Finding Her Voice And Using It to Help Others
By ML Ball December 2018, Edition 29)
Photos: Courtesy of Olivia Weinstein
When a shy eighth grader balks at taking a photography class but ends up loving it, that’s The Art Effect. When a teen who was bullied in middle school finds the courage to transform her experiences into art so that other victims of bullying won’t feel so alone, that’s The Art Effect. When a gifted artist decides to follow her passion and set her sights on a professional art career, that’s The Art Effect.
The story of three students at The Art Effect? No, just one story—that of Olivia Weinstein. A 16-year-old painter/photographer from High Falls, NY, Olivia took her first class at The Art Effect when she was 14, against her will.
“My mom signed me up for a black-and-white film photography class, and I did not want to do it,” she said recently. “I was really nervous and had a lot of social anxiety. She thought this would be a good way to get involved in something and be around other people.”
As the weeks progressed, Olivia found herself drawn to the class more and more. “I liked that I could express myself in a unique way. It wasn’t common to use film in my school [Rondout Valley High School], so I liked being different and expressing myself through film photography.”
Gradually, Olivia found that she truly had artistic talent. More importantly, she found her voice.
“I was trying to find a message to send out through my work,” she explained, “and I figured out that my past experiences—the difficult times I’ve been through in middle school and mental health issues and all that stuff—have given me something powerful to say.”
After completing that photography class two years ago, Olivia hasn’t looked back. “I’ve been drawn to everything,” she said. “I’ve taken oil painting, figure drawing, digital photography, black-and-white film photography and the advanced portfolio class with Todd [Poteet, Director of The Art Institute, a division of The Art Effect].” As a result, she has now become an accomplished artist who plans to turn professional.
Yet even more impressive than the outward achievements have been the inner ones.
As Olivia described it, “My art has made me feel a lot more comfortable with myself as a person, not only because I get to share these experiences with others, but I can shed light on mental health and bullying in middle school and high school. It has definitely changed me as a person. It’s given me inner strength.”
Along the way, others’ lives have been changed, too. “One girl my age who saw some of my work said to me that she has been through the same exact stuff, and this shows her that she’s not alone and that she can work through it,” Olivia said. “It made me feel that I was sharing a message, and that conveying my feelings through my art helps connect people.” Again, that’s The Art Effect.
For more information on The Art Effect, visit www.feelthearteffect.org. █