Each year, I can’t wait to receive the semi-finalists artwork from our Science Without Borders® Challenge, which is even more incredible in person than it is online. Our judges have the difficult job of evaluating all this incredible artwork, which is no easy task. Once the artwork is judged, I can breathe a sigh of relief. That is when one of my favorite tasks begins – contacting the winners.
This year, I had the pleasure of meeting Amy Hyobin Pyo, the first-place winner in the category for students 11-14 years old. Amy is a 12-year-old student at Tenafly Middle School in New Jersey. What I learned about Amy is that she already had a passion for the ocean before participating in this contest. Despite her passion for the ocean, she prefers art to science classes. Amy is artistically minded but shared with me that she has a new appreciation for science after participating in the art contest, stating, “I really thought science was more about studying motion and conducting labs. Now I know that studying animals in the ocean is another part of science that I really enjoy learning about.”
Amy started taking art classes in Korea in the first grade and continues to take extra classes at YM Studio. She hopes to one day become an artist or an animator. Although Amy has a bright future as an artist, she is very humble about her artistic abilities. Amy was less apt to talk about her artwork but spoke instead about the other finalists’ art. Amy commented, “The other finalists’ artwork really inspired me and taught me even more about the ocean and how humans are damaging it.” She also stated how interesting it was to see so many different beautiful styles of artwork.
Learn more from my interview with Amy about what she learned from this experience, why she wants others to learn about coral reefs, and so much more. Our conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
An Interview with Amy Hyobin Pyo
Q: Why are you excited to win this art contest?
A: I am excited to win this art contest because many people will see my art and realize that the coral reefs are in great danger. I hope my art inspires them to help the coral reefs in their daily lives.
Q: What inspired you to create your art piece?
A: My memories of my childhood inspired me to create my art. Marine life has always been so close to me, when I realized people were harming it, I wanted to do everything I could. However, only a few people out of so many on the earth saving water and recycling would not help the ocean as fast as they needed. So, when I found out about this contest, I started researching how we could save the ocean in a more efficient way and found out scientists were breeding coral reefs. I loved this idea and wanted people to know and support it.
Q: Why is the ocean important to you?
A: As a young age, I enjoyed watching shows about helping marine life, and going to the beach. I loved seeing my two favorite creatures, dolphins and sea turtles. When I learned that the coral reefs provided a home for them, I was more interested than I already was. The ocean was always like my best friend I never wanted to lose.
Q: What do you want people to get out of the artwork you created?
A: I want people to be inspired and continue saving the corals in the future, so that they will be protected as well as creatures in the ocean. Most importantly, I want them to spread this great message and improve our world by sharing the idea with others.
Q: What did you learn by participating in the Science Without Borders® Challenge?
A: When I first started painting my art, I wanted to win 1st place. However, as I started learning and researching more about the coral reefs, I realized not only winning the contest. It was more important to send a greater message to the world that these creatures are in danger, and how people are saving them. Not only that I want to let people know how scientists and researchers are saving the coral reefs, I want to inspire people that they can also do anything to save these creatures.
ARTIST’S STATEMENT: Coral reefs provide a home for diverse creatures in the ocean. However, because of pollution and climate change caused by humans, coral reefs are disappearing rapidly. Many creatures are losing their habitats and hiding places from their predators. Scientists are researching and studying how to breed corals in laboratories to find the right environment for them to flourish. In the painting, a scientist is portrayed as a mother nurturing a baby. She has her child (baby corals) in her arm and is gingerly touching the coral with the hope of giving it a better future. Baby corals, in water tanks, are under lights in a protected environment. The table in front of the mother has corals that were successfully bred and are ready to restore the natural habitat for many creatures in need. We need to work together to save the ocean’s treasure, as it can save us all in return.