Duvit Kakunegoda, a junior in Advancement Placement Studio Art, has been named a 2016 Merit Winner in the National YoungArts Foundation Competition. Kakunegoda, who was recognized for his outstanding work in photography, was chosen from a pool of 11,000 entrants.
The competition is conducted by the National YoungArts Foundation, which seeks to showcase the art of talented, bright young minds across the country. In 1981, the Foundation was created by Lin and Ted Arison, who wanted to support the next generation of artists.
According to its website, YoungArts provides members with life-changing experiences as well as affirmation from alumni of the program. Offering scholarships, national recognition and opportunities to advance one’s career in the arts, the foundation offers many opportunities for expanding one’s artistic horizons, and Kakunegoda was not hesitant in participating in the program. He said, “For the YoungArts contest, I entered a group of works consisting of 20 photographs. The majority of the photographs were black and white, consisting of subjects that I had experienced throughout my own life.”
Of the 11,000 entries, only 800 were selected as winners. Kakunegoda, who was honored for his photographic skills, was not optimistic about his chances of being recognized and did not expect the surprise.
“To be honest, I was not sure that I would win. There are a lot of talented artists applying from around the U.S. with great works, and to be one of the winners . . . was quite challenging,” said Kakunegoda.
Despite his doubts, Kakunegoda received an e-mail recognizing his merit. He said, “I was very ecstatic after finding out that I was one of the winners. After being eager to know the results, I finally got the news during recess at school, and I was overwhelmed with joy.”
As a result of the merit, Kakunegoda has been given the chance to attend a YoungArts workshop, where he will be taught pertinent information to expand his creative horizons in photography. “Because I won, I have the opportunity to attend a program . . . sometime in February, which I am very excited about.” Meanwhile, he strives to improve his photography skills by practicing with new techniques in upcoming personal projects.
Kakunegoda believes that Loyola’s Fine Arts program sufficiently prepared him for his triumph in the contest and provided important skills for him to excel. “Taking Mr. [David] Robert’s black and white film photography class taught me the basics, the techniques and what I should look for to produce an outstanding photograph. Additionally, Mrs. Saggese helped me think about what I was shooting and what message I could portray through my photographs.”
Looking back at the competition, Kakunegoda knows that his central takeaway from this experience is his development as a photographer. He said, “During the process of applying to the contest, I was led to analyze and reflect on my work, and it truly showed me where I was and how far I had come from taking pictures as a kid with my dad’s old camera.”