Local student artists selected for competitive show at DIA

By: K. Michelle Moran | Metro | Published June 27, 2023

 Emmanuel Coates stands next to his acrylic painting, “Fruits of Our Labor,” now on view at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Emmanuel Coates stands next to his acrylic painting, “Fruits of Our Labor,” now on view at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

 Margot Murphy took this  photograph of frantically feeding koi fish,  “Overcrowded Pond,” during a family vacation.

Margot Murphy took this photograph of frantically feeding koi fish, “Overcrowded Pond,” during a family vacation.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran


METRO DETROIT — A substantial number of students from schools in the Grosse Pointes were selected for the second annual Wayne County High School Art Exhibition, on display at the Detroit Institute of Arts through July 16.

Of an estimated 84 artworks from high schoolers who hail from schools all over Michigan’s most populous county, about 17 are by students from Grosse Pointe North High School, Grosse Pointe South High School and University Liggett School — a testament to the strength of the art programs at those institutions, as well as the creativity of the students who attend them.

This is the second annual DIA show featuring work by Wayne County high schoolers.

Exhibition organizers were stunned by the response they got this year.

“Our submissions more than doubled,” said Tyler Taylor, educational programs manager for the DIA.

In 2022, Taylor said, they received approximately 150 submissions and selected about 74 artworks. This year, he said, they received more than 400 submissions.

It’s up to the students, Taylor said, to fill out the applications, send images of their art and deliver their artworks to the museum — albeit the last part might involve help from a parent or teacher, as some of the students are too young to drive themselves.

“We put a lot of agency on the students,” Taylor said.

For the young artists, submitting to this exhibition is similar to the process of submitting to a professional juried exhibition.

“I think (with this) they’re getting used to the professional business of being an artist,” Taylor said. “It’s difficult to turn anyone away, but getting that experience is important for young artists.”

Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans — whose wife, DIA Board member Renata C. Seals, was an early champion of a student art show — was impressed by the growth in interest this exhibition has seen in just one year. He praised the students for their works, saying there were a few he’d like to buy himself.

“As county executive, I have a vested interest in seeing the county shine, and you all are making it shine,” Evans told the students in attendance for a grand opening for the show June 22.

DIA Director Salvador Salort-Pons said the exhibition speaks to the DIA’s commitment to fostering young artists and connecting the community through art.

“Art has the remarkable ability to transcend barriers, to tell stories,” Salort-Pons said. “Find your own personal meaning in the artworks in this exhibition and throughout the DIA.”

For seniors like Louis Kidder, of Grosse Pointe City, who just graduated from South, this was an exciting capstone for their final year of high school. Kidder, who will be studying visual arts at Wayne State University this fall, created a glazed stoneware piece featuring the head of each member of The Beatles, a work initially done as a class assignment to make a totem. The piece was also titled, “The Beatles.”

“It was shocking and very exciting,” Kidder said of being accepted into the exhibition.

Emmanuel Coates, of Detroit, who just graduated from ULS, plans on pursuing a career in law, not art. Coates’ moving acrylic painting, “Fruits of Our Labor,” was created as a final project for an African American history class, and speaks to the benefits slave owners received on the backs of the slaves who worked their fields and grew their wealth.

“Enslaved African Americans built the U.S. economy through the slave trade,” Coates said.

Margot Murphy’s photograph, “Overcrowded Pond,” has an almost painterly quality. The Grosse Pointe Farms resident, a senior at South, said she took the photo of koi fish scrambling over one another for food pellets while she and her family were feeding the fish during a vacation.

“It’s not only a fond memory, but I think it reflects how chaos is not only manmade but also (exists) in nature, how they’re crawling over each other for food,” Murphy said.

Murphy, who calls photography “a passion of mine,” hopes to minor in it when she starts college this fall.

Two digital prints by Maya Brooks-Renaud, of Grosse Pointe Farms, a junior at South, are on display at the DIA. “Splatter” and “Werewolf Character Design” show the artist’s ability to create memorable characters.

“We had to make a zine (for a class), so I thought, ‘Why not do a comic based on manga?’” Brooks-Renaud said. “My work is very cartoonish and has some influence of anime and Japanese (artistic styles).”

Another artist with two works in the show is Mia Pellerito, of Grosse Pointe Park, a South senior who hopes to study art this fall as she starts college. Her ceramic piece, “Crater Bowl,” has a series of hand-carved, bowl-shaped indentations on the interior, each hand-glazed in a variety of natural tones, while her jewelry piece, “Space Age Ring,” continues that textural theme.

“I like to work with organic shapes,” said Pellerito, an aspiring art teacher. “There’s a lot of earthy colors (in my work).”

For students, seeing their work on the walls of the DIA is a thrill.

“I was really excited,” Pellerito said of learning she was one of those chosen to be featured. “It was a little surreal, because this is the biggest (venue) for art in metro Detroit.”

Helen Kendall teaches art to middle and upper school students at ULS. She said this exhibition gives students a chance to see what their peers are doing and watch others engage with their art.

“It boosts their confidence and makes them feel like art isn’t just something I do — I am an artist,” Kendall said.

It’s also inspiring for younger artists, such as those in middle school, to view works made by people only slightly older. While the high schoolers selected for the DIA show are accomplished, they’re all still early in their careers and honing their craft.

“It feels attainable,” Kendall said.

Other local students with work in the show include Oliver Bomgaars, of Harper Woods, a North freshman; Luci Boyle, of Detroit, a ULS senior; Jason Goossen, of Grosse Pointe Woods, a North freshman; Chloe Harb, of Grosse Pointe Woods, a North senior; Giovanna Randazzo, of Clinton Township, a ULS senior; Angelina Randazzo, of Clinton Township, a ULS senior; Lynne Romanelli, of Grosse Pointe City, a South senior; and Michael Roustemis, of Grosse Pointe Woods, a North sophomore. Some students have two works that were chosen.

“Some of the responses of the students are heartwarming,” Taylor said. “They say they never dreamed they’d be in a place like the DIA.”

And for some of them, this might not be the last time they see their work on the walls of a prestigious museum.

The DIA is located at 5200 Woodward Ave. in Midtown. Admission to the student art exhibition is free for residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. For more information, call (313) 833-7900 or visit www.dia.org.