That black and white photo of a Downtown alleyway? It’s not a photo, it’s a drawing—and it was made by a 14-year-old at Las Vegas Academy of the Arts.
Playing on the theme of art activism, freshmen art majors from the magnet school explored Downtown, seeking out unexpected beauty in the city’s dilapidated center. The young artists photographed and then drew their chosen images, infusing them with social and political themes like sexism, racism, gun control and child abuse.
“The goal is to create art that has a purpose, that has meaning and evokes emotion in its audience,” says art teacher Natalie Delgado, who wanted to raise awareness among her students. “I wanted them to learn about the news and what’s going on around them.”
Using graphite pencil, 14-year-old Nicole Laurencio depicted an old, wooden house with a security screen door, adding to it the now-iconic clothing of Aylan Kurdi, the 3-year-old Syrian refugee who drowned during his family’s journey to Turkey. In the drawing, Kurdi’s shirt and shorts dry on a clothesline, entertaining the possibility that the child could have survived.
Kylee Shay Mitchell drew a graffitied Arts District alleyway, sneaking in her own socially conscious street tag. On a utility box, Mitchell scratched in a combined male and female symbol above an equal sign and the label “human,” signifying her ideal of equality among sexes.
Through a rigorous course of line drawing, shading, drawing by touch and other exercises, Delgado takes novice students and develops nearly photorealistic talent. The themed art courses are somewhat new to the curriculum, but the students appreciate their impact. “I’ve learned to add meaning to my work,” Laurencio says. “Before it was just, ‘Do the assignment.’”