My name is Noelani, and I am currently working towards becoming a concept artist and illustrator. Up until 2016, I had been taking free Saturday Art Classes in Queens for middle schoolers held by the Joan Mitchell Foundation (JMF). The time during and after my art classes were some of the best memories I had. Talking with other kids, freely creating art, and then going to art museums afterwards was truly my art haven. When the program ended, I still wanted to continue participating in art classes in the city. It was then that one of the JMF alumni recommended me to The Art Students League of New York and the Seeds of the League scholarship program.
By the end of 2016, I applied to the institution and was awarded the Seeds of the League scholarship where I could take up to two classes a week. I joined Ms. Susan Cirigliano’s Mixed Media children’s class at age 12 and soon after Ms. Marilyn Friedman’s Figure drawing class for kids. I was in their class for about a year and a half. It was my first time being in such a huge studio room. Before it was always small classrooms and wobbly tables. If you can believe it, Ms. Marilyn’s class was the first time I ever sat in front of a full-length easel AND drew models in real life instead of from a photo.
I remember being in Ms. Susan’s class and thinking how wacky she was. So full of energy and eager to teach us all these whimsical and creative things. I felt this child-like familiarity with her. Her illustrations were playful and through her, I learned so many different techniques and art styles. She really pushed all of her students out of our comfort zones and I’m thankful for that because it felt like I was rediscovering art making and just how fun and loose it could be. Many of the pieces I made in her class as well as my figure drawing studies, I used for my 2018 middle school art portfolio submission for high school. And guess what—I got in! I was accepted into the Commercial Art and Graphic Design major at Bergen County Technical High School – Teterboro campus, one of the top 100 schools in the country!
Being a scholarship recipient of the League, comes with a lot of independence and responsibility. During the summer before high school, I started going to and from the city on my own. Being responsible for myself and getting myself to classes on time was a big step for me but it also made me value those little moments of entering the League building, finding your own class, sitting there and taking in all the advice your teacher can give you and then going to your next class.
I had a lot more time during both that summer and the next summer after that, so I continued with “Anatomy for Beginners” with Mr. Michael Burban and then another teacher as well as “Still Life Painting” for adults with Ms. Karen O’Neil. Both were such enjoyable teachers who have so much to say about art and the art making process. Some of the works I made during their classes I’ve won awards for such as the 2018 and 2019 Scholastics Art Awards. Going into 2020, it was a big change, no longer being able to attend classes in-person. Thankfully the League was so organized and quickly I was able to switch to online-classes. Through the Seeds scholarship I was able to take even more classes. From 2020 to 2021, I took a variety of classes, such as “Art for Animation,” which was the perfect class to be introduced to the basics of animation as well as the importance of concept and narrative; a portrait and lightning class; another figure drawing class and a class on perspective. To see the variety of on-line classes the League also had to offer was such a nice change of pace from just the fine art classes I had been taking until now, not to mention the accessibility was much needed for someone like me who had to commute.
The pandemic took a toll on my art making, so having the League really helped me keep up with my basics as well as just staying involved in the art community and the exhibitions and events they offered. This definitely was a lifesaver for me through Covid 2021. Every one of my teachers were experienced and welcoming no matter what skill level I was at. I had fun and once I moved on from the kid’s classes, I was exposed to many different artists of all ages, and it was such a nice atmosphere to work in. Despite being in such big groups, it was peaceful, and we always had a mentor come around to see our progress or give us advice. Thanks to the opportunity the League gave me, I’ve been able to experience so many forms of art and even use what I was taught to help my fellow artists in my own school. The scholarship allowed me to be able to freely choose the classes that would help me improve and expand in my art. There’s so much to look forward to in the near future for myself as an artist, a member of the League and a Seeds scholarship recipient.
Bergen Technical School-Teterboro
Seeds of the League Scholarship -2016-2021