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Junior Ava Lawless Honored by Columbia University--Twice

Junior Ava Lawless Honored by Columbia University--Twice
Tutt Stapp-McKiernan

Wakefield junior Ava Lawless, who participated last summer in one of Columbia University’s Pre-College Summer Immersion Programs in the visual arts, recently received a second recognition from the prestigious New York university beyond the fact of her admission into its highly-selective summer program.

Each fall, Columbia invites all of the alumni of its visual-arts Summer Immersion Programs to submit graphic designs for a logo, to be used on the official tee shirts for the following summer’s Immersion Programs. Columbia staff narrow down the submitted designs to three finalists. And this fall, Ava’s design was one of those three finalists.

Students currently participating in Columbia’s fall Immersion Programs vote on the winning design. According to Ava’s teacher, Mr. Genther, “There were some very specific parameters they had to work within. Ava, unfortunately, did not win. However, it was a wonderful achievement to be chosen as a finalist…I am obviously prejudiced here, but her design was more effective than the other two and fulfilled the stringent parameters more successfully.”

Ava’s design responds clearly to the theme of this year’s competition, which was “Growth, Change, Transition.”

One of the many parameters for submitted designs was the inclusion of the Columbia University logo, which is based on the outline of a crown. “One of the things I noticed immediately as I studied the Columbia logo was that the crown is shaped like a butterfly,” says Ava. “And I thought, ‘Perfect!’ because that’s what a butterfly is—it IS growth, change, and transition.”

In addition to her design itself, Ava had to submit a written statement explaining the design, and in it she singles out the many details she included in support of the theme:

…I specifically used Monarch butterflies to tie them to the crown as a symbol of a “monarchy”… Additionally, Monarch butterflies are known as the only butterfly species that makes an extensive two-way migration across North America, much like the students at Columbia University who come from across the globe to participate in the immersion programs and then return home to contribute their new-found knowledge with their community. The sun is behind the butterflies because sunlight provides nourishment, vitality, and life, which are essential for growth, change, and transition. Additionally, the sun symbolizes the bright and warm summer months in which the immersion program takes place. The Columbia crown cooperates as the centerpiece and shows how the sun and Columbia University are prominent symbols encouraging growth, change, and transition.

Ava’s particular Immersion Program she chose from among Columbia’s many offerings was in Oil Painting. For one week, she learned in depth from university professors about this medium, which she had never used before. Mr. Genther teaches strictly in acrylics, she says, and so she wanted to learn what the transition into oils would be like.

During the intensive week, they worked from 9:00 to 4:00 each day, and produced four paintings—a huge output for that timeframe, Ava says. They also spent hours at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, learning about Impressionist artists in particular and how their brushwork differed from the techniques of medieval and renaissance painters.

“It was amazing!” says Ava, encompassing the studio work and the instruction and the exciting New York City environment and her introduction to Columbia University life all into one overarching great review. She says Columbia is now her #1 “dream school” to attend.

Art has been Ava’s passion since she was a small child, she says, and according to Mr. Genther, that long-time commitment shows.

“Ava is an incredibly energetic and passionate artist," Mr. Genther says. "She is tireless in her approach to her art [and] spends many hours, beyond her studio time, working at home on her art. In the past two years I have seen her work blossom and mature wonderfully. This is a direct result of her love for the arts and her willingness to strive for excellence, as well as her craftsmanship and work ethic. She certainly makes my job easy! The Columbia University logo project was a great opportunity for Ava to showcase her graphic design skills."

Asked if she wants to consider pursuing art in college and as a career, Ava hesitates.  “I think I would like to minor in art, but not have it as a major, because I don’t think art is something that can be forced or done just because you’re in a class,” she says. “I know Mr. Genther agrees with this philosophy 100%--that art should come naturally. I would like to keep it almost as a hobby—I want to always have it as my passion, so I can keep enjoying it!”

Ava is the daughter of Andrew and Yvette Lawless of Centreville.