Olentangy Berkshire Middle School student Gabriela Tiberi took home first place in the sixth grade art category of the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Art, Writing & Multimedia Contest. Students in grades 6-12 from all around Ohio entered the contest, held by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC), and were able to choose which platform they wished to enter.
This year’s contest centered around a theme of “keep moving,” inspired by King’s famous quote in which he said, “If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving.”
Students were then asked the questions of how they’ve responded to challenges or setbacks, what it brought out in them, and how they kept moving forward.
After hearing about the contest from a teacher, Tiberi was originally interested in submitting a writing entry. However, after initially hitting a wall in trying to come up with a written piece, she decided to shift her focus to the art category.
Her motivation for dedicating time and effort — more than 24 hours in total — to the contest stemmed from wanting to “spend my time doing something so I can get a good reputation, and do well and have something to look forward to.”
Tiberi elected to create a drawing as her entry, depicting a galaxy with the Alzheimer’s Association logo and cancer awareness ribbon in the forefront. Asked about the inspiration for her art, Tiberi said the drawing doesn’t represent her own challenges but rather those of people close to her.
“One of my mom’s friends, she had cancer,” Tiberi told The Gazette. “She knew she was going to die soon, but she still got married, had fun with the time she had left, and kept moving forward.”
As for the Alzheimer’s element, Tiberi’s grandfather is currently battling the disease, and she has seen up close how the disease affects both the person inflicted with it and those taking care of them.
Tiberi said she chose to depict a galaxy behind the two logos because “in space, you can’t stop moving,” which she added is what everyone facing the diseases need to do. The stars are meant to represent all who have the disease but have never given up, instead choosing to move forward and overcome obstacles.
Along with their entry, students were instructed to include a paragraph explaining the correlation between their art and the theme of the contest.
“Everyone faces a challenge or setback sometime in their life,” Tiberi wrote. “Some people have bigger ones, and some people have smaller ones. But no matter what, the part that matters is how you react to it.”
Tiberi said she didn’t have any expectations of winning after submitting her entry, figuring there would be plenty more students with enhanced art skills also competing. After hearing she had won the contest, Tiberi said she was “really excited and really proud” to have come out on top.
Tiberi’s mother, Denice, is also very proud of her daughter’s accomplishment, saying, “She really put a lot of time into it. So, I was kind of hoping that she was going to win. But we just didn’t know how many people were entering it. It was a very proud moment. She took it all on herself and just wanted to do it.”
Of course, the ultimate goal of the contest is to honor King’s legacy, and Tiberi said the determination of King really stood out to her as she went about creating her entry. “He did a lot of good work, and I thought it would be cool to represent him for that,” she said.
Winners in each category will be honored by the OCRC in a virtual award ceremony, which can be accessed at crc.ohio.gov/PublicAffairs/MLKContest.aspx.