Columbia High’s Samuel Taber-Kewene Wins Prestigious American Visions Award


Taber-Kewene’s “The Acrobat” to be exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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The following press release is from the South Orange-Maplewood School District:

MAPLEWOOD, N.J. – Columbia High School Senior Samuel Taber-Kewene has been awarded the Gold Medal American Visions award by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers’ Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. The award is the organization’s highest honor.

Taber-Kewene earned the award with his painting “The Acrobat,” which was displayed at the South Orange Performing Art Center (SOPAC) in the CHS Advanced Placement (AP) Art Showcase. (Taber-Kewene has other art works currently on display at SOPAC’s “Inspired Minds” exhibition.)

“Since 1923, the Awards have celebrated teen artists and writers from across the country,” stated Alliance for Young Artists & Writers Executive Director Christopher Wisniewski in his letter to Taber-Kewene. “You are now part of that legacy, joining the ranks of notable alumni, including Tschabalala Self, Stephen King, Kay WalkingStick, Charles White, Joyce Carol Oates, and Andy Warhol—all of whom won Scholastic Awards when they were teens.”

Samuel Taber-Kewene stands proudly by his award-winning painting, “The Acrobat,” at the CHS AP Art
Showcase at SOPAC earlier this year.

“It didn’t feel real to me at first,” said Taber-Kewene about his reaction to the news that he had won the award. “I worked so hard these past years on my portfolio and winning this award felt like all of my efforts paying off at once. I feel beyond grateful.”

Taber-Kewene’s mother, Christina, was equally grateful.

“Sam has worked incredibly hard on his art for several years, and I am grateful to see him recognized for his efforts,” she said. “The art teachers he has had at the high school, including Ms. [Alexandra] Cappucci, Ms. [Kandice] Stewart, and Ms. [Nicole] Thomas, have been incredible mentors to him as an artist and as a person. They are invaluable members of our community, and I appreciate all they do for students like Sam and so many others. Columbia is fortunate to have them.”

As part of the honor of the American Vision award, “The Acrobat,” Taber-Kewene’s first oil painting, will be exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Ruth and Harold D. Uris Center for Education as part of the Scholastic National Show. Taber-Kewene and some of his teachers will be honored at an upcoming ceremony at Carnegie Hall. Recent special guests of this annual ceremony have included Oprah Winfrey, Tim Gunn, Alec Baldwin, Tituss Burgess, Amy Schumer, Kelly Clarkson, Zac Posen, Mayim Bialik, Tschabalala Self, Nick Cannon, Jamie Lee Curtis, Derek Luke, Kinsale Drake, Tina Fey, and Rose Byrne.

Samuel Taber-Kewene next to one of his pieces at a recent exhibition.

“‘The Acrobat,’ to me, represents the feeling of vulnerability and contorting yourself into the mold you have been told to adapt to,” Taber-Kewene said about his work. “I used a limited color palette of mostly green, pink, and yellow tones to express the feelings of discomfort in one’s skin. Specifically, pink tones feel raw to me, and I use them judiciously in my works. I perceive yellow and green tones to be sickly, and I use them to reflect feelings of discomfort and physical risk. I was very particular in creating the composition of this painting, and I used the limbs to create borders within the piece to symbolize isolation and suffocation.”

Dr. Kevin F. Gilbert, Acting Superintendent of the South Orange & Maplewood School District, congratulated Taber-Kewene on receiving the Gold Medal American Visions award.

“We could not be prouder of Samuel on winning this national recognition for his powerful painting that poignantly expresses so much about the struggles that sometimes come with being human,” Gilbert said. “As I congratulate Samuel and his family, I also want to thank his teachers and administrators who helped bring out the best in Samuel’s talents and provided opportunities for him to exhibit his fine work.”

Taber-Kewene will begin studying fine art for a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at The Cooper Union this fall.

“The Acrobat” by Samuel Taber-Kewene.


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