New York State In-depth

Civil rights celebrated with Portrait Art Collaboration

RIVERHEAD, NEW YORK (JANUARY 2022) – Students at Riverhead High School once again participated in the East End Arts Council’s annual portrait project of Martin Luther King, Jr., creating a stunning portrayal of the Queen of Soul and civil rights activist Aretha Franklin. Riverhead High School art teachers, Jo-Ann Dellaposta and Selena Pagliarulo, selected students based on motivation, ability and eagerness to be encouraged by a group project from three of their classes – AP Studio Art, Drawing & Painting and Studio Art. to create together the spectacular portrait from 16 smaller canvases. The students each worked on their individual panels, unaware of what the other canvases would look like, yet the portrait came together seamlessly to portray Aretha Franklin in a way befitting the icon.

“The students were so excited to be part of this project and had the freedom to choose the material and style in which they finished their panel,” said Ms. Dellaposta. “MS. Pagliarulo and I were amazed at the accuracy of the portrait when the panels came together and we believe the students are also incredibly pleased with the success of the project.”

The following students contributed to the Aretha Franklin Portrait: Frida Barreto, Charlotte Dow, Raul Gomez, Daniela Guerrero, Hiranya Gunasingha, Sarah Hossain, Jacquline Luna, Abigail Marin, Ali Menjivar, Linda Ortiz, Samantha Silva, Tatum Soutar, and Kieran Spencer Aidan Tobin.

The East End Arts Council sponsored the portrait project for three years, and Riverhead High School has been involved from the start. The project was initiated by East End Arts Education Director Kathleen Dwyer-Ruscick, who was inspired by a painting of President Barack Obama by East End Arts instructor Kenneth Jackson. The original painting was a 4′ x 4′ portrait made from 16 individual canvases stitched together. This structure is used in the current Martin Luther King portrait project, in which students assemble 12″ x 12″ panels to create images of Martin Luther King Jr. or other civil rights activists of their choice. After the Aretha Franklin portrait is exhibited at Riverhead High School, it will collaborate with works from other schools in a public gallery. The annual project then concludes with an auction to support the East End Arts Scholarship Fund for arts and music students in need.

“The students created a wonderful collaboration and made the District and Riverhead community proud,” said Jason Rottkamp, ​​​​Director of Fine Arts.

For more information about the Riverhead Central School District, visit the district’s website at District events can also be followed on Facebook at #BlueWavesPride.

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