Tara Trudell

Las Vegas, N.M. — A New Mexico Highlands University media arts student garnered first place in a national video competition, with her film showcased at the National Association of Broadcasters Show in Las Vegas, Nev. April 14 — 19.

Tara Trudell earned the top award in the student film category for the “Panasonic Shoot It, Share It” contest. Her film, “Word,” is a personal profile of her life seen through the lens of both her filmmaking and her poetry.

“I started writing poetry again after a 10-year break and was intrigued by the healing process the words brought to the surface,” Trudell said. “In ‘Word,’ I use film as a tool to create visual art that represents my poetry.

“Writing poetry can be like catching butterflies: the words flutter so quickly from deep within and I capture them as quickly as I can on paper. Then I go back and shape the poem, looking at how the words interact,” Trudell said.

Trudell, 43, is earning her bachelor of fine arts in media arts with an emphasis in filmmaking. The Las Vegas single mother of four returned to Highlands University in 2010.

She has taken several filmmaking courses with media arts professor Kerry Loewen, including experimental video, high-definition cinema workshop, and audio for video.

“Because Tara is a poet, she has an innate ability to tell stories through visual imagery,” Loewen said. “She’s worked hard to master the technical aspects of filmmaking and her pieces include stunning high-definition images that convey powerful emotions.

“Like all good artists, Tara is able to take what is intensely personal and give it a very universal appeal,” Loewen said.

Trudell’s films are rich with what she calls her earth shots: a flowing river, trees thrashing in the wind, a hawk soaring overhead, clouds filling a leaden sky, a lingering sunset.

“I want people to recognize the beauty of the land and nature and be moved in some way. The more we cultivate our connection to the earth, the stronger we become,” Trudell said.

Her motherhood is an integral part of “Word,” with poignant images of Siah, 15, Daisy, 13, Talon, 10, and Jackson, 5, interwoven in the film.

In “Word” she said, “As a mother, you want to live your life in the best possible way so your children shine long after you’re gone.”

Trudell said she feels blessed to be back at Highlands in the Media Arts Department.

“The media arts professors are selfless in sharing their knowledge and have guided me in all my creative endeavors,” Trudell said. “They encouraged me to cultivate my own artistic style of expression. I’m extremely indebted to them for giving me the opportunity to reach this point in my career as an aspiring filmmaker.”

Trudell has earned other awards during her time at Highlands, including a $2,500 Seabury Fellowship in the 2011 — 2012 academic year. For her Seabury project, Trudell created a series of six short films that explore what compels poets to write, featuring poets like the internationally acclaimed Jimmy Santiago Baca.

Trudell’s poetry was selected for inclusion in the anthology, Poetry of Resistance: A Multicultural Response to AZ SB 1010 and Other Xenophobic Laws, slated for publication through the University of Arizona Press.

“Art is a powerful tool, and I believe it’s the responsibility of artists to bring more social awareness. This is my path,” Trudell said.