To culminate their celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, students at Westridge Middle School participated in a Hispanic Heritage art contest led by art teacher Audrey Gilroy.
The contest, open to the entire school, encouraged students to be creative in their artwork and choose any format or media.
The artists were asked to research and create a portrait of an influential Hispanic figure. Ilene Diaz, eighth grader, submitted a portrait honoring singer Selena Quintanilla-Perez. For her piece, seventh grader Ada Knechtel, selected Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman in space. Eighth grader Vivian Contreras Santos created a mixed media portrait of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
Knechtel shared that the art contest was a fun challenge that helped her learn new skills. “I decided to make the portrait in a drawing program on my iPad. I thought if it didn’t work out, I wouldn’t submit it, but I was happy with it.”
To complete her submission, Contrera Santos used a grid technique she learned in art class. She expressed that finishing the portrait was a little stressful, but that the encouragement of her friends and teachers carried her through. “I really like how it turned out, and it was fun.”
Expressing pride in the students, Gilroy explained that she opened the art contest to the entire school to give students who don’t have an art class the chance to explore their creative side. “I love the initiative the students showed, and I’m so impressed with the work that was turned in,” she added.
In addition to the contest, Gilroy taught students the traditional cut paper folk art technique of papel picado. Papel picado streamers were then displayed in the front hall along with an ofrenda built by the Hispanics of Today (HOT) club. A Mexican tradition, an ofrenda is an altar with a collection of objects placed to commemorate and remember lost loved ones.
Also a member of HOT club, Contrera Santos explained that the club meets every Tuesday to celebrate Hispanic culture and traditions and discuss how to share their heritage with the school community. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month and Día de los Muertos the club decided to build the ofrenda. The students liked how the display turned out so much, they have been discussing other Hispanic traditions to share.