Alejandra Plata ’19 Artwork Debuts on Billboard

Alejandra Plata ‘19 wasn’t aware that one of her pieces crafted in a Westwood AP art class was up for consideration in the RRISD Youth Art Month Billboard Design Competition until she was informed that her piece had won. Winning this competition named Plata the featured secondary student artist for 2018, meaning that out of all pieces submitted by 6th to 12th graders in RRISD, the Youth Art Month Design Committee deemed her art the best fit to be displayed on an electronic billboard along IH-35 from March 12 to 16.

“This is a really great promotion for Alejandra and Westwood,” Art Teacher Brittany Skillern said. “This billboard will be on IH-35, so everyone in the city is going to be able to see this. It’s promoting art in our community, and in our campus, and in our district.”

For Plata, this experience came as a pleasant surprise.

“I’m not really sure how you can enter your pieces,” Plata said, “but my teacher chose my piece to go into competition and then it won. I didn’t really know about it until it won, and they were like, ‘oh, you won!’ and I was like, ‘oh, yay!’ I was really excited.”

For Ms. Skillern, who has been Plata’s art teacher for four years, the choice of which piece to submit for the competition was easy.

“Her piece is part of her AP portfolio,” Ms. Skillern said, “and the district fine arts person at RRISD emailed all of the art teachers and asked that they submit one piece each that looked like it would fit well on a billboard, but it needed to be a longer landscape format. I thought of her piece immediately, and so I chose that image to be submitted, and it got chosen.”

The skill and diversity demonstrated in Plata’s artwork was a large factor in her piece being chosen.

“She has always been a talented, prolific, hard working painter and she has grown leaps and bounds,” Ms. Skillern said. “She has technical skills in painting, she can do photo-realism, but she can also do beautifully expressive works that have her own style.”

Plata has been practicing her craft and developing this distinct style since before her years at Westwood.

“I’ve been doing art for about four years,” Plata said. “I typically work with acrylic.”

Plata takes inspiration from her family, and chose to make her piece a direct depiction of this muse.

“It’s a picture of my Grandpa,” Plata said. “It’s his eyes.”

However, it isn’t Plata’s technical skill alone that has been cited as a reason for her consideration in the competition.

“She’s very sweet and shy, and I think this is why I’m especially excited to see her being awarded this big honor because she’s so humble but she also truly deserves it,” Ms. Skillern said. “I’m really happy for her. I adore her artwork, but not only that, I adore her as a person. She is so genuine, and sweet, and super deserving.”

Plata also has support from her teachers to thank.

“Ms. Skillern helps me a lot,” Plata said. “I always ask her if it looks good.”

Ms. Skillern strives to support all students interested in trying art classes at Westwood and fostering the potential for future artistic careers.

“It’s a myth that you need to be born with talent to be an artist,” Ms. Skillern said. “Bettering your ability as an artist can be compared to playing an instrument: the more you practice, the better you get. I’ve seen students who work really hard every day practicing, developing, and you can become an extremely talented artist. This is a visual culture that we’re living in more and more now, and even if you don’t pursue fine arts as a career, having visual literacy and being able to communicate your ideas visually is really important in any area that you may go into in life. Visual literacy and design skills are extremely important in this digital era.”

Plata hopes that her art will inspire students hoping to pursue art in the future and those already taking classes.

“It’s really fun,” Plata said. “Take risks, because that’s what makes you better in art: taking risks.”