WARREN, NJ - Parents, families, administration officials and teachers gathered in the Watchung Hills Regional High School (WHRHS) South Auditorium on Wednesday, Nov. 1, to congratulate 92 students who were inducted into the National Art Honor Society (NAHS).

This year’s inductees include 44 seniors, 33 juniors, and 15 sophomores. WHRHS Art Teachers Vincent Colabella and Emily Jordan are faculty sponsors for the NAHS.

Colabella welcomed everyone to the induction ceremony, said this was by far the largest number of students to be inducted at one time. WHRHS Principal George Alexis said this year’s induction of more than 90 students to NAHS sets a new standard for WHRHS.

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The keynote speaker for the evening was 2007 WHRHS graduate Amanda Jane Givens, who is a fashion designer with Tracy Reese, West 39th Street, New York City, N.Y. Tracy Reese presents “a modern take on classic silhouettes rich with art inspired prints, beautiful color palettes, attention to detail, and novelty embellishment.”

The National Art Honor Society includes students who demonstrate academic rigor in: Fine Arts, such as the ones taught at WHRHS in painting and drawing; Photography and Ceramics; as well as other 3-D disciplines, including Jewelry design, Sculpture, and Crafts, Jordan said.

NAHS Inductees

Those honored this year at WHRHS are:

Seniors: Sophie Almeida, Julia Amiano, Bailey Ashe, Kathryn Berger, Emily Boney, Sean Boniakowski, David Brewster, Michael Bury, Renee Cabato, Edward Cai, Matthew Canary, Katelyn Carroll, Alexandra Catalano, Katelyn Familio, Lindsay Fogel, Alyssa Galdi, Abigail Gallic, Maura Herkert, Tanner Hogan, Danielle Kalen, Stephanie Keller, Ryan Kelly, Lucy Longobardi, Michael Maloney, Sarah McCracken, Kendal MacTaggert, Renee Mianowski, Daisy Portillo, BrigitaPrzybylski, Stephanie Rodrigues, Angelia Seda, Emily Snead, Emma Sonta, Kaylee Spiteri, Marissa Stamler, Carissa Tsien, Amreeta Verma, Steven Wang, Shelagh Wickey, Hannah Wizeman, Michelle Yang, Jainie Yue, Daniel Zimmer, and Natalie Zurek.

Juniors: Anna Baitel, Shoili Banerjee, Sara Barrientos, RuchiBiswas, Elizabeth Bruno, Jennifer Cagno, Kelsey Carlucci, Katherine Chang, Chloe Choi, Hailey Crawford, Molly Davis, Emily Imiolek, Portia Jones, Anna Kaplan, Sofia Kwon, Jacey Maree, Rachel Miller, Francesca Minervini, Arianna Rahimi, Elisabeth Morris, Catherine Ray, Alexa Renzo, Aanika Sadana, Shefali Sahay, Annika Schmidt, Rebecca Sendon, Heather Sherry, Juhee Sukla, Jaemi Spaven, Yvonne Tang, Brianna Titus, Megan Vetter, and Sophie Weaver.

Sophomores: Christina Baratta, John Farley, Alysabeth Gaito, Bianca Hartmann, Apurva Joshi, Elizabeth Killeen, NgocthyNguyen, Cristina Sarrico, Pramity Shah, Spencer Shao, Alice Spiers, Jack White, Jessica Young, Sarah Young and Vivian Zhang.

The NAHS student Executive Board are: President Matthew Canary; Vice Presidents Angelia Seda and Amreeta Verma;,Secretaries Kathryn Berger and Elizabeth Morris; Public Relations Stephanie Rodrigues and  Sara Barrientos; Gallery Coordinators Annika Schmidt, Portia Jones, and Elizabeth Killeen; and Director of Student Communications Natalie Zurek.

Art Student Alum Speaks

Givens answered numerous questions posed by the students after giving her initial remarks. She gave students a glimpse into her college experience and post-college internships and work experiences in fashion design. She has studied and worked bothhere in the United States, and abroad in Florence and Milan, Italy.

After graduation from WHRHS, Givens attended Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), a State University of New York (SUNY) college of art, business, design, mass communication and technology connected to the fashion industry, New York City. She then went to Polimoda International Fashion Institute, Florence, and Secoli Institute, Milan. She added that while she always had an eye toward fashion, she was a fine arts major in college, who also had an interest in numerous art disciplines while at WHRHS, giving her a broad grounding in art.

She shared that her entrée into fashion came from her love as a child for comic books. Her impulse was to channel that passion into drawing her own comic books. That led her to developing her skill in sketching, and dressing the characters in her original comic book creations in inspired designs, vivid color palettes, and novel embellishments. The skill of sketching is now one of the essential building blocks of artistic expression that she uses daily as a fashion designer, she said. It helped her develop an awareness for, and a familiarity with, various color palettes, and the appreciation for the importance of understanding how many art forms, including fashion designing, require inter-disciplinary collaboration.

For students interested in a career in the fashion industry, she recommended students study abroad at some point in their education, but not just as an American having an experience in another country. Rather, it is advisable to have an international experience in another country, including learning in the other country’s language. Apart from what that does for the learning experience in general, it also helps to build a more compelling and “different” individual personal “story,” she said when interviewing with potential future employers, customers, and projects. 

Givens said internships can be very helpful, and interns should expect to work hard. Some employers are better than others to intern with, however, so some research ahead of time about the typical working environment at a particular employer can be important.

The designer said it can take as many six months from initial sketch to finished lines of clothing available to customers. Two lines a year is typically created, so it’s a year-round experience. The process includes creating sketches and measurements earlier than one might think, because the factory needs lead-time to know what materials such as fabrics and color schemes. Accessories such as zippers, buttons and such, must be ordered, for example. Other stops along the creative process includeturning sketches into more detailed artwork, including choosingcolor palettes, fittings with models, and the vast array of complex preparations for the runway shows. 

Lessons From Leonardo Da Vinci

Given’s remarks dovetailed into what Principal Alexis told the students, he was inspired by his own experience in Florence while on a family trip to Italy this summer and on reviews of two recently released biographies of Leonardo da Vinci. 

“We all know Leonardo as a brilliantly gifted painter, Alexis said, “but he also made exceptional advances in the sciences and in engineering and was an extraordinary inventor. His accomplishments in those fields, according to one author, were the product of his own determined will, not superhuman genius. In fact, Leonardo’s life can be instructive for everyone, artists and non-artists alike, but the advice is particularly appropriate for you as young artists.”

Alexis urged, "First, be curious about everything. Ask questions, explore, experiment. Blur the line between art and science. Embrace the beauty inherent in science and math, just as you embrace scale and symmetry, colors and patterns, and natural beauty in the world. 

"Next, observe constantly and closely. Pay attention to detail and have the patience to see patterns unfold. As artists, you have an advantage: you see things the rest of us overlook or barely notice. 

“And remember, whether you draw or paint, design or sculpt, or use a sharp eye and the lens of your camera, you have a creative gift, an aesthetic sensibility that empowers you to see the world through different lenses and grow comfortable with ambiguity. It allows you to use your imagination and creativity to solve problems in new ways. And whether you realize it or not, it is helping you deepen your sense of empathy by giving you the power to contemplate the world through the eyes of others. In short, your aesthetic sensibility is a gift to be shared, and as a member of the NAHS, you have a responsibility to use that gift to make a difference in our school community."

Talented, Hard Working Students

Student NAHS President Matthew Canary said he listened with interest to the remarks by Guest Speaker Givens and Principal Alexis about how art can and in many ways must be a curious mix of the appreciation of artistic expression and making a statement, and capacity of Art to be a form of entertainment, escape, release, and “seeing” outside one’s self. 

Canary said he is continually inspired by his teachers, but also specifically by “the amazing students we have here at WHRHS. So many do see the vital importance of Art.”

He added that being inducted into NAHS does recognize outstanding ability and excellence in various art forms, but alsoteaches and encourages NAHS members to come together and collaborate.

“We have more than talented teenagers in NAHS this year,” he said. “We have truly hard working people.”