ORRHS students chosen for UMass exhibit

Jan 18, 2021

From the struggles of the Black community to the difficulties of mental illness, Tri-Town students are tackling tough topics in their artwork — and it’s not going unrecognized. 

Three pieces of artwork by Old Rochester Regional High School Students were selected for the University of Massachusetts College of Visual and Performing Arts Emerging Young Artist Juried Exhibition. 

Emma Carroll, Rachel Pina and Autumn Tilley each submitted their artwork as an assignment for their AP Art and Design class. Of over 400 submissions throughout New England, the students’ works were among just 88 selected for the exhibit. 

“Overwhelmed” by Tilley depicts a struggle with mental illness. 

“The string, which is a representation of mental illness, is surrounding the girl and causing distress,” she said. 

According to the artist, the piece is part of a portfolio meant to bring awareness to the struggles of those with obsessive compulsive disorder. 

“This piece is actually one of two pieces,” Tilley added. “Together they show the ups and downs in severity of mental illness at different points in a person's life.”

“The Man in the Shadows” is a piece by Pina which came together unexpectedly, but wound up with a strong message. 

“When I was trying to come up with a name for the finished product, I started thinking a lot about the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests that had taken place within the last year,” Pina said. “I myself am black and for most of my life, I’ve grown up around people who don’t look like me.”

The piece works to bring some of the latent struggles of the Black community to the forefront, as Pina notes that she often feels like her friends "don't really understand what it's like to struggle with racial identity.”

“I know that I’m not alone in feeling this way,” Pina said. “For more than hundreds of years, people just like me have felt misunderstood, unheard, and forgotten — ‘The Man in the Shadows’ really tries to bring these emotions and ideas to life.”

She added that having her artwork chosen for the exhibit is encouraging after being told by some adults that a career in art is unrealistic. 

“I’ve wanted to be an artist for as long as I can remember so hearing that is really discouraging,” the AP student said. “I’ve worked really hard to get where I am and I can see that that hard work is starting to pay off.”

“Wings of Spirit” by Carroll was also chosen for the exhibit. Carroll’s piece depicts a winged figure climbing a star in the night sky. She said the inspiration for her piece largely came from her fascination with flying.

“I see the character as a symbol for my own soul taking flight,” Carroll said. “The vast and powerful wings signify my strong will to look ahead, stay positive, and soar despite obstacles and heartbreak I may face.”

The artist said she used the star the character in the piece is climbing as a unique way to frame the subject. 

“The diagonal triangles of green and blues that may appear as "hills" both on the top and bottom of the page were simply designed to draw your attention to the upward movement of the subject,” Carroll said. “The same strong diagonals bring your attention to the light to which the subject is heading towards. The climb will result in the freedom of flight and the inevitable happiness to come.”

The Emerging Young Artists 2021 Juried Exhibition will be online this year, and will be featured on the UMass Dartmouth College of Visual and Performing Arts website from Jan. 22 through Feb. 6. 

“I am very glad and excited to have my work recognized,” Tilley said. “This is the first time my artwork has won a contest, so this is a big deal for me.”