Art students across four disciplines participated in an exhibit Monday evening, November 13, at the SPARC Gallery in South Pasadena. They were all participants in the PTSA Reflections competition and SPARC hosted the exhibit where all the students were able to display their art alongside the winners of the juried competition. Strains of “To The Hopeless”, Noel English’s winning composition, could be heard playing throughout the gallery as exhibitors, judges, teachers, family and friends gathered to celebrate the artists’ accomplishments.
National PTA has a long-standing commitment to arts education and The Reflections program – the theme of which this year is “I am hopeful because…” provides opportunities for recognition and access to the arts. Each year, over 300,000 students in Pre-K through Grade 12 create original works of art in response to the student-selected theme. Students submit their completed works of art in one or all of the available arts categories: Dance Choreography, Film Production, Literature, Music Composition, Photography, Visual Arts.
“The Reflections program is a national program so that students can advance after they leave this level. Based on their placing, they can move on to regional, state, national,” explains SPHS PTSA Reflections Chair, Jenny Bright. “But I honestly think that the kids here are more interested in having this kind of local exposure than necessarily moving on. So it was a great treat this year to have them all featured instead of just the winners. Every single one of them were offered the opportunity to be in the show. And we plan to do it again next year.” She says the artists were more interested in making sure they could all be in the exhibit and did whatever they had to do with size limits in order to get everyone’s art in the gallery. “I’m glad we could make it exciting for them,” Bright continues, “at this age, they are so close to the National Arts – and they are learning how to write an artist statement and understanding the process.”
Visual artist, Sophia Atencio, whose art piece “”No Sabo”, won 2nd place in the visual arts category, spoke passionately about her piece. “It’s like the death of two countries,” she says about the Aztec symbols used in her work, “because I feel like I’m losing a connection not only to my native heritage of Native American – but there’s a vibrant culture that came from the death of this right? It’s like lost in the past.” She goes on to point out aspects of the painting – the Mexican Eagle, the American Eagle, Mexican stereotypes – the gardener, the maid – there is the Virgin Guadalupe, La Calavera Catrina, Cesar Chavez. “I wanted to make it in a mural form because murals are important to the Chicano Revolution and Mexicans in general. I don’t know if you’ve heard of “no sabo” kids? They’re the Mexican-American kids that are made fun of because they don’t speak Spanish. For me, in my parents’ attempt to assimilate me, I’ve lost a bit of this culture. I entered this contest because it feels like I’m losing it but it doesn’t mean I’ve really lost it. I wanted to explore how I felt.”
Jayel Bright is a visual artist who entered pieces in both visual arts and photography, having just started exploring photography this year. “My hope in life is to be somewhere in the game industry,” says Bright, “and so I wanted to broaden my scope, because I’m mainly a digital artist, and I decided to submit one of the photographs I took in class and just see how it went – and I ended up getting an Honorable Mention. I ended up really liking photography and I may consider doing more.”
Bright also spoke to us about “Longing” submitted in the visual arts category. “This character is in my own world building that I’m planning on creating a full length story in comic form. This piece represents him going out and setting off on this journey to become a really strong and valliant knight – but he wishes that he could see his friends again. But he knows he’s not able to go back. But he’s gonna come back and be stronger than ever. So I wanted to have that barricade to show that he can’t find a way back. So the name of artwork was “Longing” because he’s longing for his friends and to come back.”
Lorenzo Guerra has been a photographer for four years, has taken AP photo at SPHS and is currently the photo editor of the school yearbook. “I like doing sports, photography,” says Guerra, “that’s my favorite thing I’d like to do. I plan to attend an arts college that will help me dedicate and advance my craft in what I want to do. Art Center is my first choice.” When he made his photo “Trust Between Two” he says he was just at Garfield Park and came across this gentleman lying down with a walkie talkie and an open bag of nuts – and three squirrels were just helping themselves. “I just found it beautiful and so I took a photo.”
1st place winner in digital photography, Jackson Bangar, used a Sony Alpha 2000 DSLR camera to capture the stunning sunset in “And It’ll Rise Again”. Of the work and Bangar’s decision to do a panoramic, juror Andrew Bernstein told him, “great choice – your composition, your timing is perfect. Really good job.” Bangar caught this particular sunset about two months ago and says “This is like a five minute walk from my house in Monterey Hills. I go there all the time and watch a sunset, because it’s always so pretty.”
Art teacher Aimee Levie and art and photography teacher Rouzanna Berberian were in attendance and beaming with pride. They had this to say – “On behalf of the SPHS Visual Art department, we were so excited and proud to see our students’ artwork displayed at SPARC Gallery as part of the PTSA Reflections Art competition. It was such a joyous occasion, well attended by students, their families, Principal Eldred, and the South Pas community. It was an incredible opportunity for the students to have their work exhibited at a professional art gallery, an especially rare occurrence since the pandemic. So many of the art competitions that used to have an exhibition component have gone virtual or discontinued altogether. In addition to the high quality of the visual art, photography, and literature works on display, it was a special treat to hear the student music compositions beaming over the speakers at the gallery. Rouzanna and I would like to say “thank you” to Jenny Bright and the South Pasadena Arts Council (SPARC) for putting on a fabulous Reflections showcase for the high school.”
It was a delightful evening where the bright young talent in our town was on full display. I look forward to next year’s Reflections exhibit. It is not to be missed.
The PTSA Reflections competition was juried by this panel of distinguished judges in the following categories:
Ed Donnelly is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer and record producer from South Pasadena. He has worked with Willie Nelson, Smashing Pumpkins, Gladys Knight, RockCorps, Brad Colerick, Crowded House, Blokeface, Marc Cohn, Matchbox Twenty, Resident, The Cult, and regularly performs with Cole Gallagher. Donnelly currently runs The Barber’s Basement Recording Studio in Highland Park and is a partner in The Lemontree ATMOS Studio.
Andrew D. Bernstein is an NBA Hall of Fame photographer who has been covering the NBA for 43 years. He has collaborated on books with Kobe Bryant (“The Mamba Mentality: How I Play”) and Phil Jackson (“Journey to the Ring”). Andy is the host of a popular sports podcast, Legends of Sport. Andy is a longtime board member of the South Pasadena Arts Council (SPARC).
Literature (2 judges):
Daniel Vasquez is an award-winning writer and journalist. He has worked for the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland Tribune, San Jose Mercury News, Boston Globe among other newsrooms. He spend much of his career as a crime reporter and opinion writer and is a Pulitzer Prize finalist for editorial writing. He has lived in South Pasadena for nearly 8 years and loves it.
Anne Vasquez is the CEO of the nonprofit newsroom EdSource, an influential media organization recognized as one of the most authoritative sources on education reporting in California. She is a veteran media executive and journalist who led the South Florida Sun Sentinel when it won its first Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for Public Service.
Richard Blue Trimarchi has a BA in Fine Art with a emphasis on painting from the College of Creative Studies at U.C.S.B. He also attended Art Center College of Design with a major in Environmental Design at the old Art Center campus in Los Angeles. In 1987, Mr. Trimarchi started the Art Works in Pasadena, California. The Art Works has continued to serve the Art community to this present date. The Art Works specializes in the reproduction of Art and all aspects of promotion in helping artist further advance their careers. Through the years the business transitioned from traditional film and photography to a studio with state-of-the-art digital capabilities both in digitizing art and also fine art “Giclée” printing.