News Saugatuck/Douglas Commercial Record

SHS junior is swift photo Study

Saugatuck High School junior Leilani Schoonmaker’s journey through a lens crescendoed — so far, at least — with National Scholastic Art Awards Gold Medal recognition.

Her black-and-white photo of the 2023 Portage Cross Country Invitational start made Schoonmaker  SHS art teacher Daniel Hanna’s fourth student so far to win top NSAA honors.

The winner shot it on assignment for Hanna’s “Intro to Photography class, which she teaches through the dual rnrollment program for Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids.

Before hitting the national stage, three of Schoonmaker’s photos won Gold Key recognition and two more Silver the West Central Michigan Regional SAA competition.

SHS junior classmates Layla Vinten-Johansen (a linocut) and Alayah Nieuwsma (photograph) also earned Regional Gold Keys for their works.

Junior Madaline Fowler received a Silver Key for her drawing and an Honorable Mention for a painting she entered in the competition.

In addition, juniors Ethan Gorman, Jaiden Myler, Meryn Curtis and Mallory Hass, plus sophomore Avery Smith received Honorable Mentions for their works.

Schoonmaker will celebrate her achievement this fall at the New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Ruth and Harold D. Uris Center for Education, where her work will be displayed as a part of  the 2024 National Exhibition.

Only six other students from the West Central Michigan Region went on to win national gold medals in any category. (Schoonmaker was the only winner in the photography division).

In 2023, less than 90 works were awarded national gold medals in the photography division.

“The camera,” said celebrated photographer Dorothea Lange, “is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”

Schoonmaker is sharing that vision with others too.

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