The Easton Arts Council was founded almost 25 years ago and incorporated shortly after with the goal of fostering the arts in Easton. One of the Articles of Incorporation lists the recognition of young artists in our community. To that end, a number of awards are given out yearly to students at Joel Barlow High School and Helen Keller Middle School. As president of the Arts Council, I have the honor of attending the awards ceremonies each year and handing out the awards. This year, due to the pandemic, the ceremonies were modified. I did not have the pleasure of meeting the awardees, so I decided to call them and talk to them about their awards.
At Barlow, two awards are presented to 11th grade Easton students for “accomplishment, creativity and originality,” one in the field of performing and one in the field of visual arts. The students are chosen by the respective teachers in their field of art. The award consists of a Certificate of Recognition and a monetary prize. The awards are given in honor and memory of Nancy White who was a founding member of the Arts Council, our first treasurer, a painter, a teacher, and wife and mother who passed away prematurely from a brain tumor.
This year’s winner in the Performing Arts category was Trevor Wilkes. I already knew of Trevor. I have performed with his mother, Claire, who is an accomplished actor and appears regularly in the Arts Council’s yearly Reader’s Theater directed by Kit Briner and staged in the community room at the Easton Public Library. In fact, Trevor had already been selected by Briner for a role in the planned production of Neil Simon’s “Rumors,” which unfortunately had to be canceled due to the pandemic.
It was great talking to Trevor. He obviously is a “chip off the old block,” taking after his mother in many ways. He told me he was “bitten” by the theater bug at an early age and has been in every Barlow production since ninth grade. One of Trevor’s favorite roles was The Stranger in Ibsen’s “The Lady from the Sea” presented by the Connecticut Drama Association last year. Besides acting, Trevor loves to sing. He has been in the Barlow A Capella group “Ten Minute Break” for two years.
This summer he performed in a local musical revue, which was organized in a socially distanced manner by his vocal coach in Redding. He performed the duet “Agony” from Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” as well as “Helpless” from “Hamilton.” Trevor also plays the trumpet in the concert band. He is not sure if he is going to major in the performing arts in college but is certainly keeping the possibility open.
This year’s winner of the Visual Arts award was Ellie Chan. To start off our conversation, Ellie sent me copies of the colored pencil pieces she had drawn for her Junior Year Advanced Placement Art Project. The name of the project is “An Exploration of Bad Habits and Vices Through Art.” Some of the vices she depicted were; yelling, anger, nervous tics, self-scratching, smoking, teeth-grinding, and technology addiction. Ellie admitted to a few of these, but I won’t say which ones! She is self-taught; she has never taken a private art lesson.
There was a beautiful portrait in her portfolio. Ellie described that this was a result of a “Portrait Exchange” in which she took part. She received a copy of a photo in the mail from a young woman in the Middle East, made a portrait from it, and sent it back. Ellie plans to minor in art in college and wants to major in the interdisciplinary study of health, medicine and society. For this, she is concentrating on STEM classes and biostatistics. She also volunteers at the Regional Hospice and Palliative Care Center in Danbury. She will be using the stipend, accompanies the award, toward paying for her college expenses.