Student Artists Inspired by Black History

Arts Academy students create in honor of Black History Month

First Lady Michelle Obama. Click to enlarge.

WARWICK, RI (February 27, 2020) – If you walk down the 300 wing hallway, or take a drive by the front of the building as you depart campus onto Warwick Avenue, you will see them.

First Lady Michelle Obama. Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. The legendary Jackie Robinson. Heroic and revolutionary pioneers of our nation’s history, all with their portraits blown up to massive proportions adorning the large windows of the visual art studio, a recent project of the Visual Arts Academy.

“Needless to say, as big as we could create these artworks, their scale could never match the enormous impact these individuals have had on our society,” said Mr. Ryan Dean ’05, Visual Art Program Coordinator.

In honor of Black History Month, and in celebration of just a handful of the Black women and men who have made a remarkable difference in American society, the Visual Arts Academy found artistic inspiration in the stories of these figures.

Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. Click to enlarge.

“We started out with a discussion about how portraiture can be a powerful art form that connects people as humans. We are naturally drawn to faces,” describes Dean. “By focusing on this part of a person, an artist can engage the viewer on a deeper, even personal, level.”

After looking at examples of how scale can allow art, and specifically portraiture, to create an even greater impact on the viewer, the students learned about the logistics: how to blow up images to enormous dimensions, the nuances required of scaling, and how to utilize the digital resources to achieve their vision.

Then, they got to work.

Jackie Robinson. Click to enlarge.

In teams, they printed out the detailed parts of these images onto standard printer paper, trimmed them down to the necessary sizes, and assembled them to create larger-than-life portraits for display around school.

More important than the work, however, was the learning process: understanding why the people they were about to commemorate were heroes, not just to the Black community, but to the country, and to the world.

The first black First Lady of the United States, and active advocate for children, education, and health. The first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress, and an all-around trailblazer for women in politics. The first black athlete to play in Major League Baseball, and one of the greatest ballplayers to ever pick up a bat.

Each a truly unique story of the very best that people can be, and a reminder for that which we are to strive.