SPENCER, IN – This week, organizers of Spencer Pride Inc. announced the winner of their first-ever t-shirt design contest. The winner, Nik Sonnenschein, is a foreign exchange student who lives in Minnesota with his American host family. Sonnenschein is from Kassel, a town in central Germany.
Sonnenschein’s winning design, which is featured on the right, is a simple yet creative message. It features two origami birds with the festival theme “Free to Be ____” placed in bold typeset beneath them.
Spencer Pride, Inc. began the t-shirt design contest on March 1st. Everyone was welcome to submit entries for the contest and each individual was permitted to submit as many entries as they wished. The winning design was one of four designs that the young exchange student had submitted in the contest.
Within 24 hours of launching the contest, according to Spencer Pride Inc. president Jonathan Balash, several entries had already been submitted. Spencer Pride Inc. accepted contest submissions through the end of March and the winning design was chosen by the Executive Board of the 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. This was the first-ever design contest organized by Spencer Pride, Inc. and the organization was thrilled with the amount of participation they received for this inaugural effort.
Why Did He Participate?
Nik was familiar with the Spencer Pride organization through his friend, a fellow exchange student living in America who has volunteered for the Indiana organization. After connecting with Spencer Pride on Facebook, he paid special attention when the design contest was announced.
Although Nik is comfortable with graphic design, his participation in the contest wasn’t a foregone conclusion. “I actually didn’t decide to participate right away,” he noted. “I am used to creating or designing things that are in correlation to an article or text or related to typography, at least something that I have a concrete idea of and I know what I’m going to do,”
“But creating something from scratch with just a vague idea or a slogan is pretty much a challenge and I decided to take that challenge.” His efforts certainly paid off.
Why the birds?
“There is this one special thing about birds that I really connected with, the fact that birds can fly away, they are free to go out in new territories, they are free to be,” Sonnenschein explained. “The origami version basically just came about because I like geometric figures a lot and I thought I could combine both of them.”
It was for a similar reason that Nik’s design was selected as this year’s winner. Although Spencer Pride received many excellent submissions for the contest, the origami birds made a strong impression among those individuals responsible for selecting the winner.
“Before I saw the design, I wouldn’t have even thought of having a visual representation of the festival theme,” said Spencer Pride Inc. secretary Judith Epp. “But the moment I saw Nik’s design, I realized the potential value of having the birds as our 2012 theme icons.”
Coming Out in America
Winning the contest was exciting for Nik, but that certainly will not be his most memorable experience in America. Since his arrival in August, Sonnenschein has come out as a gay man at his high school.
“I had a lot of moments here where I learned it’s okay to be yourself and it’s okay to be open about your sexuality,” he said as he described his coming out process. “I had one of those nights where you are all like life’s great, I think I am finally who I want to be and I just set this checkmark on my Facebook profile right next to the “Men” where it asks what you are interested in.”
Sonnenschein’s courage to come out serves as a great representation for the 2012 theme. In a new place, surrounded by new people, Nik was free to be himself – a talented, young, gay man.
Nik says that coming out here has deepened many of his friendships and he has no regrets in having done it.
“It’s a little hard to put it into words, but once you experience that it’s really not a big deal for your friends, you just keep on coming out to more people and it gets easier every time.”
He is curious about how his coming out will affect him when he returns to his private Catholic high school in Germany.
The t-shirts featuring Nik’s design are now being printed. The shirts will be available at the 2012 Spencer Pride Festival on Saturday, June 2, from 10 AM – 5 PM on the lawn of the Owen County Courthouse in Spencer. Available in both blue as well as a bold green color, the shirts are soft and comfortable and feature the popular v-neck design. Individuals interested in purchasing one of the shirts may do so at the event, where the shirts will likely sell out as the 2011 design did last year. The only person who will be sporting one before June 2 will be the designer himself, who will receive a complimentary shirt in recognition of his winning efforts.