WEST ORANGE, NJ — West Orange High School senior and AP Art student Cristal Perez was awarded second place in the mixed media category at the annual Congressional Art Competition during a virtual ceremony on May 5. U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr., who represents the 10th Congressional District, congratulated Perez on her accomplishment.
In describing her work, which was done in graphite and oil pastels, Perez said, “Originally this piece was an Art 4 assignment on metallic objects. I chose to do a doorknob and wanted to add something more, so I included my hand in it as well. At first, I didn’t put much thought into it, though once I was finished, I took a deeper look into it.
“During the time I was working on this project, I was also filling out college applications and was completely terrified while doing so, mainly because I knew my childhood was coming to an end,” she continued. “I knew I would have many new doors to open and more chapters of my life to see. This piece represents that clearly, slowly unlocking my future — hesitant and scared yet still willing to unlock new things coming my way.”
Perez said she enjoyed the virtual ceremony.
“I was nervous I wasn’t going to be involved at all, but I was pleasantly surprised I had won one of the categories,” Perez said. “I was happy to be involved and be able to see everyone else’s pieces. We even took a little group picture and it was nice to see all of the families supporting their loved ones. And with all of the support I’ve gotten from my friends, family, and especially my art teachers throughout the years, I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”
Perez has studied art under teachers Heather Young, Diane LaPenta and Nicole Krulik.
“I am grateful to have been their student and to have great relationships with every one of them,” Perez said. “Their kind words and inspiration are always in my mind when creating my pieces and keeps me motivated. And I hope to be just like them when pursuing my teaching career and inspiring others like they did for me.”
Perez will be attending St. Peter’s University in the fall and plans to major in either art education or education with a minor in fine arts. In June, she plans to participate in a National Honors Art Society mural to recognize the LGBTQ community.