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Napa County's Student Artists of the Month
Student Artists of the Month

Napa County's Student Artists of the Month

  • Updated
Yuridia Gomez Palma

Art work by Yuridia Gomez Palma, an eighth grader at Silverado Middle School, who is one of the Students of the Month for Visial and Performing Arts. 

Festival Napa Valley has joined Arts Council Napa Valley in support of scholarships for instrumental music and choir students in the county. The winners will be selected from a pool of middle and high school students who have earned the honor of Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) student of the month during the 20/21 school year.

To date, ACNV has recognized nearly 50 students from Calistoga to American Canyon. The Festival Napa Valley Scholarship for Excellence in Music will provide $1,000 awards to two graduating high school seniors and $250 awards to four middle school students in instrumental music and choir.

“Now more than ever, our world needs what music and musicians offer—the opportunity to participate in a heartfelt and unifying shared experience. We support our community’s young talent and applaud their accomplishments,” said Lissa Gibbs, Festival NV director of education, engagement, and new media.

Chris DeNatale, executive director of the Arts Council Napa Valley, added, “Festival’s award will surely make a difference for students hoping to continue their musical education through the summer and into college.”

Since its inception, more than 100 students have been named ACNV VAPA students of the month. In addition to the Festival Napa Valley Scholarship for Music and Choir to be awarded this spring, five other scholarships will be given to theater and visual art students. ACNV will also name an overall VAPA student of the year.

Vying for those scholarships are nine young artists recognized for excellence for March. All are finding ways to express themselves creatively despite restrictions that have reduced their access to teachers and peers. This was particularly challenging for the performing art students who have been unable to gather on stage. Instead, they are expanding their skills by learning to film and edit videos to share their talent with remote audiences. All nominating VAPA educators acknowledged seeing tremendous determination and growth in their students after a difficult start.

Here are March’s winners:

High School

Studio Art: Elizabeth Shaw, Napa High senior

Kristi Crickmore recognized Shaw for her passion for art, always painting, creating, and drawing. She said, “Elizabeth has always liked using color in her work. She went from creating bold retro patterns to bold figures. The bright-colored figures are beautifully created, and her ability to go bright and bold only makes her work stronger.” Crickmore added that Shaw figures are an inspiration to the entire class. “Elizabeth has produced uniquely talented work for years and is always pushing her voice with beautiful imagery.”

Digital Art: Alisa Karesh, Napa High senior

Alisa Karesh

Alisa Karesh

Hardworking and creative, Karesh creates digital pieces depicting nightmares, placing you right in the middle of her imagination. Her art teacher Kristi Crickmore said, “She is very good at creating these dark, dimly lit scenes.” Karesh started her new series of illuminated nightmare scenes this year in her AP class after exploring similar themes in traditional mediums. She has worked hard to create digital layers of soft lighting to evoke that creepy feeling and strange narrative associated with nightmares. Crickmore said, ”She makes the move from traditional art medium to digital seem effortless, adding, “along with talent and a vision, Alisa is an outstanding student with an amazing work ethic.”

Photo/Film: Eleanor Aslanian, St. Helena High senior

Ellie Aslanian

Ellie Aslanian

An active member of the St. Helena High School drama department for all four years, Aslanian has pivoted from stage to film her senior year—writing, directing, filming, and editing a short film to premiere later this month. Her teacher Patricia Coyle said Aslanian “is a superb student who fights for equality for all in everything she does.”

Aslanian faced tremendous setbacks this year, losing her home in the Glass Fire in addition to the pandemic upending her senior year, yet, Coyle said, “Ellie continues to forge on and create art that is both raw and whimsical.” Aslanian is currently weighing her college options, deciding between The New School and Fordham in New York City. She will study arts of all forms, creating music, filmmaking, painting, and drawing.

Choir: Anthony Marek, Vintage High senior

Anthony Marek

Anthony Marek

Teacher Liz Amendola said the show tune “You Gotta Have Heart” perfectly describes her nominee. In addition to his beautiful singing voice and musical skill, she added, “Anthony has one of the kindest hearts I’ve seen in a teenager.” Marek has multiple leadership roles at Vintage, demonstrating his community spirit and compassion for others. Amendola said, “As we try to use our musical skills to uplift and inspire our audiences, Anthony articulates the motivation behind why we share our music. His empathy, maturity, and—let’s not forget his straight-up talent—make him an outstanding member of our class.”

Instrumental Music: Ella Ranada, American Canyon High senior Music teacher Brendan Day describes Ranada as a strong musician who is inquisitive, curious and works hard to achieve her musical goals. He added that the current pandemic hasn’t managed to slow her down. “Already an accomplished cellist and pianist, both of which she continues to study privately through virtual lessons, Ella continuously reaches outside of her comfort zone to try new things.” This year, Renada has taken up the trombone in Wind Ensemble, studying composition in AP music theory, and continues to sing in ACHS Concert Choir. Day said, “Ella has demonstrated passion, resilience, and grit, remaining musically active and continuing to learn even within the constraints of the pandemic.” Theater: Cierra Tan, American Canyon High School sophomore(tncms-asset)0269153e-965e-11eb-b23c-00163ec2aa77[5](/tncms-asset) Like many students in these pandemic times, Tan had a rough start to the year, according to her nominating teacher Summer Heartt. However, it didn’t take long for her to find her spirit, creating thoughtful virtual performances to inspire the American Canyon High Theater community. One such endeavor was a shot-for-shot recreation of the infamous shower scene from the Alfred Hitchcock movie Psyco. Heart said, “The way Cierra thinks outside the box and delivers something interesting to watch is exciting to me as her teacher. I am so proud of Cierra for turning what could be a really rotten school experience into an inspiring and exciting opportunity for growth.” Middle and Elementary Level Studio Art: Grant Dion, St Apollinaris, 8th grade (tie)(tncms-asset)df793ff4-965d-11eb-92b4-00163ec2aa77[6](/tncms-asset) Dion’s teacher Michelle Lemieux said his pencil sketches show maturity well beyond his age, incorporating technology to colorize his sketches digitally. “He spends several hours on each initial sketch and then spends more time manipulating them digitally.” Dion enjoys “comic book style” characters but also has also worked on an environmental series. He excels at representing detail and dimension, letting his imagination guide him. He is also a compassionate member of the Napa community and spends time loading groceries at the food bank and serving the meals at the homeless shelter. At St. Apollinaris, he maintains a 4.0 grade point average and is the president of the Leadership Team. Lemieux added, “He is exceedingly kind and polite, and an absolute pleasure to have in class.” Studio Art: Yuridia Gomez Palma, Silverado Middle School, 8th grade (tie) Teacher Julia Zmed describes Gomez Palma as a student who takes every assignment as an opportunity to go above and beyond, challenging herself to practice skills taught, creating a carefully completed work of art. Gomez Palma, a 100% Distance Learner, consistently creates colorful, bright, happy, and playful pieces. Zmed said, “I am honestly heartbroken that I haven’t gotten a chance to meet Yuridia in her final year at Silverado.” She added, “I am continually delighted and surprised by her cheerful, fun, yet expertly executed art.” Instrumental Music: William Picetti, Napa School of Music/Redwood Middle School, 6th grade

William Picetti

William Picetti

Picetti has been studying saxophone with his teacher Nicole Birkland-Long before and through this Pandemic year. She said, “During the past year, he has switched to online lessons without skipping a beat.” Birkland-Long added, “He has made wonderful progress and always has an upbeat and positive attitude.” Picetti is improving his sight reading skills and overall musicianship, taking up the challenge of different music styles from classical to rock to pop to jazz.

Arts Council Napa Valley will award scholarships and announce the Visual and Performing Arts Student of the Year in a virtual ceremony to be released in June. ACNV is currently reaching out to teachers throughout the county seeking nominees for April 2021. All winners will be recognized with a certificate and invited to an award and scholarship ceremony in the spring. Visit the ACNV websites for full details, including the call for nominees document. Only teachers and educators can nominate students for recognition. Nominations for April are due by 5 p.m., April 25.


NVUSD Superintendent Rosanna Mucetti discusses safely reopening schools, from a press conference by California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, April 1, 2021.


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