When Josie Ziemski began attending the Connelly School of the Holy Child in Potomac, Maryland, for middle school, she had already been playing the piano for several years, and was ready to give visual art a try.

“I’ve always been interested in art,” she said. “When I came to Holy Child and was actually in an art studio, I was inspired to pursue it.”

Though no one else in her family is an artist, Ziemski has shined in a variety of different artistic mediums – playing instruments, performing in musical theater, and drawing.

Ziemski paints during Holy Child's Evening of the Arts, which was held on April 24. (Photo/Connelly School of the Holy Child)

“She is a very natural creative thinker,” said Ziemski’s art teacher, Sonya Payne. “She is very industrious and she thinks outside the box, across all elements of art and design.”

During her time at Holy Child, Ziemski participated in the National Gallery of Art’s Museum Maker Program, giving adults and children tours and also giving a gallery talk, where she explained the background and meaning of a painting. For her senior year internship, she is working at the Hirshhorn Museum.

Ziemski has also taught photography and digital art at a summer camp, which she said she enjoyed, because she had the opportunity to spread ideas about art that other people could make their own.

“I think a lot of times art can get forgotten,” said Ziemski, before emphasizing that she thinks it is important because regardless of whether someone is looking at a work of art from Argentina, Japan, or the United States, they can understand it.

“I love showing a story through an image rather than telling it with my words,” she said. “Art is universal – there is no language barrier. No matter what art you look at, you can get a message from it.”

Next year, she will attend The Catholic University of America in Washington, and she was awarded the Karen Laub-Novak Arts and Faith Scholarship, which is given to incoming studio art or art history majors who demonstrate exceptional creative talent. To apply for the scholarship, Ziemski wrote an essay about how she hopes to explore her Catholic faith and formation through art and artistic expression.

“I never had the intention of combining art and religion, it just happened naturally,” Ziemski told the Catholic Standard. She started relating art to religious iconography and often uses a lot of light and ethereal imagery, which she said symbolizes heavenly light and shows “how I am looking at the world through a spiritual eye.”

Another way in which she combines her faith with her art is through volunteering with the Memory Project, which is a charity that invites artists to create portraits of children around the world who have faced substantial challenges such as violence, war, extreme poverty, neglect, and loss of parents, as a way of helping them to feel valued.

“It is one of my favorite things to do,” Ziemski said, adding that she thinks the portraits help the children “to know that people are always watching out for them.”

Ziemski creates a primary source pencil self-portrait. (Photo/Connelly School of the Holy Child)

The artists are sent photographs of the children to base their artwork on, and Ziemski always does a pencil drawing with a watercolor background. Since she is looking at their faces for two to three months at a time, she prays for the children as she is drawing.

“It is a way to combine service, art and faith together,” she said.

Attending a Catholic school “has definitely inspired me more than I thought it would,” she said.

“Having religion around me so constantly has made it easier (to connect faith and art),” she said. “I don’t think I would have seen the connection until later. I’m really glad I saw the connection now so I could build on it and grow in it. I can’t imagine my life without art in it.”

Though she will miss Holy Child, Ziemski said she is looking forward to attending Catholic University and studying religious history and art.

Combining her faith with her art “definitely makes it more special,” she said, “because I am becoming more in tune with a talent that was given to me outside of myself.”

“Adding a religious element to it makes me more myself because it was given to me from God,” she said, adding that it “makes it more meaningful for myself and anyone else receiving it.”