After pandemic and unrest, Marcos teen’s winning bus art offers hope

Sydney Storment, winner of Valley Metro’s art contest, stands aboard the bus wrapped with her design. —Photo by Peter Coronel for Wrangler News

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By Peter Coronel, Special for wranglernews.com

Marcos de Niza High School students took the top two awards in Valley Metro’s 2021 Design a Transit Wrap art contest, and it’s not the first time that Marcos students have placed 1-2 in the annual contest.

Sydney Storment was awarded first place and Kimberley Nunez second place.

This is the 21st year that Valley Metro has sponsored the competition, which drew 48 participants from 18 schools in 11 cities and towns. Storment and Nunez receive $750 and $500, respectively, in prize money, and Storment’s work will wrap a Valley Metro bus and a light-rail car for one year.

The school has had first-place and second-place winners for consecutive years and has had six top-placing contenders in the last five years.

To explain the school’s streak of artistic success, look no further than the woman who chairs the Marcos Art Department: Regan Guzman, a 1996 Marcos alumna, who began her teaching career in 2006. Guzman also operates a business that teaches painting to adults.

“I don’t think (Storment) realized how amazing she was until she just started creating,” Guzman said. “She’s all-over talented. … All I do is provide her with space and she takes off.”

Students and faculty presented Guzman with flowers and applause in recognition of her achievements in the fine-arts program. Providing guidance has been especially challenging during the COVID-19 lockdowns, but educators like Guzman continued to provide much-needed support to struggling students.

Storment’s winning piece, “Together We Go,” is eye-catching with its rich color. The work is a combination of acrylic paint and colored pencil, a vibrant medley of hues. On a deeper level, the work serves as a commentary on current social issues.

“I really wanted to create a piece that would reflect unity through diversity, especially with all the hard things we’ve been through this year, including the pandemic and a lot of social unrest,” Storment said. “I just thought we needed a design that could bring us all together.”

Storment has been a lifelong artist but began pursuing her practice more regularly at about age 12 with colored and graphite pencil. This is her second year entering the Design a Transit Wrap competition.

In 2020, she took second place with her piece, “Ride Out of This World,” which incorporated a blend of space travel and desert landscapes.

With plans to continue honing her skills in fine arts after graduating high school, Storment holds aspirations of becoming an art teacher like her mentor, Guzman, who jokes about her star pupil’s future.

“She’s not allowed to graduate,” Guzman said. “I want her to stick around forever. She could be my teaching assistant.”

Storment’s mother, Amy Storment, shed tears of joy as she approached Guzman to thank her while Storment’s dad, Matthew, beamed.

“This has been such a tough year, and I feel like her art has just completely blossomed,” Amy Storment said.

Young people isolated from their peers, high school students in particular, have had especially difficult obstacles to overcome.

After a year filled with hardship, “Together We Go” is a colorful beacon of hope for Tempe and the East Valley.

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