North County High School senior Ashely Lim didn't intend to turn the school's hallways into her own virtual art exhibition. But there on a wall in the school's physical education area is a testament to her creativity, a colorfully painted sports mural she calls "Gym" that features athletic wear, sporting equipment and a foaming splash of waves that helps give the work its energy and radiance.
"Pretty, isn't it? She did a good job," said North County physical education teacher Nick Cosentino as he walked by. Then he turned to Lim and said, "It's good to see you're being recognized."
That recognition includes the National Art Education Association (NAEA) 2012 Rising Stars Secondary Recognition Award, which Lim recently received at the organization's national convention in New York City.
The Rising Stars Secondary Recognition Program promotes art education by recognizing members of the National Art Honor Society, which the NAEA began in 1978 for high school students who show interest in art.
Lim, an officer in North County's newly formed National Art Honor Society, is the only high school student in the country — and the third straight from Anne Arundel public schools — to win the award.
Southern High School student Louis Fratino won the award in 2011, and Southern student Katie Emmitt won in 2010.
The award is part of a string of national honors for Lim, 18, of Glen Burnie, who said her family immigrated to the U.S. from Korea when she was 12 for the education. Back then, she said, she spoke little English, and saw art as a means of communicating with teachers, classmates and friends.
"I still wasn't that good in middle school," Lim said. "But after I got to high school, I knew I was going to go into the art field in the future, so I took art classes and learned more about it.
"I think that here you have more freedom to enjoy what you want to do," said Lim. "For me, I don't think that I would be able to experience art this much if I was in Korea, and I would not be getting awards like the Rising Stars award."
In addition to the sports mural, which is a work in progress, Lim designed and helped paint a music mural on a wall near the school's music department. And she has on display other pieces of artwork, including a kiln-fired glazed pot.
All this from a student who took an interest in art at 5, when family and friends gave her frequent compliments on her drawings.
Three years ago, Lim captured NASA's Goddard Celebrates 50 Years of Technology Spinoffs Art Contest. The contest allowed middle and high school students across the country to demonstrate NASA's scientific achievements through art.
Lim's painting, which featured a space shuttle launch with a Statue of Liberty backdrop, was presented to the National Park Service at the Statue of Liberty.
Two years ago, Lim's work was featured among that of three dozen state high school students in a juried exhibition as part of the U.S. Department of Education's Student Art Exhibit Program.
Lim aspires to be an art educator. She has applied to the Maryland Institute College of Art and said she has been accepted into Towson University, the University of Maryland Baltimore County and the School of Visual Arts in New York City.
"She's a great student, a great person," said North County Principal Bill Heiser. "When we first heard about the award, we said that we wanted to make sure we get her to New York and also support the teachers who have been influential."
He said that North County art department chair James Dell and art instructor Jordyn Roemer accompanied Lim to New York. "Her teachers have a great impact on her and have allowed her to take on projects that are outside the normal curriculum, which is really important," Heiser said.
Sometimes doing artwork for school display can have its setbacks. Lim said that as she has worked on the sports mural, some students took exception to equipment that wasn't painted in school colors.
"There were all different comments about it. That was hard," Lim said.
But she said students mostly have offered compliments. She said she intends to finish the sports mural before graduation. "People say my name and think about me when there is art stuff going on," she said. "They appreciate me, and I really like that."