In just a few weeks young Belfast artist Shayna Velasquez has captured the feelings of people from across Northern Ireland during the lockdown with her award-winning work of art ‘Solidarity’.Inspired by the dedication and professionalism of medical staff across the region during the coronavirus pandemic, Shayna’s painting was judged top among nearly three hundred entries in the Radius ‘Art from the Heart’ competition. Now, the 16 year old from Belfast has presented a unique print of her winning entry to the Health Minister, Robin Swann MLA, as a way of saying thank you to all those working in the Health Service in recent months.

Shayna’s artwork was picked from hundreds of entries by expert judges to be the overall winner of the Radius Housing Art from the Heart Competition, which called on young people from across Northern Ireland to paint and draw images of how they felt the community was responding to the crisis. The artwork presented today will hang in the Department of Health as a thank you, and a way to remember the dedication of health care workers in recent times.

Speaking at the presentation, Shayna Velasquez, who is a Year 12 pupil at Aquinas Diocesan Grammar School, said: “I’m really happy to win the competition, but also to present this copy of my artwork to the Health Minister today as a way of saying thank you to all health workers on behalf of young people across Northern Ireland.”

“I wanted to create a piece that resonates with everyone, that reminds us of people’s selfless acts, how we had to adjust to the new normal and how we have supported each other during the pandemic. I wanted to address health workers directly to tell them that they are not alone and that we all are playing our part in flattening the curve,” she added.

Eileen Patterson, Radius Housing Director of Communities, said “The aim of our Art from the Heart Competition was to help spread positivity and support right across the community during the pandemic. The volume and quality of the entries show just how much young people care about the Health Service, the community and family. Shayna’s entry stood out among all, as it captured so much of the effort everyone has been making to help people through this difficult time, not least the health service.

“On behalf of Radius, I am delighted that Shayna’s artwork is being presented to the Health Minister as a token of all our gratitude and thanks to the health service and frontline staff who have been there to protect us. I hope that this will be a sign of hope for everyone,” she added.

Health Minister, Robin Swann, said “There is no doubt that the front line health service staff across Northern Ireland are the heroes of this pandemic, and they are rightly being recognised by the whole community. We’ve seen this through the clap for carers and the bright rainbows in the windows of so many homes. Now, thanks to Radius Housing’s Art from the Heart competition winner, Shayna Velasquez, we have this beautiful piece that can remind everyone in the health service of how grateful people are for their efforts.”

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