A Passion for Art and Change

Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

The sun set, while a blend of indigos, rich plums, and the deepest blacks carpeted the sky; headlights lit up the parking lot as crowds entered what is normally a Jewish temple, but for the night was the Belmont High School Art Show. Stomach churning, knees wobbling, I awaited the highly anticipated guests. A band played soft rock melodies and my peers—artists—roamed the exhibition room wearing stickers that said “ask me about my art.” The sound of footsteps became more pronounced and in a sudden sweep couples, teachers and families arrived; the anxious tension seething through the room settled.

Overwhelmed with joy, I escorted our guests through the gallery, explaining the meaning behind our show. “No,” I said, “we actually didn’t get any help from the school with this. It’s completely student-run.” “Why would you go through the trouble of putting on an exhibition in a week?” They inquired. My response? “Well the answer is actually simple. We need to prove who we are and why we make art.”

“We,” Belmont High’s AP Art class are a community. Our home is the art room: a place plastered with drawings, with ceilings covered in inside jokes, and innumerable amounts of three by four foot paintings. Yet in March of 2015 this space, which decades of other artists and I have called home, was threatened by town budget cuts. While teachers, art, and language—the creative ideology behind our town’s education—would be eradicated, what was most important to me was the community that would be lost. Not only is the art room my home, but my peers are also my family; it is a space where we make each other better artists, and better people.

Like my classmates, I possess an immeasurable love for the arts. The walls in my room are coated in black charcoal, pastel lives under my fingernails, and I am terrified of drowning my iPhone by knocking over the water and brushes that have found a home on my nightstand. When I heard that we needed a four million dollar override to sustain AP Art and the town’s education system, and Milo, my art teacher, said he legally could not help us save our program, I knew I had two options. I could sit back, and watch what I loved be lost, or join the fight to save it. We, as a class, needed to share our passion with the town.

Although dismayed to imagine life without art, I felt an exhilarating sensation emerge as I began to lead my fellow artists on a crusade. Our hours spent canvassing, attending meetings, and speaking at events lit a spark within me; I knew our actions could change the course of our futures, and I needed to do more. I planned what I believed would be most personal to us, as artists: an exhibition to showcase our work, to demonstrate why our class was worth saving. Embracing our passion, we presented ourselves to the town; Milo was “floored,” and we received a headlining article in the paper.

Later that week, after the polls for the referendum closed, we popped bottles of sparkling apple cider and celebrated our contribution to the town’s tremendous win. That March, our home, our sanctuary, had been threatened. Despite the situation’s appalling nature, I am blessed to have undergone it. As I have grown as an artist, I have learned the rules of composition and rendering, maturing my technical skill and enhancing my passion. However, due to the override, my perspective on art has shifted. I want to continue pursuing art, but now to learn how to use it to lead and innovate. The override taught me that art does not have to be merely aesthetic. It can be impactful. I aspire to further develop my artistic talents, and with a clear goal: to evolve in my skills, and be instrumental in making change.

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