PARIS — Oxford Hills Technical School junior Culiandra Nero has been an artist for most of her formative years. And a competitive one too.

The South Paris resident is one of seven high school students to win The New York Times’ Learning Network cartoon contest, which had 850 submissions from around the country.

Culiandra Nero of South Paris, left, a junior at Oxford Hills Technical School in Paris, holds her winning cartoon in a contest sponsored by The New York Times. Graphic design instructor Virginia Valdes, right, posted the contest on the online classroom. Submitted photo

“Our teacher posts different contests on our online classroom,” Nero said. “We can choose whether to enter and then work on it on our own time. She is always available to give advice and that kind of thing. I had some free time after school so I decided to do it.”

The theme was news events in October 2019. Nero chose the impact of Hong Kong’s political situation on the National Basketball League, specifically showing the irony of NBA player LeBron James’ statements about Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey’s support for Hong Kong protesters. It includes a depiction of China’s Xi Jinping as Winnie the Pooh.

The cartoon can be viewed, along with the other six winners and honorable mention/runner-up submissions, at The New York Times website.

Recently, Nero submitted work in the Scholastic Arts & Writing competition and is waiting to hear results. Last year, she won a silver award in that competition and was runner-up in Maine’s Congressional Arts Competition.


Her next competition is Oxford Hills Technical School’s Annual Tech Challenge on Tuesday to showcase her advertising designs. She did well enough in last year’s challenge to represent Maine at the national competition.

Art has flowed from Nero’s fingers for some time.

“I started drawing when I was small,” she said. “I’ve always liked creating, and art was the most accessible outlet for me.”

Nero joined the Gifted and Talented Program at Paris Elementary School when she was in the fourth grade. Once she reached Oxford Hills Middle School, she continued her craft, joining the Art Club.

She is in her second year of Oxford Hills Technical School’s graphic design program and plans to major in art in college. Besides illustration, Nero also works with photography and typography.

Culiandra Nero of South Paris produced these artistic works as a student in the Oxford Hills Technical School graphic design program in Paris. Supplied photo

Her accomplishments will be listed on her college applications. She is looking at East Coast schools with top quality art programs, such as the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, or Ringling College of Art & Design in Sarasota, Florida.

“But I’ve been encouraged to consider schools in California too,” Nero said.

Nero would like to forge a career in illustration, either as a storyboard or concept artist. Studying on the West Coast aligns with her goals to work in the entertainment industry, she said.

“Culiandra is super talented,” her instructor, Virgina Valdes, said. “And no matter what I ask of her, she is always on top of it.”

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