Student Artwork Getting “More Ambitious” at Noble Schools’ Visual Arts Festival

This image shows three Noble Schools students smiling at some art pieces on the table at the Visual Arts Festival. Behind them, you can see other people viewing all the student artwork displayed in the Chicago Bulls College Prep gym.

Earlier this month, dozens of Noble Schools’ teachers and students, their families and friends, and other community members wandered the Chicago Bulls College Prep gym to view the vast array of drawings, paintings, needle-felted pieces, and other artworks at Noble’s annual Visual Arts Festival.

The event gave students the opportunity to showcase their art in a public space, have it judged by local artists, and learn from one of those artists—Jumoke Taiwo—in a masterclass about creating zines right before the exhibit.

Since starting in 2020, the festival has slowly been growing—390 pieces total were submitted from 10 different Noble campuses this year. The festival exhibit featured 175 of those art pieces, and all 390 were featured on the festival’s website.

“The festival gives students a place that validates their identity as artists… I think it’s really important to shine a light on the artists that are in our network,” said Adam Fuechsl, one of the organizers who has been with the festival since its inception, “Over the years, I’ve seen the submissions slowly increase in quality. Students are getting more ambitious with their artwork and taking more risks, which is great. That’s exactly what we want this festival to do.”

For the 175 pieces displayed at the festival this year, the judges awarded first, second, and third place in each category: Drawing, 2D Mixed Media, 3D, and 2D Digital. Each place came with a small cash prize.

This year’s winning artists were:


  1. Hannah Edmondson – Hansberry College Prep
  2. Manuel Reyes – UIC College Prep
  3. Gisselle Garcia-Ovalle – Noble Street College Prep

2D Mixed Media

  1. Daniel Salas-Alvarez – Noble Street College Prep
  2. Semaj Harrison – Chicago Bulls College Prep
  3. Patrick Okechukwu – Hansberry College Prep


  1. Jocelyn Olguin – Pritzker College Prep
  2. Montserrat – Chicago Bulls College Prep
  3. Dhiren Rampersaud – Pritzker College Prep

2D Digital

  1. Jordan Lowery – Noble Street College Prep
  2. Nicole Macias – Pritzker College Prep
  3. Milton Boni – UIC College Prep

We sat down with the first-place winners in each category and asked them about their piece and their journey as an artist. Check it out:

Hannah Edmondson | Drawing Winner

Photo shows a colorful painting with all the characters from the anime One Piece gathered together and smiling. There is confetti popping all around them. This is an art piece by Hannah Edmondson, a student at Hansberry College Prep.

Hannah Edmondson, a senior at Hansberry College Prep, won first place in the Drawing category for her piece depicting characters from one of her favorite TV shows—”One Piece.”

Q: What inspired you to make this piece?

A: “ ‘One Piece’ is one of my favorite shows, and it’s inspired me a lot. I felt connected to the characters because they’re all on one crew but they have different goals, and they’re going for it together. I like it because of the teamwork, trustworthiness, and character development. They grow along with their friends and that’s how I feel about me, my art, and my friends.”

Q: What was your artistic process in creating this piece?

A: “The challenge was to do it on two posters—which is something I’ve never done before. It was an idea from my friend, Patrick . It’s my first huge piece, and it was successful, and I’m really proud of that.

The process was to draw on the posters with pencil and then get the colors and some references of how the characters look. I take a picture in black and white to test it out in different colors . The One Piece one was the hardest and most challenging because of the coloring, outlining, and shading.”

Q: Tell us about your artistic journey. How did it start, and how did you get to where you are now?

A: “I started to draw when I was young—I’ve had a passion for drawing since third grade. I started off with scribbles and then advanced to animals and plants. Then, I wanted to improve my art by adding color, so that’s when I got into coloring books.

After eighth grade, I stopped drawing because of the pandemic— it really lowered my motivation and dedication to draw. I started drawing again when I got back to high school for my sophomore year because I was encouraged by school and also by Patrick… We were just encouraging each other about our art and giving each other some challenges with pictures from the Internet and seeing who could replicate it the best. It was very fun, and he’s been a great inspiration for me.

So, I haven’t been perfect, but I have been practicing because I want to expand my art and do some painting, graffiti, and sculpting.”

Q: What advice would you give to other student artists?

A: “If you like something, you should share it with the world—like anime! You can do whatever you want once you put your mind to it. Never give up.”

– – –

Hannah plans to go to Columbia College to study studio art. She wants to continue expanding her artwork into other mediums and engage with her other talents like singing!

Daniel Salas-Alvarez | 2D Mixed Media Winner

This image shows a black-and-white oil painting of a crowd in the street. On top of several of the faces are bright green screen-printed squares with numbers in the corner -- it look like a facial recognition software is scanning the crowd. This is an art piece by Daniel Salas-Alvarez, a student at Noble Street College Prep.

Daniel Salas-Alvarez, a senior at Noble Street College Prep, won first place in the 2D Mixed Media category for his piece titled “Surveillance.”

Q: What inspired you to make this piece?

A: “I made ‘Surveillance’ over the summer in 2023. I was inspired by photo grabs of news headlines warning about AI and facial recognition and just, overall, the prevalence of AI and how technology is affecting freedom. ‘Surveillance’ tries to open up the conversation about what is freedom and how freedom can be taken away in different ways.”

Q: What was your artistic process in creating this piece?

A: “It was a mix of two very different styles because I used oil paint on the canvas and screen printing on top of that. This is one of the first few paintings where I’ve been trying to experiment with oil paint and screen printing. Combining them was a pretty daunting challenge, and I think I did a pretty good job.”

Q: Tell us about your artistic journey. How did it start, and how did you get to where you are now?

A: “It’s been a pretty long journey. When I was a kid, I drew on a lot of walls. I distinctly remember a time when I painted using my mom’s nail polish on a piece of photo paper—and I made a big mess. I remember a lot of moments like that where I had bursts of creativity. Those memories stick with me. But, I feel like in the last few years, I’ve been trying to take this whole creative route more seriously—learning about art schools because I actually didn’t know about all these different art schools up until now and all the opportunities you can have as an artist and creative.

When the pandemic came, I got online (just like everyone else), put my head down, and looked at all the artwork the world had to offer. Seeing things through the lens of fine arts was really inspiring to me—like seeing bigger artists lend their craft to more conceptual pieces. I’m specifically talking about artists like Andy Warhol and Piet Mondrian. I also remember seeing a lot of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and other Mexican artists, which also pulled me toward like ‘Hey, you should try this out.’

So, I’ve really picked up momentum for how I want to move around in the art world. I have this idea book where I write down all the plans I have for projects… just, you know, trying different things because I feel like talent doesn’t really lend itself to just one medium—it’s all mediums combined.”

Q: What advice would you give to other student artists?

A: “It’s not about skill. It doesn’t matter what the skill is if you have a vision. A lot of people can regurgitate an idea or a style or theme, but that doesn’t necessarily make a work great. I think what makes a work great is when two different ideas come together and you have a vision. Having a vision and a deliberate sense of purpose when you’re making work—whether that be making it for a friend, the school yearbook, or yourself— helps push artists through the fear of being scared to try something big or new.

Get to work. Turn your ideas into reality. At the end of the day, failure is just an idea. A quote I remember is from Seneca, a Greek philosopher: ‘We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.’ That is true for many different professions, but even more so for artists.”

– – –

Daniel plans to attend college and double major in fine arts and graphic design/architecture. He looks forward to exploring different mediums and getting a foot in the arts industry. In the future, Daniel would like to have a job where he can work for himself, either as a creative director, owning his own media agency, or something else. He’s open to many different pathways that he can take as an artist.

Jocelyn Olguin | 3D Winner

This image shows a needle-felted black, red, and white bunny plushies. The plushie looks like a Queen of Hearts card with a jester collar covered in blood stains and jingle bells. This is an art piece by Jocelyn Olguin, a student at Pritzker College Prep.

Jocelyn Olguin, a junior at Pritzker College Prep, won first place in the 3D category for her needle-felted and hand-sewn bunny plushie named “Arebella.”

Q: What inspired you to make this piece?

A: “I feel like the bunnies represent me, especially the red one since it’s more or less my aesthetic. I like how chaotic it is because I often can’t express myself very clearly—I just say I’m happy or I’m sad, and then it just comes out randomly. I also like horror and cuteness a lot, so why not combine both? So that’s why I made the red bunny—her name is Arebella. The other one I made for fun—her name is Ruby.”

Q: What was your artistic process in creating this piece?

A: “I used wool and felting needles. I have limited time now, so it took me like two weeks. On Sundays, I’d do my work for half of the day, and then the other half, I’d do the bunnies. Sometimes, I spent all day doing the bunnies. For the accessories and belts, I bought fabric and stitched them by hand. I feel very proud of it.”

Q: Tell us about your artistic journey. How did it start, and how did you get to where you are now?

A: “Back in fifth grade, I had an art teacher who taught me bubble letters. I think she inspired me the most because I loved her art style. I really loved doing bubble letters. So, that’s where I feel like it started. I also had an art club where I remember I did my first painting. I still have it to this day.

My art started growing more when I came to Pritzker because I had more access to art supplies. I only did painting before, but now I can needle felt, use clay, make bracelets, do oil painting and watercolors, and use epoxy. I feel like I grew as a person doing art because I used to only do it for projects, but now I feel like it’s a personal hobby and deep emotions. Sometimes, when I get upset or mad, I just end up making something. If I’m worried or anxious, I can just turn to art.”

Q: What advice would you give to other student artists?

A: “You shouldn’t give up on something. Once you put progress into something, you have to commit to it, even if you don’t like it. Because maybe you’ll like it after you finish it.”

– – –

Jocelyn plans to attend college and study medicine because she wants to work in the medical field. She also wants to run an artistic side business where she can sell her needle-felted bunnies and other plushies.

Jordan Lowery | 2D Digital Winner

This image shows a colorful digital painting of a Black mom holding her baby while she is talking on an old-school landline phone. Her eyes are closed and she looks peaceful while the baby is faced away from the viewer. This is an art piece done. by Jordan Lowery, a student at Noble Street College Prep.

A digital painting of two original characters, Ashanti and Ciera, by Jordan Lowery.

Jordan Lowery, a senior at Noble Street College Prep, won first place in the 2D Digital category for her digital painting depicting some of her original characters.

Q: What inspired you to make this piece?

A: “I draw my own original characters that I’ve had since I was 12. My favorite character, Ciera, is the baby in this piece. She’s 19—my age—and she’s currently in college and goes to an art school, but she’s into fashion. With all my original characters, I see a part of me in them. Ciera’s not based off me, but she is a part of me. She’s the side of me being into sewing and making clothes.”

Q: What was your artistic process in creating this piece?

A: “I drew it over winter break when I unfortunately had COVID, so I was in the house. And usually, since I’m in the house, I’ll just be on my iPad and draw. I watched a TikTok ‘90s edit and realized I never had a design for her mama (technically, Ciera would be born in the early 2000s). So, I wanted to add a part of her story involving her mother. The lady holding the baby is her mama, and her name is Ashanti.”

Q: Tell us about your artistic journey. How did it start, and how did you get to where you are now?

A: “I always tell people that it first started out when I was younger. I used to draw on walls a lot. I remember I was gifted an easel by my mama and I’ve just been drawing since. My mom is also an artist, so she’s been encouraging me, giving me tips here and there, and just telling me I’m doing a great job and improving. My Uncle Vigred has also been encouraging me since I was eight. He used to take me to C2E2 and take me to the artists’ alley to show me different artists and make me more serious about drawing.

During 2020, I got an iPad and have been drawing on Procreate since.”

Q: What advice would you give to other student artists?

A: “Do not compare yourself to others because that will discourage you a lot. When you first start drawing, it’s not going to look perfect, so just practice and practice until you think it is good enough. Don’t listen to what everybody else has to say—just know that your drawing makes you happy.”

– – –

Jordan plans to attend Columbia College and either study graphic design or character design and animation. Her dream job would be working on a new cartoon at Nickelodeon or Disney.

Several of the student art pieces in the festival are now being displayed at different partner organizations, including Columbia College, Chicago Public Libraries, and Momentum Coffee, for the next few months.

“It’s just amazing. We have some very talented students across the network, and it’s nice to see such a wide range of skill,” said Rosa Spacucello, the visual arts teacher at Noble Street College Prep.

“The submissions this year are a lot more competitive than they were, I think, in the past few years that we’ve participated. And I think that’s awesome. I think it means that the kids are becoming better artists and are more dedicated to their work,” said Marlene Perez, the art teacher at Pritzker College Prep.

The organizers hope to see the festival grow in the future, both in student submissions and in attendance and engagement at the festival itself.

“My goal is to reach all 18 campuses and get a piece of work submitted from every campus,” Fuechsl said, “I’d also like to increase foot traffic at the exhibition… it is kind of a tragedy that we set this up on Friday night, and it exists for a couple of hours and then goes away forever. It’s a very beautiful space; it’s a very beautiful event. I just wish more people could see it and appreciate the work that our students have done.”

– – –

If you’re interested in learning more about the festival or getting involved next year, please contact Fuechsl at

Submissions for the 2025 Visual Art Festival will open in October. Follow Noble’s social media to stay up-to-date on the network’s latest news and events.

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