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Shelter Island students create a portrait of a leader, celebrating Black History Month

Shelter Island was one of 11 area high schools to participate in the fourth annual East End Arts MLK Portrait Project, an artistic community project to celebrate Black History Month and the civil rights leaders of yesterday and today.

This initiative, begun in 2021, originally featured Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as the subject, but the program has since evolved to expand to other civil rights leaders.

Sixteen Shelter Island students participated this year under the direction of Art Teacher Catherine Brigham, creating a mosaic portrait of Shirley Chisholm, who made history by being the first Black woman to be elected to the United States Congress.

In 1972, she became the first Black candidate for a major-party nomination for President of the United States and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

Sixth-grader Alice Potter said she learned from the project that “she showed the world women and men, black or white, we should all have equal rights, and we should all be allowed to vote for who we believe in, or even run for president.”

Her fellow sixth-grader Amara Cajamarca Goodale added, “She also was determined to do something that once seemed impossible which is inspiring to me and probably to many people in the world.”

This project will be celebrated at a reception Friday, March 1, 2024 from 4 to 7 p.m. at East End Arts Art & Music School, 141 E. Main St., Rear, in Riverhead.

Students began the project during the fall semester to complete their piece by MLK’s birthday in January, when it went on display in each individual school until the final gallery show.

At the March 1 opening, the public is invited to meet with the student artists, cast their votes in the people’s choice ballot, enjoy the artworks, and make a purchase if they wish.