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Keeping Up With the Artists


This year, our art department has reached new heights! With our talented students and our wonderful teachers, Wayne Valley has seen a multitude of art achievements. From exhibits at Neil’s Pizza to the Congressional Competition, our students have gone all over with their pieces. We couldn’t be more proud of them—so let’s go over some of their highlights this year!

First, we’ll cover the students in our National Art Honor Society. This year, the kids participated in various charity projects. The Memory Project, which is a program we have been involved with for years, had many talented Valley participants this year. Students like Katie McGhee and Craig Legras created beautiful portraits to send off to children in Syria. But that wasn’t all! Our NAHS students also held a Valentine’s Day pottery painting day at James Fallon Elementary, volunteered at the open house for incoming Valley students, and made crochet hearts for the Peyton Hearts project. Students also participated in the Global Peace Project, which is an international project focused on spreading positivity and uniting different cultures.

Now, we’ll move on to the various exhibits our students have been in and the awards they have won. In March, we saw success in the Fresh Perspectives exhibit. Students Craig Legras and Rebecca Machado were one of 50 students selected for this year’s exhibit from a pool of over 250 applicants. Amazingly, Craig’s piece, “Tunnel of Fun,” was actually featured as this year’s spotlight artwork for the Fresh Perspectives website and catalog—and once you see the vivid colors and funky style of his piece, you wouldn’t doubt how he got the spot!

March also saw some other wins for Valley artists. At William Paterson’s Art Start exhibit, which just started back up for the first time since 2019, two of our art students won best in their categories! Gabriella Batelli’s “Memory Bubbles” took the Best Color Drawing spot, and Yeraldine Calderon’s “What’s Inside?” won Best Digital Drawing. We couldn’t be more proud of these students, and we are especially excited to see as Yeraldine continues these successes during her next four years at the School of Visual Arts! And, of course, we must shout out the Photo department for Hala Choura’s win for Best Photo!

In April, the Wayne Public Library held an art exhibit for Youth Art Month. Ranging from all levels of the program, Valley students had their art on display for all of April. Students like Alisha Raja, Eliana Shah, and Nico Giotis exemplified the talent of our art program in this exhibit with all of their pieces’ intricate details and skillfully placed colors. Also in April, some Valley students found themselves in Wayne’s own Laurelwood Arboretum. The display featured Brielle Sirot, Reyhan Cakir, Sylvana Toppeta, Katie McGhee, Hafsa Balki, and many more of our young artists. With nature blended with art, this exhibit was quite the experience for its viewers!

April also brought a spotlight for one of our AP students. Gianluca Vittorioso was featured in the New Jersey Department of Education’s autism expo, whose theme this year was “What’s in a Dream?” His piece fits very well into the theme, with portraits of Gianluca surrounded by a dreamlike rainbow cloud of papers. He says it reminds him of his passions for art. He says, “The figures are interested in discovering what their life will look like, similar to how I dream about how art will affect my life.” Gianluca’s piece shows both his unique experiences with school and creativity and his support for those with autism. We are very proud of him! We are especially excited to see where Gianluca goes as he completes his BA in fine arts in WPU’s honors art program!

Our students also nabbed many wins for Teen Arts this year! Reyhan Cakir and Katie McGhee’s pieces are going to their Summer showcase. As if that weren’t amazing enough, Isaiah Rodrigues, Craig Legras, and Gabriella Batelli’s pieces are moving onto the state level! In fact, Gabriella’s piece, titled, “Kevin,” was selected to travel around in Teen Arts’ 2024 traveling exhibit! 

Speaking of Gianluca, he and his AP buddy, Gabriella Batelli, were both selected to participate in this year’s Congressional Art Competition! With Gianluca representing Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill and Gabby representing Congressman Bill Pascrell, they showed our district just how strong WV art is. This competition is quite selective, so the fact that two of our students made it in is amazing! 

We also have many young artists being published through Maddie D’Alessandro, Raquel Rusconi, Alex Katz, Alyssa Slavin, Bruna Culi, Emily Chen, Rebecca Machado, Craig Legras, Kayleigh McDowell, Raul Carino Duarte, Simrin Islam, Brielle Sirot, Gabriella Batelli, Gianluca Vittorioso, Katherine McGhee, Leah Weiner, Reyhan Cakir, Ryan Palumbo, and Yeraldine Calderon. What a mouthful! We are so proud of all of these students, and we definitely snagged a copy or two!!

The program ended the year off with an amazing art show. With our week-long reception, students and parents of all kinds came to see the art. Our wonderful seniors finally got their moment to shine, donning their pieces on their own displays. We are so sad to see them go, but we are so proud of all their amazing pieces and accomplishments.


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Gabriella Batelli, Senior Social Media and Website Editor

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