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Two Lancers recognized in prestigious national art competition

Seniors Kelly Lu and Arya Pratap are making a name for themselves in their respective art disciplines. They were both named 2021 YoungArt finalists — Kelly in Design Arts and Arya in World Dance, specifically Indian Classical Dance. 

They were honored by the National YoungArts Foundation, which holds an annual competition that recognizes accomplished visual, literary and performing young artists and provides them with creative and professional development opportunities throughout their careers. This year, only 150 finalists were selected from 8,000 applicants. Kelly and Arya join a renowned group of artists; a distinguishing mark of YoungArts is its alumni network. Notable YoungArts alumni include celebrities such as Nicki Minaj, Timothée Chalamet, Viola Davis and Hunter Schafer.

“Experimenting in the arts invites a lot of subjectivity—and as a student, I often find myself questioning the pieces I’m creating. Knowing that my work connected with others at YoungArts served to affirm and fuel my creative pursuits,” says Kelly.

Kelly has trained in the traditional fine arts for more than 12 years and has supplemented her arts education with Design/Draw 1, Drawing 2 andAP Studio Art at Saint Francis. But it’s only in the last two years that she began to work with graphic design. Self-taught, she looks to online tutorials as well as the work of established designers in her free time for guidance and inspiration. Being forced to stay home because of the pandemic has given her time to pursue more independent projects, but it also caused her to think more critically about the role of design during times like a lockdown.

“What’s a designer without an audience to design for?” she asks.

Kelly has enjoyed working on personal projects ranging from brand design to crowd-sourced design, and she is trying to envision how to incorporate graphic design in her future pursuits.

“Design is also engineering and storytelling,” Kelly says. “It’s a discipline that requires empathy with and awareness of the end user, whether that user is an established firm asking for a rebrand or a child interacting with your app.”

Likewise for Arya, dance has also been a form of storytelling, and the pandemic has similarly caused her to adjust how she finds fulfillment from her art form.

“I miss dancing on stage more than anything right now,” she says. “Performing in front of a live audience with the lights, echoing music, and energy is an unmatched ambiance that I crave to relive. But I'm grateful that I get to partake in performances through virtual shows and adapt and connect with my art form through new mediums and experiences.”

Arya has been honing her art form since was four years old. Saint Francis audiences saw her talents on display when she choreographed an Indian classical dance at the International Showcase her freshman year. 

“Showcasing Bharatanatyam, which is a 2,000-year-old divine art form, in front of hundreds of people across diverse communities was such a memorable experience,” she says.

Arya uses dance to communicate, bring awareness and foster change around social issues. For many years, she has used her art form to portray domestic abuse, social-economic inequality and global warming, and seeing the reactions from her audiences to these dances has brought validation. 

“Performing my experimental pieces before thousands and hearing them say that my dance empowers them to share their own narratives of injustice fills me with an unmatched sense of purpose and confidence to continue experimenting with my art,” she says.

Both Kelly and Arya are excited about the next stage of their artistic development. First up is a virtual weeklong program in which they will participate in classes and workshops with leaders in their fields. They will also contribute to a showcase featuring their work through virtual performances and exhibits. 

“I’m looking forward to collaborating with more artists outside my discipline,” says Arya. “Knowing that I have so much more to learn, unearth, and experiment with through Indian Classical dance fills me with indescribable happiness, and I am beyond eager to discover what lies ahead in my artistic journey.”