Oolite Arts Recognizes New World School of the Arts Alumni / Faculty with The Ellie Awards

Oolite Arts announced The Ellies awards this year, selecting New World School of the Arts college alumni and faculty members, Leo Castañeda and Christina Friday, as recipients of 2021 Creator Awards. Other NWSA alumni to win the 2021 Creator Awards include Morel Doucet and Naomi Fisher. In addition, Loni Johnson – NWSA 1998 visual arts high school graduate, was recognized as this year’s Social Justice Award winner.

“Friday recently joined NWSA as a faculty member, and she teaches our Business of Art class, where our students learn how to become working artists after graduation.,” explained O. Gustavo Plascencia, Dean of Visual Arts at NWSA. “Friday has brought fresh air and a current approach to the professional practices of the working artist to the class. Her career path thus far can serve as a roadmap for our current students. This award will not only advance her professional career as an artist, but our students will benefit from her mentorship as they embark on a career of their own. Castañeda, who teaches 3D animation to our high school students, recently traveled to Basel Switzerland to work on an exhibition there. While traveling he taught his class remotely and the students were able to experience part of the process with him.”

Leonardo Castaneda is an artist working in the intersection of virtual reality, gaming, painting, performance, and interactive sculpture. Castaneda’s work deploys and deconstructs the socio-economic, racial, mythological, and post-human anatomies embedded in the structure of video games. Castaneda received his BFA from Cooper Union in 2010, and in 2014 received his MFA at Hunter College. Residencies include SOMA Summer in Mexico City attended through the Cisneros Foundation (2014), “Of Games III” at Khoj International Artists Association, New Delhi India (2015), and the Bronx Museum AIM program (2017). He was a Visiting Instructor at Florida International University from 2017-2019 teaching 3d Animation, Drawing, and Visual Thinking. Leonardo is a current resident artist at Oolite Arts and has been since 2018.

Christina Friday is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and works in Miami. Her portfolio features works on paper, murals, video, projections, sculpture, illustration, photography and more recently, curating and activism through social practice. Incorporating a chalk and blackboard aesthetic, which plays on the idea of learning and being taught, Friday investigates themes of Identity, Race, Gender, Sexuality and the effects of popular culture and mainstream narratives on the perceptions of Black bodies. Identifying problematic perspectives and their origins, questioning their legitimacy, and offering possible solutions is priority in her work. Friday received her Master of Fine Arts in 2020, and her BFA in 2015 from New World School of the Arts, where she is the current instructor of Professional Practices in visual arts.

“As a professor, I’m aware that what I accomplish in my professional career can effect whether or not my words hold any weight in the classroom. What I learn from this award process and eventual implementation of my ideas, will allow me to effectively teach my students how to do the same in their own careers,” said Friday.

Loni Johnson is a multi-disciplinary visual artist born and raised in Miami. As an artist, educator, mother and activist, Ms. Johnson understands that as artists, there is a cyclical obligation to give back and nurture our communities with her creative gift and it must be utilized to better our world. Through movement and ritual, the artist creates healing spaces for Black women and explores how ancestral and historical memory informs how, when and where we enter and claim spaces. Johnson graduated from New World School of the Arts in 1998 from the high school program and in 2003 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from SUNY at Purchase College School of Art and Design.

The Ellies, Miami’s Visual Arts Awards, are offered in four categories to support Miami-Dade working and emerging artists, art educators and established, professionally accomplished artists. The awards include the Michael Richards Award, the Social Justice Award, the Creator Awards, and the Teacher Travel Grants Awards. The Ellies were named in honor of Oolite Arts’ founder, Ellie Schneiderman, a visionary who recognized the power of supporting artists in their work. As Ellie often said, Oolite Arts is here to “help artists help themselves.” The Ellies Creator Awards support working artists with grants of $2,500 to $25,000 to realize a significant visual arts project that will advance their careers.

New World School of the Arts was created by the Florida Legislature as a center of excellence in the performing and visual arts. It is an educational partnership of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Miami Dade College, and the University of Florida. Aspiring artists in the NWSA Visual Arts division can join other exceptionally talented students as they engage in the pursuit of their artistic career in the visual, graphic, or electronic arts. Trained by nationally renowned practicing artists, students at New World School of the Arts are encouraged to develop a personal, artistic, and aesthetic vision while mastering their technical skills in traditional and new media. Students are allowed to explore new paths while at the same time being exposed to the work of both classical and contemporary masters. Through disciplined training in traditional and new media, students develop new skills and refine others while gaining invaluable understanding of the roles of art and design in society. Areas of concentration include Art & Technology, Drawing, Graphic Design, Painting, Photography, and Sculpture. Information about the NWSA Visual Arts division at 305-237-3620.

A Florida center of excellence in the visual and performing arts, NWSA provides a comprehensive program of artistic, creative, and academic development through a curriculum that reflects the rich multicultural state of Florida. With programs accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art, Dance, Music and Theater, NWSA offers four-year BFA and BM college degrees, as well as the high school diploma. Through its rigorous curriculum and conservatory-style teaching NWSA empowers its students to become leaders in the arts. Information about New World School of the Arts at 305-237-3135 or at http://nwsa.mdc.edu/