Civil Rights Celebrated with Portrait Art Collaboration
Riverhead High School Students Participate in East End Arts Council MLK Portrait Project
RIVERHEAD, NEW YORK (JANUARY 2023) — Riverhead High School students once again participated in the East End Arts Council’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. portrait project, 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, skill and eagerness to be uplifted by a group project from three of their classes—AP Studio Art, Drawing & Painting and Studio Art—to work together to create the spectacular portrait made up of 16 smaller canvases. Students each worked on their individual panels without the knowledge of what the other canvases looked like, yet the portrait came together seamlessly to represent Aretha Franklin in a manner that befit the icon.
“The students were so elated to participate in this project and given the freedom to choose the material and style in which they completed their panel,” said Ms. Dellaposta. “Ms. Pagliarulo and I were amazed with the accuracy of the portrait once 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, Saara Hossain, Jacquline Luna, Abigail Marin, Ali Menjivar, Linda Ortiz, Samantha Silva, Tatum Soutar, Kieran Spencer and Aidan Tobin.
The East End Arts Council has sponsored the portrait project for three years, and Riverhead High School has participated 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 of 16 individual canvases put together. This structure is used in the current Martin Luther King portrait project, for students put together 12” x 12” panels to create images of Martin Luther King, Jr. or other civil rights leaders of their choosing. After being displayed at Riverhead High School, the Aretha Franklin portrait will join works from other schools in a public gallery. The annual project will then conclude with an auction to support the East End Arts scholarship fund for art and music students in need.
“The students put together a wonderful collaboration and have made the District and Riverhead community proud,” said Director of Fine Arts Jason Rottkamp.