M.S. Rau on Royal Street in the French Quarter is known all over the galaxy as a premier place to purchase artifacts and fine art. They are well versed in art history, but they also know art future. Once a year, through their foundation, Rau for Art, they hold a competition to pick three high school student-artists and fuel their education with scholarship money. Zoe Johnson is the Scholarship foundation Chair and Rebecca Rau is the Executive director of Rau for art.
Usually, there is a grand luncheon to pay homage to the victors, but with this year’s coronavirus pandemic, and the necessity of social distancing, the committee had to think outside of the box. They had a genius idea to surprise the winners by showing up and putting large checks in their front lawns!
For nine years, they have chosen students who enter the contest, from the greater New Orleans area. The judges pick winners based on the submitted artwork of students and look at skill, originality and the interpretation of the yearly theme. This year the theme is “there’s no place like earth.”
Morrah Burton-Edwards is a student at Lusher Charter School and painted a piece entitled: Home and Heart, a depiction of mankind’s dependency on the natural environment. Morrah won 1500 dollars and third place. Her piece is also for sale on M.S. Rau’s website. Morrah describes her pie e by saying, “humans only have one home: Earth. It is a place that is so ingrained in our lives, it is an essential part of human life we take advantage of everyday. The earth that we live in is ingrained in our lives, and that’s what I chose to depict. A young girl is shown being made up of various imagery from planet earth, because without earth she would not exist. And without the earth she has no future, so the earth landscapes are uplifting her to the future. I included some natural and urban landscapes because people view earth in different ways. Overall I want the viewer to be reminded that we are dependent on earth and it’s beautiful features, and so we must continue to take care of it.”
Ella Bereziuk is a senior at Covington High School and won second place and three thousand dollars for her work entitled: The Story of our Mistreatment of Mother Earth. Ella Describes her piece by saying, “the earth is a wondrous place filled with vibrant colors, breathtaking views, and diverse scenery, all coming together to make a masterpiece. However, the earth today is also facing more problems than ever; including climate change, deforestation, water and air pollution, and so much more. The most concerning part about this is that we are the ones who cause our home to suffer in this way, even after we acknowledge it as an issue. My painting represents the earth as the heart of every living thing. We need it to survive and it needs our love and care to flourish. Without the pure water to circulate through the ground and the trees to keep the air clean, the heart would stop beating. Daily, animals and nature become increasingly harmed by the earth’s own children worldwide. Of all the planets in the galaxy, the earth is the one that gives us life, and that makes it quite special. My hope is that one day our planet will no longer be suffering, and instead thrive in the care it is given. My hope is that the earth and its people become one.” To make an offer on Ella’s piece you can also go to M.S. Rau’s website.
Zane Gremillon is a senior at Archbishop Shaw High School and is the winner of the the 2020 competition and was sincerely blown away. His clever parents are to be commended for holding his attention with such a good ruse. While the committee gathered at safe distance outside Zane’s house, his parents were telling Zane to get ready because a photographer was going to show up and take his graduation pictures. Zane opens his door to find a monster-sized check worth 75 hundred dollars. Zane describes his piece by saying, “art has given me the ability to perceive the world in its truest form. In its colors, radiance, and vibrancy, the world comes to life through my eyes. Art has shown me that it is crucial to be kind to yourself above all else, and in life the same rules apply. Both require focus and determination in order to be successful. Every social experience, and all of the art you create, paves the way for your growth on Earth. With this personal message in mind, I created what should be celebrated rather than destroyed. By highlighting Earth’s natural phenomena in the form of a celestial deity, my work personifies our planet and attaches a face to its uncanny beauty.”
In the past, the first place student would also get the opportunity to study art abroad. This year there is the dilemma of travel restrictions and that option is unlikely, but Director Rebecca Rau paints a poignant point, saying, “in some ways that is the beauty of art, that it can take you places. I have no doubt that Zane is a super creative guy and if he keeps producing the work, it will take him and his audience places.”
The beauty in this year’s artwork is that with a paintbrush or a pen and a bright positive outlook, anyone has the ability to paint a pretty tomorrow.