So in the beginning of the fall of 2008 the Southeast Region of the AIDemocracy network put on a contest encouraging students to submit works of art that expresses the complex emotions and feelings that are involved in doing this work of the soul and not the belly.

The winner of this contest was Colleen M. Stewart, a sophmore at Western Kentucky University. Colleen not only won a few neat prizes from our partners at HBO, but she will also be invited to speak about her artistic experiences and perspectives at an upcoming regional event.

Here is her winning submission and a short description about the project itself:


“Faceless people of the 3rd world.”

“So often we neglect to realize the rich culture and beauty of 3rd world
countries. The invisible children, the women of the Mideast, tribal
cultures are often homogenized in the media and we begin to see them as
we would faceless people. In these cultures lie incredible talents,
aptitudes, and individualities to be fostered. We must unveil the
potential of these faceless people while preserving their beautiful


She also got interviewed by me, let’s check it out:

When did you first realize the power of art on you and your world?

I grew up on art going to museums and art shows and watching my mom
paint. Art was ingrained in me early on so I can’t really say there was
one moment that I realized it… I just have always known that it is a
part of everything, everywhere.

When did you first realize the awesome potential that art has in
engaging others on social justice issues?

During the summer of my junior year I applied for Cincinnati ArtWorks,
which is a full time summer job as an art apprentice. I was assigned to
an interactive kenetic bike sculpture project that portrayed
environmental issues and the need for alternative energy. It was
installed in the Contemporary Art Center for two years and I was so
lucky to be a part of a piece that touched and educated so many people.
It was displayed in the children “unmuseum” and my senior year I
decided to teach inner city kids art once a week. Their excited eyes
emphasized the power of art on society like no experience every has.

What was the inspiration behind your painting?

The painting depicts “invisible people” around the world… tribal communities, women (in many cultures,) and children of many third world
countries. “Invisible” is implied by their lack of faces, but the beauty
and vigor of their cultures and the individuals is the focus of the
piece. These people retain hope and strength under desperate
circumstances and oppression.

What was the medium you used to get your paint on?

I used acrylic paint, colored pencil, and watercolors for this piece.
My favorite media is mixed media.

Who are some of your favorite creative people?

I’ve come across some of the most eccentric and creative friends in
college… never a boring day. Musicians, performers, writers, dancers,
painters… they color my everyday life. It is a beautiful thing to see
know the people behind the art. It shines light on so many facets of
the piece and the person.

Who and what has influenced your evolution as an artist?

My high school art teacher of 3 years was a selfless and inspirational
teacher and friend. Everyone in my life has influenced my art because it
is a reflection of the people, places, and thoughts that surround me and
shape my perspective on the world.

If you had to be on a desert island forever, with a dog or a cat,
which one would you choose and why?

I slightly prefer cats because they are so independent and regal, but
if I were stranded on an island I think I would feel safer and less
lonely with a dog companion.

Where are you from originally?

I was born and raised about 15 minutes outside of Cincinnati in northern
Kentucky. Before college I had lived in the same house all my life. I
don’t plan staying in any one place for that long again.

What are you studying at Western Kentucky?

I started out as an art major, but I am now a News/Editorial Journalism
major. I love writing, current events, and the stories people tell when
you listen and ask questions. It’s funny… I’m usually interviewing,
not being interviewed.

What is one secret that most people don’t know about Colleen M. Stewart?

I have a birthmark on my right side. It bothered me as a kid, but now I
often forget it’s there.

What is on your music playing device (computer/CD
player/Ipod/etc.) currently?

My ipod and computer are my two main sources of music, and I like
streaming radio programming online. Still, nothing compares to live
music or music made by friends.

If you could meet one person throughout history, dead or alive,
Who would it be and what you guys do and why?

I would have to say Obama. It would be fun to hang out with many
historical figures that have passed, but he is on the brink of his
legacy and I would love to speak with him at such a crucial time. I
think I would like to travel with and report on him… or swing
dance… he looks like he could dance well.

If you could go back in time and live the life of a famous artist/creative person, who would it be and why?

I just had a semester-long class on Hemingway and Faulkner so the first
person that comes to mind is Hemingway. He was a journalist, traveler,
writer, boxer, ladies man, a man’s man… everything. He lived such a
full life.

What is your most memorable activist experience?

The most memorable experience was definitely ONE day at Western last
year when we won the national ONE campus challenge… very united

What is your most favorite flavor of ice cream?

I don’t really like ice cream, but probably something vanilla, pumpkin,
or coffee tasting.

The face of a campus leader ladies and gentleman!