Perpich Arts High School Senior Inspired by Family Tragedy, Creates Award-Winning Art
A student artist right in our backyard is taking home a big national award for her moving piece inspired by her father’s traumatic brain injury.
Senior Erin O’Daniel at Perpich Arts High School won a silver medal in the nation’s longest running and most prestigious program for creative teens in grades seven through 12, known as the National Medalists in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.
It’s high praise for a painting that’s not only technically impressive, but also very personal.
Many times artist Erin O’Daniel takes inspiration for her artwork from music.
“When I listen to songs, I get ideas for art pieces, so I rely a lot on music for my ideas,” O’Daniel said.
But something else was the inspiration for the senior’s award winning painting.
“My Dad, two weeks before my senior year here, he actually got a TBI, a traumatic brain injury from a biking accident” said O’Daniel. “And that kind of threw me for a loop. So I had to start my senior year here with my dad in a hospital in coma.”
Erin’s Dad was on a breathing tube and spent three months in intensive care.
“His brain had to heal, so everything shut down immediately,” O’Daniel said.
Erin used art to help her through this hard time.
She channeled her emotions into her digital painting called Holding On.
“I wanted to represent me and my mother’s relationship at the time, which was us holding on to each other for comfort,” said O’Daniel.
Erin’s visual arts Instructor Kathryn D’Elia at Perpich Arts High School says the piece conveys a strong message through the placement of the figures.
D’Elia says the high quality of the work is in-line with Erin’s other pieces.
“She has a lot going on interiorly and then she’ll just deliver this work that you maybe didn’t expect or that is super thought-out and very successful, and you’re just like ‘dang.’ Like every time she turned a sketchbook in, it was just knocking my socks off,” said D’Elia.
Erin’s Dad’s recovery is going well.
“He’s doing fantastic. He started music therapy. He is continuing his guitar and doing piano through that. He’s doing way better,” said O’Daniel.
And there’s another happy ending to the personal story of her painting.
She won a national award.
“I wasn’t really thinking of showing people or whatever, but I’m very happy that that was the one that won,” said O’Daniel.
More than 100,000 teens from U.S. territories, Canada, and every state in the nation participated in this year’s awards.
Nearly 2,000 works earned national awards.
Outside of school, O’Daniel is a graphic design intern.
In the future, she wants to take certificate classes in different programs to round out her learning.