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April 06, 2022

AHA Senior Gian Lee Wins National Gold Medal for Art

Gian Lee, a senior at the Academy of the Holy Angels, earned a National Gold Medal in the 2022 Scholastic Art & Writing Competition. She was recognized for her painting, “Photosynthesis,” which depicts the artist’s shadow cast onto lush foliage.


“(‘Photosynthesis’) was inspired by a photograph that I took in the bushes and plants growing behind the studio where I made art over the summer,” the Englewood Cliffs resident explained. “I really liked how my shadow looked over the many layers of different plants and I wanted to try capturing all the details in a painting.
“I feel very honored to earn national recognition for my art since there are so many other talented artists,” she said of her medal.


Lee’s assertion is correct. Over 100,000 teens from the United States and Canada entered their work in the 2022 Scholastic competition. Approximately 2,000 of those who entered this prestigious, 99-year-old event received national medals, and fewer than one percent of those who medaled received gold. Judges evaluate entries based on originality, technical skill, and artistic vision without knowledge of the contributor’s age, gender, or ethnicity. (Source:
Earning national recognition has left Lee feeling even more motivated to continue creating art. That news is apropos: This fall, she will begin working toward a fine art degree at the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University.
Lee, who specializes in surrealistic works, has been studying art at AHA since her freshman year. She is currently a student in Christine DeGennaro’s Advanced Placement Studio Art course and takes private art lessons. Her imaginative, colorful, and detailed works include surprising elements that hold viewers’ attention well beyond a casual, appreciative glance.


“One of the things that makes Gian so special as a student is that she is not just technically excellent in drawing and painting, but that she is always experimenting with media in new ways, and this opens doors in her art,” DeGennaro said, adding that this is how Lee stands out to her as a student.


Lee’s national medal is the latest in an impressive collection of awards. Prior to Scholastic’s national event, Lee earned four Gold Keys, four Silver Keys, and four Honorable Mentions for her art, and an Honorable Mention for her writing in the regional leg of the Scholastic competition.


In the fall of 2021, Lee received first place accolades in both the American Art Awards and the Congressional Art Awards in District 9.
Her painting, “Left Behind,” earned Lee first place honors in the Congressional Art Awards, and was exhibited at the U.S. Capitol. This piece was inspired by her grandfather, who has Alzheimer’s disease.


Lee also won first, fourth, and fifth place in the American Art Awards. Her paintings, “Forbidden Still Life” and “Left Behind,” finished first and fourth, respectively. “Eyes of the Beholder” finished fifth.


Lee also earned Scholastic’s Gold Keys in 2021 for “Left Behind” and her sculpture, “Red, ‘Yellow,’ and Blue.” She received a Silver Key for her photo, “Figure and Ground.” Lee also brought home three Honorable Mentions in writing for her poem, “Pepper Flake,” and two personal essays, “Adultescent” and “Maybe it was the Rain.” The previous year, Lee earned Honorable Mentions in the photography and poetry categories.


Since she entered AHA, Lee has explored media, film, and production through Angels on Air. She is currently co-president of this organization. Her activities have also included work with DECA and Fashion Angels. As part of a Young Neighbors in Action summer service trip, she helped young girls build mini-robots using ordinary objects that included toothbrushes, wires, and batteries. Lee has also been a volunteer tutor through Give Chances, and helped rebuild post-hurricane Puerto Rico as a member of Fiesta4Hope. She played clarinet for the Academy Orchestra, and now pursues her musical interests outside of school.


Lee’s academic and artistic achievements have earned her membership in the National Honor Society, the Science National Honor Society, and the National Art Honor Society.


Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County.