Honors mount for
art contest winner
By Laura Emery, Deputy Editor
Whether it is in the stroke of a paintbrush on canvas, the placement of a Lego block, the movement of a chess piece or the strike of a piano key, you can be guaranteed that 8-year-old Vihaan Panjwani of Ashburn, Va., has put a lot of thought into it.
That extra thought caught the eye of this year’s annual Cooperative Living Youth Art Contest judges.
The judges knew they had found a Best in Show winner in Vihaan’s precisely penciled art contest submission. The winning artwork, created with art pastels and colored pencils, addressed this year’s theme of “How Pets Make Life Better” in four ways. “They help you stay fit, they help you be more responsible, they help keep you safe from strangers and they give you company as a friend,” Vihaan wrote on his art that was divided into quadrants.
Vihaan, however, has only ever had a pet fish.
“I was inspired by the things around me,” says Vihaan, a rising third-grader at Madison’s Trust Elementary School. “For example, my neighbor had a cat named Huggy Bear that used to always roam around on our deck. That helped me understand how a cat can be like a friend.”
He also notes observing another dog-walking neighbor and how those same dogs bark when strangers get too close to their owner’s home. “I saw how dogs can help people feel safe by guarding their owner’s house,” he says.
He is the son of Manish Panjwani and Deepa Dharmadhikari, Dharmadhikari, Northern Northern Vihaan Panjwani Ashburn, Va. Virginia Electric Cooperative members. “Vihaan is very creative, hard-working and intelligent, and he puts his heart into whatever he does — and we are very proud of him,” says his mother.
His father, Manish, says. “Our son, Vihaan, is extremely talented and has been from a very young age. He’s always been very interested in art. Our entire home is covered with his art, especially sunsets. We are grateful to NOVEC and Cooperative Living magazine for providing this wonderful avenue for the kids to show off their artwork.”
When he’s not focused on his schoolwork, or sitting near a chess board or a piano, Vihaan enjoys riding his bike and tossing a flying disc in the backyard with his parents. He also has a deep interest in all thing space-related, as well as in building intricate and complex Lego creations.
But his artistic endeavors truly calm him, according to his mother. His artistic depiction of the International Space Station was chosen to be featured in the 2021 Children’s Artwork Calendar, produced by NASA. For the young space lover, this was a huge deal. “He was over the moon with excitement on winning that honor with NASA, as well as the Cooperative Living Youth Art Contest,” Deepa says.
More than 50 student-artists from kindergarten through fifth grade entered the annual Cooperative Living Youth Art competition, which was judged by staff at the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives, publisher of Cooperative Living. First place in each grade category received a $25 cash prize, and Vihaan’s Best in Show work earned him a $100 prize.
“Congratulations to all whose work was selected in the judging process. Again this year, we want to thank all the young artists who sent in their artwork for judging,” says Editor Steven Johnson.
When asked how he will spend his winnings, Vihaan doesn’t hesitate. “I might donate some of it to charity and use the rest of the money to buy some art supplies.”
Then, with a sheepish smile, he adds, “… and possibly a toy.”