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State Honoree

Melinda Modisette

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Melinda Modisette, 18, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, a senior at Albuquerque Academy, started a cross-cultural art exchange that arranges for high school students in different cities around the world to collaborate on art pieces that reflect and celebrate cultural differences. Mindful of the growing tensions in recent years between the United States and China, Melinda used to think about the issues dividing the two nations—and the many things their citizens had in common “From my many visits to China, I know that teenagers there are growing up the same as we are here,” she said. Perhaps, she thought, the different worlds of American and Chinese students could be bridged through art, something Melinda is passionate about.

So she contacted five schools in China before finding a private art-class teacher in the city of Lanzhou who agreed to participate in a collaborative project. After recruiting six students from his class and six students at her school in Albuquerque, Melinda hosted discussions between the two groups every two weeks through WeChat to talk about current events and cultural differences. Then, each student was asked to illustrate, on one half of a canvas, the culture and characteristics of their home city. Next, the half-paintings were shipped overseas to be completed by their counterparts. The 12 finished art pieces, said Melinda, “show that it is the contrast between us that creates something beautiful. We realized that no matter what was happening in the world around us, we had found something with each other that was far more important.”