The artwork of the four Tam High artists honored by the MV Fall Arts Festival, clockwise from top left: Grace Cameron, Lauren Pyfer, Carmen Shavers and Daniel Helmer. Courtesy images.

The Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival committee continued its annual tradition this week of honoring young local artists through its Emerging Artists Scholarship Fund, which was created in 2010 and offer awards every year to two seniors and two juniors who excel in the arts.

$500 awards are given to two senior Advanced Placement Studio Art students and $250 awards are given to two juniors in either 2D Design, Drawing or 3D portfolio. Unlike most scholarships that go to the institution, MVFAF’s awards go directly to the student to be used for tuition, art supplies and to encourage them along the path to becoming artists.

Here are the awardees and their artistic statements:


Daniel Helmer: “Ever since I was 5 years old, I loved to draw. I would draw all the little fantastical creatures and wizards and witches that I would rad about and see on TV. I would imagine what it would be like to have a magical artifact in my possession or go on an amazing adventure to fight a dragon. It was the relief I needed as a five year old from a childhood troubled by a plethora of other issues and familial affairs. To this day, that purpose has not changed. Now, I make art to explore the human figure and the beauties of it. I love to draw people and especially draw people dressed and surrounded by different items and pieces of my Japanese culture. Art has become a way to not only find a relaxing escape but to also further connect with my cultural identity. To explore my ancestral history and the many beauties of it.”

Carmen Shavers: “I enjoy art generally and previously focused on photography and drawing. However, I joined a ceramics class last semester and realized that is where my passion lies. Being the only black artist in my class, I often feel disconnected, but when I focus on my artwork, I always feel connected because we’re all there to do art. I love watching the form take shape in front of me as I guide the clay with my hands. When I discovered ceramics, it allowed me to find an inner sense of calm and security. This has been especially helpful over the past month, while we have been sheltering in place. I am sharing five ceramic pieces that I created during this time. Because of this, I have been unable to glaze or fire them at all.”


Grace Cameron: “Through my artwork, I focus on storytelling, creating pieces that draw the viewer in and invite them into another world or narrative different from their own, and creating art that makes the viewer want to look closer, making “snapshots” of various windows into these worlds using watercolor and acrylic. Specifically, I follow the story of two characters, June and Teddy, and their environment. 

Lauren Pyfer: “Art is the language I like best, and it’s the language I use to tell my story. And just like a writer, I permit myself to let it change in meaning and develop as I go. I usually begin painting after finding a remnant of my past. Little sketches or photographs act as a catalyst; ideas start to flow, and scenes emerge that are much more descriptive than what I could preserve in writing. And, like a journal, my paintings are also a record of my life.  Layer after layer, I use the canvas to develop my story and shape my past. 

When I paint, I go through a process of remembering, not of the specific event or recreation of a photo, but what was there past the surface, what I sensed, heard, and believed. My pieces take what was captured in that single moment and evolve into a story- the warmth of my mother’s loving gaze or the cold wind that bit at my nose as I climbed mountains with my father- buried within each layer of paint.  I take apart the image and try to understand the relationship between depth and color, reconfiguring it to become my own. Through painting, I have been able to take time to reflect on moments that feel so far away.

Some people have journals. I have my canvases. My paintings unravel to represent more than just the 2D image depicting an event from my past. Each creation is a collection of emotions, places, and people and represents a unique memory brought back to life.”

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