The Art That Surrounds Me: How I found creativity amidst a busy schedule


Cleo Belber

Photography can be a gratifying form of creative expression

Cleo Belber, Staff Writer

I didn’t exactly intend to take Honors Portfolio Development this year. However, having taken a dismal total of one Intro to Art class as a freshman, some miraculous twist of fate involving a malfunction in my schedule and a desperate struggle for art credits landed me in a class with some of the most legendary artists Scituate High School has to offer. 

From an outside perspective, the class shouldn’t have scared me. After all, my mom has been making a profession out of art for decades now. A painter for many years, she transitioned to designing jewelry around the time I was born. My grandmother is also an expert of the trade, consistently filling gigantic canvases with acrylics and pastels. Even my namesake and great-grandmother Cleo was a student at Pratt Institute. Her artwork accompanies that of my mother and grandmother on the walls of our home, completing the generation trifecta that is my artistic family. 

At the bottom of this talented and creative familial tree is where one will find me. Buried under books and equations for the vast majority of my life, art has never come naturally to me– the temptation to draw a straight line usually turns to some sort of rigid, gridlike pattern, which eventually serves as scratch paper for calculating integrals or analyzing Shakespeare. One can imagine, then, how I felt when I walked into that art class on the first day of school: out of place and wildly insecure.

Flash forward five months, and I’m still not a super talented artist. However, my mindset regarding art has changed drastically. At the beginning of the year, my art assignments were treated like any old problem set. I would rush through mixed media compositions at midnight, cut leaves into various shapes between club meetings, and glue newspapers together during Gov class. I thought that if I treated my pieces like I did my academic assignments, I would somehow survive art class and manage to get high marks at the same time. It was around this moment of acceptance that two very important things happened: I got a bad grade and I found inspiration.

The first of which was inevitable. After all, most of my classmates were spending countless hours on intricate patterns and perfecting facial structure. It took me too long to realize that my midnight collage sprees just were not going to cut it anymore. The second one, however, was more gradual. There was no specific moment when I came to an enlightened conclusion, but rather a series of realizations, which are as follows:

  1. Being an artist has almost nothing to do with talent and almost everything to do with expression.
  2. Art can be found nearly anywhere–even in a textbook or calculus problem!
  3. Art is an international language that can be used to overcome oppression, differences, and barriers of all kinds.
  4. Each work of art truly has the power to make a difference, no matter how small that difference may be. 
  5. Limiting oneself in expression can be damaging to a person’s mental health, and making art can be healing in countless ways.

Creating with free intentions is never easy, especially in the brain of a self-proclaimed perfectionist. However, what I have found, in the midst of all the globally shared trauma and grief and loneliness, is that art has a funny way of pulling humanity together in a multitude of snapshots. Together, these snapshots can combine perspectives, cultures, and ideas in a beautiful tapestry of empathy and inclusion. My advice? Try creating something–trust me, you won’t regret it. After all, your creations are an extension of you, and the more of you in the world, the better!

If you are looking for inspiration, I would strongly recommend checking out Sydnie Marshall’s Padlet portfolio board. Her work is incredibly powerful and has played a large role in influencing how I think about art and expression!