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Murray Journal

Murray boy honored at national Reflections competition

Sep 05, 2019 03:20PM ● By Julie Slama

Grant Elementary student Brixon Southwick holds a banner presented to him by Utah PTA at his school in honor of his national Reflections award of merit accomplishment. (Photo courtesy of Megan Southwick)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

“Try your hardest and have fun.”

Those are the profound words of Grant Elementary student Brixon Southwick to others who are interested in competing in the National PTA Reflections contest. Brixon recently received a bronze medal as a national award of merit winner in his age group in the Reflections contest.

His stop-motion film entry, “Heroes Around Me,” which matched the 2018-19 theme, will be part of the national traveling exhibition, which will begin at the U.S. Department of Education in January 2020 and will conclude in June in Louisville, Kentucky.

For 50 years, more than 300,000 students from pre-kindergarten through high school seniors annually create original works of art in line with a student-selected theme. Students submit their completed works of art in one or all of the available arts categories: dance choreography, film production, literature, music composition, photography and visual arts. Student winners have a chance to compete at their school level through nationals.

The theme for this school year is “Look Within.” 

This summer, while Brixon was trying to get ideas for the theme he posted on his family’s refrigerator, he was still excited about the national award.

“I have 16 trophies in my room with football, taekwondo, soccer, wrestling and now four from Reflections,” he said. 

Brixon, who learned to make stop motion in kindergarten from his dad, said he won his school Reflections film category last year, but didn’t place at district. This year, he not only won those, but also was first at state, which was held at Cottonwood High in April.

“It surprised me when I learned I would be going to nationals. I was excited and proud when I learned I won state because I hadn’t gotten that far before,” he said. 

Utah PTA Director of Communications Amy Choate-Nielsen said for Brixon and other Utahns to be selected for national recognition amongst 50,000 entries “says a lot about their talent and ability to express themselves.” Only 200 students compete at the national level.

“Reflections is a valuable program that allows children and teens to think through difficult concepts and experiences,” she said. “It’s also very cool that it adapts itself over time to include animation and 3D art. We’re proud of our students who have created expressions of art and have gone on to the national level.”

While Choate-Nielsen said there is no record of number of Utahns who have competed and placed at nationals, she said the state regularly does have winners because “Utah celebrates the arts and it’s really important to our culture. It’s a testimonial to parents for strongly supporting and volunteering with the program, and to students, who use it as an artistic outlet of expression.”

Utah has been instrumental in the development of Reflections, with Jean Irwin, the arts education program manager with the division of Utah Arts and Museums for almost three decades, encouraging the addition of film production and dance choreography to the program in 2005, and then the state piloting both theater and 3D art as categories, which the latter was added after the trial run, Choate-Nielsen said.

Brixon, who was one of 30 state winners in Utah, used Legos to create his story in his film. It features a dog chasing a cat around a table and into the yard, where the cat escapes by climbing a tree. However, when the owner can’t get the cat down, he calls the police. After the officer’s first attempt to rescue the cat by standing on his motorcycle to reach the kitty fails, he comes back with a ladder and is able to reunite the pet with the owner. 

“We don’t have cats because Mom is allergic and I used to want to be a police officer, but now I want to be an archeologist or a scientist,” he said. “I’m just having fun doing stuff I like. I used my dad’s blue shirt as the backdrop because there are little dots in perfect circles that look like clouds.”

His mother, Megan, said it was fun to see her son excited.

“He would say to me, ‘Mom, I think I’m famous” or asking me ‘if I win nationals, do you think I get to meet the president?’” she said.