Faces of America

Local student takes on diversity through digital art for her BCD capstone project.

Livi Gray is a 14-year-old recent graduate from Boulder Country Day School where she has been a student since preschool. Each year, graduating students conduct a year-long research project requiring an immersive dive into a specific field of study of their choice, followed by a community-service component. Gray’s capstone project titled, “Faces of America,” features a series of digitally crafted portraits of a diverse range of Americans from Denver and across the United States.

“I wanted to interlace art with a topic that meant a lot to me, and I decided the most meaningful was about the one that had to do with people like me,” Gray shares.

Born in Kathmandu, Nepal in 2007, Gray became an American citizen upon her adoption by American parents and has occasionally faced adversity herself. Through art and study, she chose to explore the Perpetual Foreigner Stereotype, addressing the prejudices and unconscious biases often directed towards people of color. Gray notes her concerns with this inequality, especially when people are regarded as not true Americans simply because of their appearance.

“They deserve to be treated the same as a privileged white person,” Gray says. “They don’t deserve anything less because of their racial background or the color of their skin or the religious beliefs they hold.”

Along with the close mentorship of her teachers and advisors, Lindsay Droter, Gwynn Reback, and Londa Bevins, Gray referenced YouTube tutorials to help her create these portraits—capturing the spirit of her smiling subjects, who range in ethnicity and age, with strokes of detail that bring their personas to life.

“I want people to realize that they’re also American citizens, and they’re also human,” Gray emphasizes.

Her resounding message is one of inclusivity: We all belong.

Livi Gray’s Artist Statement:

We all use stereotypes, all the time,

without knowing it.

We have met the enemy of equality,

and the enemy is us.

                                                  —Annie Murphy Paul,1998

For many Americans of color, it is common to be asked by acquaintances and strangers:

“Where are you from?” (Answer: U.S. city, state)

“No, where are you really from?”

The Perpetual Foreigner Stereotype operates when naturalized and native-born citizens (including families who have lived in the country for generations) are perceived as foreign because they belong to minority groups. There are many negative effects on identity and social adjustment when people of color do not feel as if they belong or that they do not fit the definition of what it means to be American.

The goal of this capstone project is to break the Perpetual Foreigner Stereotype through art, education and personal narratives. I have drawn portraits of a diverse group of Americans of color, and they have shared their heritage stories in their own words. We all belong.


The Faces of America

Livi Gray, Capstone Project (Boulder Country Day School)

Biographical Information & Heritage Stories




Age: 12

Birthplace: Nepal

Ethnicity/Race: Asian/Nepali

US Citizenship: 2011, upon adoption


Karina’s Heritage Story

My parents adopted me when I was 3 years old in 2010. They came to Nepal to adopt me. We couldn't get my visa to get back to the U.S., so my parents had to fight with the U.S. government to bring me home. This ended up resulting in a five-month stay in Nepal (I was able to stay with my parents all five months in their apartment that they rented in Kathmandu), and then finally we got the approval to come to the U.S. in March 2011.


Age: 9

Birthplace: People’s Republic of China

Ethnicity/Race: Asian/Chinese

US Citizenship: 2015, upon adoption

Anderson’s Heritage Story

My parents adopted me in 2015 when I was 4 1/2 years old. They traveled to China with my sister, Karina, to adopt me. We stayed in China for three weeks all together to complete the adoption process. It went very smoothly, and we had a great time as a family in China.


Age: 39

Birthplace: Augsburg, Germany

Ethnicity/Race: Filipino

US Citizenship: Born a US citizen on a US military base in Germany

Leo’s Heritage Story


My parents came to America from the Philippines and my dad joined the army and was stationed in Germany. I lived in Germany for the first nine years of my life before we moved to Colorado. I am the eldest of four kids.



Age: 40

Birthplace: Denver, CO, USA

Ethnicity/Race: African-American

US Citizenship: Born in the US



Age: 3

Birthplace: Denver, CO, USA

Ethnicity/Race: African-American

US Citizenship: Born in the US

Brina & Ksena’s Heritage Story


My mother (Ksena’s grandmother) is from Wright City, Missouri and my father (Ksena’s grandfather) is from Texas. My mom moved to Colorado when she was young. From, we have found out our ancestry is African (Nigeria, Ghana & Ivory Coast), Asian and European. Ksena was born with spina bifida, though there is no obstacle that her big, bright spirit cannot overcome.



Age: 27

Birthplace: Colorado Springs, CO, USA

Ethnicity/Race: Multiracial including Korean, Native American & German

US Citizenship: Born in the US


Jenna’s Heritage Story

On my mother's side, my grandpa was born and raised in the U.S. and has had family here for many generations. He also has Indigenous roots from the Cherokee Tribe. He joined the military and while he was stationed in Germany met my grandma. They got married and then she immigrated to the United States. My mother was born in Louisiana, but they moved around a lot since my grandpa was in the military. I still have a lot of family in Germany and they visit us here in the U.S. every so often.

On my father's side, my dad was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea. His mom and her family were refugees during the Korean War. They were from a city called Kaesong in what is now considered North Korea. During the migration south to Seoul, my grandma met my grandpa who was Native American and in the US military. My grandma raised my dad as a single mother in Seoul until she met another man in the U.S. military and they got married and moved my dad to the United States when he was 14.



Age: 50

Birthplace: San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA

Ethnicity/Race: Mix of European, Indigenous & African

US Citizenship: Born in the US territory of Puerto Rico

Agnes’ Heritage Story


My family became US Citizens in 1917, along with all other Puerto Ricans, after Spain ceded the Island to the USA in 1898 when they lost the Spanish-American War. 


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