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Pacific Ridge junior honored for ‘Sparring is Training’ film

CARLSBAD — Sophia Mickelson has always had a passion for the arts, and it looks like her fondness has paid off.  

She is among 18 finalists from Southern California to be honored at Young Arts Week 2019 as a YoungArts winner for her dance film “Sparring is Training.”

Mickelson, 17, an animator/filmmaker, is among some of the nation’s most promising young artists in the visual, literary, design and performing arts.

YoungArts winners gain access to one of the most comprehensive programs for emerging artists in the United States, offering financial, professional and artistic development opportunities over the course of their careers.

“I’ve always loved art, and because of that I have naturally always spent a lot of time creating things: drawings, film, photography, dance, jewelry, anything,” Mickelson said. “For me there was never a moment of discovery in terms of ‘talent,’ more so just a deep understanding of my love for art and a constant desire to keep improving what I make.”

Mickelson said she is grateful that her family has always encouraged
her self-expression and creativity. Courtesy photo

“Most of my work so far has been heavily tied to dance and has some animation incorporated as well,” she said. “I’m sure that will change as time goes on and my creative process evolves. As for other media, I do a lot of film photography, concert photography through a press company I created, and many, many drawings.”

Mickelson said she was excited to be named a YoungArts finalist participating in National YoungArts Week in January among 159 other students.

“It is such an honor — something I feel immense gratitude for and will never take for granted,” she said. “To be a finalist still feels surreal. While it is validating, it has also been humbling and a huge motivator for me to work harder at my craft. I’ve never been in an environment like YoungArts where I was not only surrounded by an insane amount of talent, but also an overwhelming amount of support and love. I left YoungArts week with a renewed passion for my craft and an excitement to learn more.”

She plans to pursue a career in the film industry and said storytelling in this medium is powerful.

“I’m drawn to many different paths within it and hope to evolve as an artist throughout my career,” she said.

As for where she gets some of her artistic background, Mickelson said her mom was a dancer and dance instructor, and her younger brother is a musician.

“Other than them, I’m the only artist in the family,” she said.

Is she ready to possibly be a “starving artist” if she has to if she wants to follow her dreams?

“Unfortunately, finding a stable flow of income is a challenge for most artists, and is becoming increasingly difficult as the professional landscape changes and stable jobs offering benefits become harder and harder to come across,” she said. “I plan on pursuing the ideal of being able to support myself through my craft and will otherwise utilize knowledge about business that I hope to acquire from college classes, to provide for myself.”

Some of her favorite artists who she follows and looks up to “pervades many different mediums.” For example, her favorite dancers are Keone & Mari Madrid, Phillip Cheeb and Emma Portner.

Favorite media artists are Shephard Fairey, Barbara Krueger, Frida Kahlo and Jean Michel Basquiat. Her top music artists are NoName, Kali Uchis, Frank Ocean and Ms. Lauryn Hill.

“As for film, I’m a big fan of Greta Gerwig, Quentin Tarantino, Wes Andersen, Sean Baker, Issa Rae … and in music video specifically, I love Cara Stricker, Karena Evans and Hiro Murai,” she said.

In her spare time, Mickelson likes to draw, listen to music, and spend a lot of time researching film-related or other.

“I also work at Building Block dance where I work on digital media and take classes,” she said. “I love any opportunity to go somewhere new, and any chance to be creative with my friends. But I also love staying at home and conceptualizing videos, watching movies, and spending time with my family.”

And while she is excited about being named a winner in the YoungArts, she said she thanks her family for their unwavering support.

“They encouraged me to express my passion and creativity,” she said. “For that I am so grateful. I would like to thank them for their unconditional love and support.”

The YoungArts Winners 2019 winners will receive cash prizes of up to $10,000, access to mentors and opportunities to share their work with the public at renowned institutions such as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington, D.C.), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Baryshnikov Arts Center (New York) and New World Center (Miami).

Selected through a blind adjudication process conducted by an independent panel of highly accomplished artists, the 2019 winners represent the top 10 percent of applications.

Of this year’s 710 winners, some have been awarded for excellence in multiple disciplines at various levels. Altogether, 725 awards have been attributed: 163 have been named Finalists, the organization’s highest honor; 268 are Honorable Mentions and 294 are Merit winners.

Finalists are also eligible for nomination to the White House-appointed Commission on Presidential Scholars.

As the sole nominating agency, YoungArts selects 60 finalists each year, 20 of whom are invited to become U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts, one of the highest honors for graduating high school seniors.

The National YoungArts Foundation (YoungArts) was established in 1981 by Lin and Ted Arison to identify and nurture the most accomplished young artists in the visual, literary, design and performing arts, and assist them at critical junctures in their educational and professional development.

Through a wide range of annual programs, regular performances, and partnerships with some of the nation’s leading cultural institutions, YoungArts aspires to create a strong community of alumni and a platform for a lifetime of encouragement, opportunity and support. 

For more information, visit youngarts.org, Facebook or Twitter.

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