunted houses. She plans to attend Savannah College of Art and Design for animation to continue learning how to create in different ways.

Adelaide Peterson art
Autumn Zaehringer - Visual Honoree

Autumn Zaehringer has honed their artistic talents on their own, experimenting with a range of mediums including chalk, grayscale, digital and ink. Their journey into sidewalk chalk art began in 2017, leading to numerous accolades for their impressive works. You can find them at many local chalk events, including Chalk the Walk at Art in the Park in Cedar Rapids; Chalk Art Fest in Rock Island, Illinois; Bondurant Blues, Brews, and Sidewalk Chalk Festival in Bondurant; Chalkfest Maple Grove in Maple Grove, Minnesota; Chalk the Walk in Mt. Vernon; and Rock the Chalk in Iowa City. They have plans to attend several other national chalk events during the chalk season of 2024.

Autumn was selected to paint a Herky statue for the upcoming “Herky on Parade” event, set to take place in the Iowa City area this spring/summer. With ambitions of pursuing an art degree, Autumn aims to attend the University of Iowa to further their education. They also play the violin and are part of the Philharmonic Orchestra at Linn-Mar.

Autumn Zaehringer art
Mya Gilchrist - Visual Honoree

Mya Gilchrist is often spotted with a camera in her hands while attending sporting events and other activities. Her inspiration to begin taking pictures was when she was going through treatment for brain cancer in 2007, 2011 and 2019. She also has taken lots of photos over the past year, mostly from her new blood cancer diagnosis, and the pictures really explain how a story can be told through just a simple photo. She utilizes art as an escape during her cancer treatments and has found it to be therapeutic, calming and engaging.

Mya is a very hard worker, diligent to her craft and tends to think outside of the box when it comes to capturing her photographs. She also performs in band, Chamber Choir, the Alburnett Dance Team, Alburnett musicals and choir. Mya has submitted photographs to Scholastics Art and Writing Awards and placed Top 3 at the Tri Rivers Conference Art Festival and second at the Linn County Fair. She has realized that everyone has a limited time on this Earth, and that even the littlest of moments is worthy of being captured.

Mya Gilchrist photo

2024 Performance Honorees

Jesse Flaherty - Performance Honoree

Jesse Flaherty began dancing competitively at the age of 7, entering intensive training in such genres as ballet, jazz, contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and tap. He studies at The Dancer’s EDGE under the direction of Charlie and Stephanie Vogl, and credits Cory Barnette and Troy Herring for choreography.

While training as an elite performer in all genres, Jesse has worked in classroom and choreographic settings with unfailing discipline and adaptability. Master teachers and in-house faculty/directors consistently compare his work ethic as “second to none.”

Jesse has been a National Top 10 Best Dancer Finalist at The Dance Awards three times and has been awarded considerable full-tuition scholarships to other events and intensives every competitive season. He has also won first place in Youth America Grand Prix Regional Senior Contemporary three times.

Jesse also studies classical voice with Dr. Bradley Barrett at Barrett Vocal Arts Institute. In July 2022, he was named a national finalist in the National High School Men’s Classical category of the National Association Teachers of Singing competition and won the regional competition in 2022. During his enriching musical studies with Grace Huber and Justin Sands, he became a three-time Iowa All-State Chorus member and an awarded soloist and dance captain of the Prairie High School varsity show choir, The Ambassadors.

Jesse plans to attend a conservatory or university to major in dance or musical theater, guided by his compassion and discipline.

Lizzie Matthes - Performance Honoree

Lizzie Matthes has been dancing at Nolte Academy since age 3 and has been in love with ballet ever since. She performs in Nolte Academy’s annual Nutcracker, Recital and Danceworks events. Lizzie also participates in competitions such as Youth American Grand Prix, American Dance Competition and Universal Ballet Competition. Lizzie spent summer 2023 learning from faculty and dancers in an immersive five-week intensive program at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. She is excited to continue her journey in dance and hopes to have a professional career.

Sebastian Sauder - Performance Honoree

Sebastian Sauder is a cellist who studies at the Preucil School of Music with Laura Shaw. He has a successful solo career, including performances with the Central Iowa Symphony and the Fort Dodge Area Symphony. Sebastian has been studying cello for 15 years and has been a member of the Iowa All-State Orchestra for the past four years. He currently serves as principal cellist in the City High Symphony Orchestra and the Preucil School String Orchestra, and belongs to several chamber groups.

Sebastian has toured twice with the Preucil School String Orchestra, performing in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany and the Czech Republic. Sebastian has previously studied with Kate Vos, Nancy Hair, and Carol Werbow-Schier, and performed in masterclasses with Bion Tsang, Uri Vardi, Julie Albers, Santiago Canon-Valencia, Wilhelmina Smith, Saeunn Thorsteinsdottir and Bruce Uchimura.

Alongside classical musicianship, Sebastian volunteers on the directorial team of the Family Folk Machine, a non-profit community choir in Iowa City. He has recorded on multiple albums by Iowa City Artists.

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