East Lansing High School student wins big at art show

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By Chloe Kiple

Entirely East Lansing

Montgomery Smith shows off the pieces she made in her Kendall College of Art and Design class. The piece won second place at the MSUFCU Art Show.

Montgomery Smith shows off the pieces she made in her Kendall College of Art and Design class. It won second place at the MSUFCU Art Show.

EAST LANSING – East Lansing High School artist Montgomery Smith started her day at an old train station in Detroit. She walked along its perimeter looking for an entry into the abandoned building. She found a break in the boarded up fences and wire and snapped some of the hundreds of pictures she would take that day, until the police showed up.

“They pulled us out right away,” said Smith. “They were like, ‘we don’t want to have to arrest you’ and we were like, ‘we just really want good pictures!’ We just kept going.”

Last spring, Smith spent almost ten hours in the city and took over 500 pictures in preparation for an assignment in Robin Remer-Saenz’s advanced placement art class.

“She went beyond what my expectations are to gather her resources for that,” said Smith’s advanced placement art teacher, Robin Remer-Saenz.

Remer-Saenz tasked her students with creating a ten-piece series depicting a topic of their choice. Smith chose to focus on social issues in Detroit.

Smith’s efforts paid off. One of the pieces in her series entitled “You told me I could fly”, drawn with Prismamarkers, won the gold award at the regional level of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, hosted by the Kendall College of Art and Design. The piece shows a shadowy figure shooting at a young boy wearing Jordan brand shoes.

“What this kid is being killed for is purely materialistic,” said Smith. “It shows the materialistic value present in kid’s life and having that value be greater than their life itself.”

This is the second consecutive year that Smith has won gold at the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. The competition received thousands of entries and Smith’s work was one of 149 selected to win gold awards. Her work will advance to the national level to compete for awards and scholarships.

“Taking a gold award two years in a row at this prestigious competition is an amazing achievement, and it speaks highly of Montgomery’s artistic abilities,” said East Lansing School Board member Karen Hoene at the board’s Feb. 22 meeting.

Smith has taken numerous art classes in high school, but last semester, she got a taste of a university-level class. She dual enrolled with the Kendall College of Art and Design where she attended night classes twice a week for three college credits. The class, sponsored by East Lansing High School and Remer-Saenz, offered Smith an unparalleled learning experience.

“Numbers never exceed more than 10 students in a class so it’s a lot of one on one,” said Remer-Saenz. “It’s really amazing for them.”

In her class, Smith learned how to create art using software like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. One of the pieces from this class won the juror’s second place award from the MSU Federal Credit Union art show Feb. 28.

“This show is one of the greatest exhibits of high school art, as it included 15 area high schools,” said Remer-Saenz.

Her teachers and the community have celebrated Smith’s artistic achievements widely. The East Lansing school board jokes that Smith is a regular at their meetings because she is always being recognized for her accomplishments.           

“I’ve gotten to know Montgomery and she is a delightful young woman,” said East Lansing Superintendent Robyne Thompson.

Remer-Saenz says that besides being a talented artist, she is also a leader.

“I’m really proud to have her in my classroom,” said Smith’s art teacher, Robin Remer-Saenz. “She’ll encourage [her classmates] big time, and that really helps.”

So what’s next for Smith?

“A four-year undergraduate degree in chemical engineering,” said Smith. “And a minor in graphic design.”

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