Fredericksburg teen with Down syndrome whose art is inspiring thousands, speaks at Germanna

by | Sep 21, 2022 | Events

From Germanna Community College
Sophia Pineda (left) speaks at Wednesday's Germanna Community College Arts & Activism event hosted by GCC Student Activities. Her mother, Carol Pineda, i
Sofia Pineda (left) speaks at Wednesday’s Germanna Community College Arts & Activism event hosted by GCC Student Activities. Her mother, Carol Kando-Pineda, is on the right.

Sofia Pineda, an 18-year-old senior at James Monroe High School in Fredericksburg with Down syndrome, was the star of an “Art and Activism,” event hosted by Germanna Community College’s Student Activities department Wednesday that was part of a voter registration drive at the college.

According to her Synergies Work web page, she was diagnosed with very severe heart defects at birth, any one of which could have been fatal– “born literally with half a heart” and endured two open-heart surgeries before she was 2 years old.

Sofia Pineda with her art. –The Free Lance-Star

According to the web page, Sofia has studied ballet for nearly eight years, dancing in several local productions. In 2013, she was selected to walk the runway as a model for the Global Down Syndrome Foundation’s Gala in Washington, and, in 2016, the National Down Syndrome Society chose her picture as one of many people with Down syndrome to appear in its video to kick off the national Buddy Walk in New York City.  Through camps and classes at Libertytown Arts Workshop she has worked in painting, drawing, and pottery.

“I love art,” she told the audience at Wednesday’s Germanna event. “I love dancing, drawing with markers, charcoal, watercolor pencils, and colored pencils. I really love painting. I learned to paint with watercolors from my amazing teacher, HsiMei Yates. Watercolors can be very soft or very bright – they are beautiful.  I paint birds, butterflies, pumpkins, horses, mermaids, polar bears, penguins, sunflowers, and lots and lots of other flowers. I like painting beautiful sunsets in the background – orange, pink, red, gray, and blue – like the blue on my fingernails.”

"Fortunate Unions" mural
Sofia Pineda worked with Gabriel Pons and others on this community mural painted in the spring of 2022 at Germanna. It was a collaboration between Gabriel Pons of PONSHOP and Sophia. titled “Fortunate Unions.” The 30-foot long mural adorns the Student Lounge at the Fredericksburg Area Campus in Spotsylvania.} It was inspired by the potential of a college campus-a place that fosters connections between people: academic, professional, personal, and social,” Pons said.”The artwork acknowledges the diversity, inclusion, and optimism that is embodied in our community” –Suzanne Rossi photo


.  Gabriel Pons is an awesome muralist and another amazing teacher,” she said: “Art helps me tell the world what I think and how I feel. Painting makes me happy.

“In the Artists 4 E R A show, you can see my painting of a heart. I was thinking of the heart surgeries I had when I was a baby. The white squiggly lines represent the scars on my chest.”

Rainbow Heart by Sofia Pineda
A piece of Sofia Pineda’s artwork inspired by her heart surgeries.

She shared the words of artist Edgar Degas with the audience:  “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”

Her mother, Carol Kando-Pineda, said: “First, we create for so many reasons. Sometimes we create just to make something beautiful or challenging, to express deep emotions or to get the viewer’s attention. We create to make people feel or think about something. No matter why you create, art is SO important – to the artists, to their communities, to the world at large. Keep creating, keep contributing to the world. Use your voice.  Use your art to make people feel and think and act.”


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