Congratulations to 2013 ATG Artistic Scholarship Finalists

After several months of reviewing some truly talented individuals, our Scholarship Review Committee is proud to announce the following ten students as our 2013 ATG Artistic Scholarship Finalists, who impressed us with their academic excellence, leadership, dedication to community service and artistic talent. Due to the number of outstanding candidates, we decided to increase this year’s scholarship recipients. Instead of the usual two winners, this year, there will be FIVE.  Each will receive a $1,000 scholarship to attend his/her intended college/university to pursue his/her career in the arts.  Way to knock our socks off!  The Final Five will be announced in this month’s August Back to School newsletter, so be sure to sign up for our Mailing List to hear the news!

And here they are! (Drumroll, please…)



Age: 18 yrs old; GPA: 4.0; Ethnicity: Chinese; Hometown: Waymart, PA

Intended college/university and major: Carlow University in Pittsburgh, PA, majoring in art therapy

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  I believe that many people have a misconception about individuality, believing that wearing certain clothes, listening to certain music or voicing certain opinions marks one as a great individualist. To me, this way of thinking is more of an easy way out- telling yourself that you stand for something greater than the rest when in reality going “Against the Grain” entails much more. Now of course, to go “Against the Grain” requires individuality, however responsibility, leadership and a full understanding of self are necessary. Inspiring and influencing a community requires knowledge of the world around you in relation to the message you want to convey. I believe that going “Against the Grain” means standing for something in the world that has the ability to positively affect those around you regardless of the opposing thoughts of the masses.

How do you go Against The Grain?  I have demonstrated the ability to go “Against The Grain” through my career choice. Majoring in art therapy, I have received my fair share of criticism from my friends and even some family who believe that art therapy “isn’t a real job”. It would have been easy to succumb to their ideas of what art therapy is, believing that my profession entailed holding up ink blobs and putting a fancy title to a seemingly simple task. I however, chose to believe that art therapy goes above and beyond that of a “real” profession. As a therapist, one must be fully committed and interactive 100% of the time to best benefit the patient at hand. A therapist acts not only as a confidant, but also as a ‘safe’ person to talk to, one who doesn’t pass judgment when it would be so easy to do so. The trust that is crucial in establishing a relationship with any other individual must be doubled when acting as a therapist, as both parties must delve deep into issues that may have been suppressed for years. I am extremely passionate about the art therapy profession, and regardless of what negative connotations the profession may carry, I will continue to full heartedly support the actuality of this “real” job.


DJ Wang

Age: 18 yrs old; GPA: 3.9; Ethnicity: Taiwanese-Chinese; Hometown: Virginia Beach, VA

Intended college/university and major: Parsons School of Design in New York City, NY, majoring in communication design

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  Going “Against The Grain” means facing challenges, taking on challenges that test one’s basic morals, traditional standards and even relationships between friends and family. The greatest challenges that we face are also our greatest teachers.

How do you go Against The Grain?  Growing up with traditional-minded immigrant parents, the last thing any parent would want to hear from their child is, “I want to be an artist.” However, it is the arts that transformed me into a self-made man. In the beginning, I didn’t have the privilege of absolute support from friends and family as I was set to pursue the arts as a child. I had to prove myself. I had to overcome challenges and negative opposition from all corners, because the art world is not the friendliest of places either. As an artist, you are exposing your vulnerability through your creations, showing your core to the eyes of an audience that may not even understand you, but the magic happens when you find the support and appreciation every artist craves. 2011 marked my first big break through, placing 1st in Wacom’s International Art Contest. In 2012, I was among the Top Ten Young Artists Nationally Published in Celebrating Art. That same year, I debuted my first fashion collection at Virginia Fashion Week, was invited to Teen Vogue Fashion University and also won “Best in Show” at the Neptune Festival Art Show following with a Gold Key presented by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Scholastics. None of these accomplishments would have existed without my insatiable passion within, driving me to exceed all my limits.


Emily Fleisig

Age: 18 yrs old; GPA: 3.57; Ethnicity: Korean-Caucasian; Hometown: Birmingham, AL

Intended college/university and major: Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, AL, double majoring in musical theatre and media & film studies, minoring in Spanish

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  Individuality leads to infinite possibilities as an artist. Judy Garland once advised: “Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.” I believe this idea truly captures what it means to go Against The Grain. By human nature, we sometimes find ourselves distracted by the stereotypes or idealizations defined by society. However, to go Against The Grain is a way to defy such expectations made by others, and take the necessary action to fully be you.

How do you go Against The Grain?  My mere existence as a Korean-American Jew in Alabama is almost by definition Against the Grain. From the moment I drive up – wearing my neon pink Converse with a dress – in my purple and lime green minivan, it is pretty clear that I am not the typical teenager. While I do spend a good amount of time working on my academics, my real passion and the most significant amount of my time is dedicated to performing. Unlike my parents and grandparents, who all have M.D.’s or Ph.D.’s, I am going Against The expected Grain. Fortunately, it was pretty evident from the time I was a toddler, so my family has been very supportive. I have always been extremely interested and active in musical theatre – singing, dancing, acting and directing – in school musicals, dance classes and voice lessons, community theatre productions and even founding and directing the show choir at my high school. Besides live theatre, I am also interested in film work for acting and directing, too. I plan to continue performing and directing in college and beyond.


Kit Zauhar

Age: 18 yrs old; GPA: 4.04; Ethnicity: Chinese-Caucasian; Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Intended college/university and major: New York University in New York City, NY, Tisch School of the Arts, majoring in TV and film production

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  For me, to go Against The Grain is to embrace all the passions one has in life, regardless of stereotypes and cultural expectations. It means to embrace all the wonderful aspects of one’s Asian heritage and from it craft stories that holistically recreate the Asian American experience for everyone. For me, this phrase means to not succumb to stereotypes, to not strive to fit the mold of a test taking, subservient and silent student just because it is what society expects of someone. Instead, it means to be a unique individual who gives new meaning to their culture, to show the world the much too often overlooked creativity, innovation and artistic expressions that exists within the Asian population. To Go Against The Grain is to know that your culture will love you no matter what you do, you must only be genuine and true to yourself, and others will embrace and respect you for your bravery, innovation and craft.

How do you go Against The Grain?  I go Against The Grain by breaking the stereotypes of a Chinese student and expanding the definition of what it means to be an Asian American adolescent. I believe that I showed my class how multifaceted, artistic and idiosyncratic a bi-racial Chinese student could be. Though I was an extremely diligent student who took her academics very seriously, I was also an avid, outspoken and strong president of my school’s Drama Society, an editor for our arts and literary magazine and a member of the poetry club. I was usually the only person of Asian heritage at these meetings and groups, but they allowed me the valuable experience of letting people know that Asian Americans were indeed a gifted and artistically driven group of individuals, that perhaps some were just afraid to go Against The Grain.

Though I appeared only “White” in most people’s eyes, I prided myself on my Chinese features and heritage because I was so happy to be a part of two different cultures, therefore able to draw from two unique backgrounds to create a holistic, multi-layered and diverse personality. I, unlike many other bi-racial students, wanted to show my school that race should have no limitations; that I could be a good student and a goofy Drama geek, that I could be proud of my race, speak the language with pride, bring my mother’s delicious home-made dumplings to school for lunch and not let these actions define me, but instead show my classmates that I could be everything I wanted to be: a writer, an academic, an actress, a debater, an American and a proud member of the Chinese community. I go Against The Grain because I am proud child of my culture as well as a brave explorer of this ever-changing world, working to break stereotypes. I broaden the definitions of what it means to be Asian American and do not allow myself to be limited by my race. I am working to become a filmmaker so that I can show the world through thought-provoking stories just how diverse, multifaceted and relatable the Asian American experience is for people of all races, cultures and backgrounds.


Grace Kwon

Age: 18 yrs old; GPA: 4.0; Ethnicity: Korean; Hometown: Tigard, OR

Intended college/university and major: University of Oregon in Eugene, OR, majoring in visual/fine art

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  To me, “Going Against The Grain” is bravery. It is doing something even when I am aware that I will get stared at, laughed at, yelled at or judged. It is doing this something anyways, because I know it is the right thing for me.

How do you go Against The Grain?  In both my life and my dreams, I have been forced to decide between two actions: doing what I want and what I believe is right, or “doing what everyone else is doing.” I “go Against The Grain” to uphold my personal moral standards, even if that means breaking off friendships. When my best friend got into drugs, I made the hard decision of cutting ties with her. Though it was extremely difficult, I did not want to be a part of a lifestyle that messed with your mind and body. “Going Against the Grain” also applies to my dream of being an artist. Whenever I say I want to be an artist, I am met with raised eyebrows and condescending “oh, that’s interesting’s.” But despite the unconventional path, I have chosen it anyways, because I know it is what I love and what will make my life happy and fulfilled.


Kendyl Ito

Age: 18 yrs old; GPA: 4.17; Ethnicity: Japanese American; Hometown: Sacramento, CA

Intended college/university and major: Pace University in New York City, NY, majoring in musical theatre

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  The literal definition of going against the grain means to do something opposite of what is usually expected. To me, going against the grain means to do something different than the norm and to make yourself unique and original. It means having confidence in yourself to do what may be unpopular, uncommon, and unexpected. It means taking risks, exploring the unfamiliar, and placing yourself in situations where you may be vulnerable.

How do you go Against The Grain?  When I was searching for scholarships and discovered your organization, I immediately connected with the name… Against The Grain. I felt it described me perfectly in the music theater world. It is not uncommon for me to be one of few Asians at a music theater audition.  It is even more rare to be considered for a lead part not originally meant for someone who looks like me – petite and Asian. I have had the privilege of being cast as Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde,” Sandy in “Grease,” Eve in “Children of Eden” and most recently Rosemary in “How To Succeed In Business”.  It has not always been easy. I knew I had to sing, act and dance much better than others considered that already “looked the part” and more importantly convince the audience. Instead of letting this defeat me, it motivated me to work harder for those coveted roles. Nothing has been more rewarding than to hear from a director that they made the right casting decision. Though these roles were unfamiliar and risky for me, I took that as a challenge to go that extra mile to impress audiences with my talents and ignore my looks and appearances.

I have gained a lot of experience wearing a variety of wigs that have helped make me “look the part.”  However, I look forward to the day when I won’t have to wear one and the way I look is just fine. I look forward to being a part of this change when being Asian in the performing arts will no longer go against the grain.


Natasha Yeh

Age: 17 yrs old; GPA: 3.5; Ethnicity: Taiwanese American; Hometown: San Jose, CA

Intended college/university and major: Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, majoring in illustration

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  I believe that to go Against The Grain means to express your natural character or embrace your individualism.

How do you go Against The Grain?  Be yourself, stand up for your beliefs even if it means being the opposite of your peers or the authority.


Talia Connelly

Age: 18 yrs old; GPA: 3.8; Ethnicity: Chinese American; Hometown: Bellevue, WA

Intended college/university and major: Pratt Institute in New York City, NY, majoring in fashion design

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  Going Against The Grain is the questioning of accepted beliefs, opinions or behavior that people, school, books, movies – any source of information – attempts to instill in you. When you witness something that doesn’t sit right with you – when it makes the inside of your chest to start to feel heavy – don’t guiltily accept it and quickly move on. Let that feeling stay with you. Be uncomfortable! It is the discomfort which nudges, pricks, then whacks you over the head to stand up and challenge it. Going Against the Grain is not about “being different” just for the sake of “going against the mainstream.” It’s about letting yourself  – your values and opinions, then your habits and actions – be changed, even when it may make your life more difficult, because you realize it is the right thing to do. In doing so, you become an example to follow.

How do you go Against The Grain?  Stumbling upon articles and books about the fashion industry that left me feeling horrified and disgusted, I stopped shopping in stores filled with cheap dresses and trendy ten-dollar tops. Instead, I turned towards alternative apparel companies that promote fair wages and environmentally-responsible practices. Changing the way I consume extends far beyond my clothing or beauty products, it applies to larger purchases like food, cars and housing – the more complex decisions I will face in the future.

I understand living “sustainably” is not economically feasible for everyone, but in my studies to become a designer, I am working to make “sustainable fashion” the “mainstream fashion,” and to raise awareness about an industry most people do not think about, but one we all buy from. Simply educating consumers through my designs, regardless of whether the information will permanently change their buying habits, will make my efforts worthwhile. That is all I can do: let you know what’s going on, offer a solution and hope my art will inspire you to go Against The Grain. 


Veronica Blanco

Age: 18 yrs old; GPA: 3.6; Ethnicity: Filipino; Hometown: Virginia Beach, VA

Intended college/university and major: Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Richmond, VA, double majoring in sculpture + extended media and general psychology

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  People who are “Going Against The Grain” are individuals who believe in what they wish to achieve or are striving for. Whether what they want to achieve is excellence in their field, an award for their abilities, or simply acceptance from their own family, people have to reach these dreams by overcoming hardship and constant obstacles in their lives. In their eyes, these obstacles are not gigantic buildings standing in their way, but mere weeds that they can simply pull out because their dreams are greater than any problem in the way. The faith they have in themselves, their determination to succeed in the midst of hardship, and their ability to never give up is what makes the impossible very possible for them.

How do you go Against The Grain?  My perseverance, my failures and believing in what the future holds has allowed me to reach places that I could have never imagined. There have been times when I felt like my dreams were merely illusions and that my abilities or position in life were not enough to reach them. However, I realized that I could never achieve anything if I simply stopped and gave up everything. This is why perseverance is so important when it comes to going Against The Grain. When people fall a million times and fail to the point where they feel lost, if their belief in their dream and in themselves are strong enough, then they will have the ability to get right back up just as many times. When they persevere a million times, those millions of failures turn into millions of learning experiences and blessings. Despite having obstacles and problems that seem incredibly intimidating and difficult to overcome, I continue to see the light in every dark situation that comes. Although everyone’s time is limited on this earth, I use my time to persevere through everything in order to be a part of something greater. This is how I go Against The Grain.


Xiaoye Jiang

Age: 17 yrs old; GPA: 3.8; Ethnicity: Chinese; Hometown: Minneapolis, MN

Intended college/university and major: New York University in New York City, NY, double majoring in photography and sociology

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  To me, Going Against The Grain means deviation from the norm. It is easy to do what everyone else is doing, but it is harder and more worthwhile to follow your passions.

How do you go Against The Grain?  I go Against The Grain with my identity and my drive. Being an adopted Chinese Jew in Minneapolis, Minnesota is definitely not the norm. I let my differences, and the experiences those differences have given me, influence my life and my work. I believe in myself and the work I can do. I got accepted into the program I wanted for this coming fall and have spread my work to screenings and exhibitions all over the country, even reaching as far as China. I hope to continue going against the grain and sharing myself with others so that they, too, can go against their own grain.

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