Art student finds new success in Scholastic competition

For senior Avonte Lyles, what started off as a spark for drawing in middle school has developed into a flame of artistic passion. The Cooper-Young Festival Young Artists Contest winner and Scholastic Gold and Silver Key recipient found interest in drawing through anime, doodles with friends and his early art classes.

Lyles enjoyed art classes in middle school at first but, after a few years, found himself just going through the motions. This all changed when he joined Charles Berlin’s Honors Art 2 class his sophomore year.

“Mr. Berlin’s class helped me say, ‘Okay, this is where I was at on a middle school level. This is what people are doing at a high school level. I’m nowhere near this.’” Lyles said.“I think that drove me to see what I could do and become.”

After finding his creative drive, Lyles entered art contests at the urging of Berlin, who often pushes students to participate in competitions for experience and exposure.

“It kind of let’s them know that there’s a real-world need for visual art, and it enriches so many people’s lives when they see the kind of work that these high school students are doing,” Berlin said.

Despite entering an abundance of pieces, Lyles didn’t find great success in any of his competitions until the 2018 Cooper-Young Festival Young Artists Contest, in which he won first place for his interpretation of the theme “Historically Hip.” Lyles then went on to win a Gold and Silver Scholastic Key, some of the greatest achievements a high school art student can receive. Nevertheless, Lyles remembers the hard work that came before his big wins.

“It feels good, but at the same time to have experienced not winning before, it’s also very humbling,” Lyles said.

Berlin, who pushes students to draw inspiration from observing the world around them, notes that Lyle’s strength lies in his originality and point of view.

“That’s one of the great things about Avonte,” Berlin said. “He sees things differently than other people.”

Jessica Lam
Avonte Lyles (12) blends colors on a piece. Though he usually works in charcoal, art teacher Charles Berlin pushes him to work with other mediums as well.