Picture perfect

Photography student wins national art competition

By Macy Landes, Editor

Everyone knows what it’s like to look at a photo and be transported to another world, or at least feel a little sense of wanderlust.

Senior Belle Ray’s photography has provided them with the opportunity to get out of Kansas in real life. As a 2018 National YoungArts Merit winner, they’ll take an all-expenses paid trip to Los Angeles to work alongside renowned artists and former winners, as well as receive a cash award of up to $10,000.

When they got the email notifying them of the award in December, they were ecstatic.

“I ran all the way down here [the art hallway] from my English class,” Ray said.

Photography teacher Angelia Perkins, who has worked with Ray since their freshman year, was excited too, especially about how accommodating YoungArts is in terms of paying for the trip.

“Sometimes with these competitions, if you win, you still need to pay for airfare and so it’s still pretty limiting,” she said. “I was shocked, but so proud of them.”

Picking pieces to enter was no small feat. Ray had years of work to choose from and narrow down to just 10.

“The first five are a series, and that was my series that I did for [the AP test],” they said. “And it was about my life as a child and how that influenced me now. It’s like the breaks that happened when I was young and how that affects me. The other five were the best works from my portfolio.”

Beyond their work at school, Ray works at VanGo Inc., an arts based job training program in town, which exposes them to a broader range of media and people in the art business.

“There is often a lengthy period of skill building and personal exploration that must happen before many young artists are capable of finding direction or continuity to their work,” Van Go’s Art Director Rick Wright said. “Belle seems to be ahead of that curve. I see passion, introspection and a genuine journey in their work.”

Naturally, when VanGo staff found out about Ray’s success, they were elated as well.

“At the time, I recall thinking ‘This is a pretty big deal,’ ” Wright said.

What is Ray looking forward to most? The master classes and the West Coast.

“I spend the whole week taking classes, so that’s kind of exciting, and I’ve also like never been away and alone for that long, so that’s exciting too,” they said.

They’ll always foster their love for photography, even though it’ll probably become more of a hobby when they go to college in Colorado to become a veterinarian.

“I might minor in it, take a few classes or something, but it’s not my main focus,” Ray said.

Still, Perkins knows they’ll continue to pursue their passion however they can.

“They’re a little bit more of a quiet person around other people, but I think they really have that loud, strong voice when it comes to communicating that through their art,” Perkins said.