Each year, youth ages 14–18 from sister cities across the U.S. and globe submit artwork, poetry, and essays (and new in 2016 short film and photography from ages 13–22) for Sister Cities International’s Young Artists and Authors Showcase. Click here to read the official announcement with a full list of winners and finalists. See below for this year’s art, photography, and literature submissions.
Grand Prize Winners: Art, Photography, and Film
Finalists: Art and Photography
U.S. Art Submissions
International Art Submissions
Photography Submissions via Instagram
Grand Prize Winners: Poetry and Essays
My Vision of Peace — By Hannah Huebsch, Osage, IA
All around the world there is talk about peace,
but somehow the wars and hatred do not cease.
Some may say we need to be accepting and change,
but those who are different seem to be strange.
When something goes wrong we put up all defenses,
but never seem to think about the consequences.
People risk their lives for their nation.
Perhaps war is the world’s worst creation.
We fight for freedom, but ignore the aftermath;
some are winners some face another’s wrath.
Join together president Eisenhower once did say
Open our eyes and see the light of day.
Combine the power of everyone’s voice
and watch the world and it’s people rejoice.
War and hatred can cease
If only people came together and spread the peace
World Disagreement — By Samantha Kamath, Chandler, AZ
When I was five, my definition of peace was a day in my household without any quarrels between my older brother and me — a lost cause. As I grew older, peace meant appeasing others for the sake of avoiding a fight. Now, I’m not entirely sure I ever understood what peace entailed. Was it addressing your problems to find a peaceful solution or not expressing any troubles at all? Peace has always been a goal of the international community — achieving it, keeping it, and spreading it. It is a goal that has yet to be attained. In order to achieve it, we must be able to define peace as a global community.
Conflict and disagreement are seen as exact opposites of peace, but it’s time to rethink this outlook. With so many people and perspectives in our world, it’s impossible to ever reach a point with no conflict at all. Peace must become a method, an ongoing effort, towards creating a better future — not a destination. The question becomes how to act through peace, not how to create it. We must learn to find our common ground as one human race, but also bring with us our disagreements and voice them. We must learn that acting as a unified group doesn’t mean forfeiting our differences, but rather utilizing open discussion and constructive disagreement to advance our society as a whole. We must learn that creating peace through people can only come when we learn to accept our differences, rather than denying they exist. Peace should be about embracing conflict instead of rejecting it, and it can only come by collaborating as a diverse, yet cooperative, global community.
My own life has been full of disagreement. As a first-generation American, it sometimes feels as though my life is split in two. I was raised in a Western society and embody its beliefs. But my immigrant parents have also instilled in me a strong cultural identity that often disagrees with my other half. Although I sometimes feel like a double agent, my culture and heritage gives me a unique perspective of the world around me. And it isn’t only me. People come from all walks of life, all cultures, and all points of views. These difference should be embraced. These differences are valuable. These differences are the keystone to peace. If we communicate with the intention of listening instead of responding, we can create a society where people focus on a way to peacefully solve their disputes.
When I was five, my definition of peace wasn’t nearly as complex as it is now. But I learned something important — that conflicts would always arise no matter our attempts to prevent them. I learned the only way to have peace was to solve our conflicts when they did arise. Maybe my household wasn’t the traditional definition of peaceful, but it taught me about differences. It taught me about disagreement and conflict. And after all, what are older brothers for?
Finalists: Poetry and Essays
Peace through People — By Cristal Ramirez, Santa Clarita, CA
Peace can start with one person who wants to make a change in the world
Everyone could start a chain reaction if they wanted to
An act of kindness is enough
Creating peace is very important
Easier said than done
To make amends with someone you hurt or made upset will bring peace between the two
Hurting those you love or those around you will take you father away from having any bit of peace
Rough endings of arguments bring anger to those involved in the altercation and bickering
Overall, everyone will have a difference in opinions; it is inevitable, no one can stop that
Understand, in order to bring peace into the existence in the world, one must have peace within themselves first
Generate the power of being able to create peace within yourself so you can then establish that peace in other people and in other places of the world
Harbor the ability to bring conciliation to those around you and eventually everywhere you go
Peace is needed in the world
Ending the fighting and the war inside of us will bring us peace
Only we can do it but we have to want it for ourselves
Peace through people
Lacking the peace is not good
Everyone needs to help bring peace through people
Peace through People — By Mattlin Stanek, Stillwater, OK
Our globe is in conflict,
a constant battle rages on.
I dream of it all ending
and the world getting along.
It seems that we can find it,
I think the answer may be simple.
It takes love and forgiveness;
We’ll find peace through people.
What if we all listened a little more
and argued a little less,
Opened our minds to ideas
and let our hearts confess.
Our goals are surely alike;
It shouldn’t be so hard.
We need to listen to each other
and let down our guard.
I believe it starts with a smile,
peace through the people,
be kind to one another,
and be the example.
There’s Not Much ‘I’ Can Do for You — By Dain Ham, Incheon, South Korea
Everyone has at least once felt a sense of impotence in the face of tragic social injustice. The stories of social tragedy come across to us every day through media, and those stories make us think “That is utterly deplorable, but there is not much I can do.” Perhaps, sharing with our friends the sorrow of the tragedy might be the best thing we can do. But is that really the best we can do?
One day, I saw a picture of a lifeless body, Aylan Kurdi via the BBC. The boy, who ended his days so early while escaping from the Syrian civil war, was lying his face down on a Turkish beach. That one picture was worth a thousand words. I felt miserable and at the same time, extremely helpless. The boy and the Syrian refugees were a million miles away from where I live, Incheon, South Korea. But I believed that I could do something more than just talking with my friends about something horrible that was happening to Syrian refugees.
I gathered my school club members and showed them the picture of Alyan Kurdi. We discussed it and came up with an idea to throw a campaign. We organized our campaigns by dividing our roles into four teams, each dealing with explaining current situations of Syria, gathering signatures for accepting Syrian refugees, and fund raising for them. About 189 signatures were collected and a lot of students donated their money instead of buying snacks. Funded money was delivered to UNICEF with the donator name written “Michuhol Foreign Language High School”.
I can’t say our actions changed the world or achieved peace, but still I am proud of myself since this time, I didn’t just end of sympathizing with a sad story that caught many ears. Instead, I raised my voice for the first time.
However, my thoughts would have just been an echo if I were alone trying to do something. My voice was heard by others since there were people with me who desired the same outcome. The wind beneath my wings helped me to practice what I desire: a peaceful world.
I’m a high school student whose job is studying. There’s not much thing ‘I’ can do to help others. But there must be something when ‘we’ try to help others in spite of the limitations around us. Let’s not end up simply talking with your friends about how the world is full of chaos. If every individual only talks and takes no action, how is the world going to change? I experienced my voice becoming louder when I was together with other people and that I can be more confident about myself. Instead of leaving your thoughts as a tiny echo, make your voice become ‘our’ voice. Then, the chance of your voice being heard by others will increase surprisingly. A tiny voice gathers, and does something that you might not have done by yourself.
Fighting Indifference — By Katherine Kann, Phoenix, AZ
We hope for peace, we yearn for peace, we pray for peace, but can we ever really have it? “Peace” is unattainable; there will never be a world without disease, without natural disasters, and without pain. An idyllic world where everyone agrees and no one makes mistakes is inconceivable. But peace, the kind that stems from making connections and from respecting the lives of others, is wholly possible.
What stops us from attaining such harmony is worldwide apathy. If we do not see past our immediate circle and consider how we affect others, our actions may have negative impacts. We all make sincere efforts to improve our lives and the lives of those we love, but it is far more challenging to look past what we can see and care for people from whom we are separated by entire continents. Sometimes indifference may arise because we do not realize the extent of the problems plaguing our world. The only resolution for this lack of knowledge is education, which is essential in the process of raising awareness. Unfortunately, awareness can only help to a certain extent since many people are indifferent for a separate reason. Their indifference arises because the issue affects neither them nor those they love. As a consequence, they fail to see why or how they should help solve the problems of unrelated communities.
If worldwide issues do not appear in our everyday lives, it is far easier to forget about them than to take action and make a difference. Conquering the mentality of indifference starts with valuing others’ lives. Creating connections across the world gives us personal investment in foreign plights; these precious connections are built through people-to-people exchanges. Personal relationships give us a chance to eliminate the “out-of-sight-out-of-mind” mentality. Walking in someone else’s shoes in a person-to-person exchange can help us see that one person’s challenges should not be forgotten. We can learn to love those outside of our immediate communities and this love can inspire us to acknowledge the challenges of others and positively change lives.
Understanding the lives of people from different communities and in turn sharing your life with them can build worldly respect. A deep respect for all lives makes us conscious of how our actions may have positive ripple affects. If we can all think on this worldly scale, peace is within reach. Learning to value others, no matter how far away they may be, can extinguish indifference. Issues that may not have concerned you in the past become personal battles; struggles that you never knew of become firsthand experiences; people who never made a difference to you become your best friends. By connecting people of different societies, bonds are formed and thereby a more concerned world is built. While eliminating all mistakes and uncontrollable disasters is impossible, finding peace by fighting indifference is more than reasonable — it is absolutely achievable.