At 13, Taylor Wright is painting a bright future

| March 6, 2020 | 0 Comments

Taylor Wright holds her phone displaying a piece of artwork she created with it, titled “Citizen,” which was on display at the University of Minnesota’s Regis West Gallery. DAVE HRBACEK | THE CATHOLIC SPIRIT

As with many 13-year-olds at a Catholic school, Taylor Wright is preparing for confirmation. Unlike those writing a report about a favorite saint, she is drawing her saint.

That decision surprises no one who knows her. Wright is an award-winning artist. Although her subjects vary, drawing is one way to express her faith, she said. “There are a lot of Jesuses in my sketchbook.”

Two of Wright’s paintings recently won “gold key” Minnesota Scholastic Art Awards in the digital art category. They were displayed at the Regis West Gallery at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and automatically advanced to the national Scholastic Awards competition. Later this month, she learns if either (or both) wins national recognition and display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Wright created the paintings using an app on her smartphone’s 2-inch by 4-inch screen. Born to an Asian mother and an American father, she also created them out of emotions she felt after some children called her names. So Taylor picked up her digital easel.

One award-winning painting, “Yellow,” shows Wright wanting to change herself. The second one, “Citizen,” depicts Wright proud to be who she is.

“The drawings came from the depths of my mind and the depths of my heart,” she said. She hopes other Asian-Americans will understand the turmoil she felt and find their own closure, she said.

“I don’t always express how I feel with my words,” Wright said. “Sometimes it’s easier to do it in pictures.”

Other children might do so through singing, dancing or poetry, she said. Drawing works for her.

“Just getting the feelings out and not having to think about or feel them anymore is important,” Wright said. “Put them somewhere where you and others can appreciate them.”

Wright said she’s had “a lot of ups and downs,” but she is grateful for her grandparents, who are raising her. Her mother died when she was 8 years old. She sometimes feels lonely, but knows she will never be alone because God will always be there.

“I’ve had long nights, but it helps to pray and go to church,” she said. The family attends
Sts. Joachim and Anne in Shakopee.

Wright chose St. Lorenzo Ruiz for her confirmation saint. “When I read about him, I saw a lot of parallels,” she said, “so I feel a connection.”

Born around 1600 in Manila, Philippines, St. Lorenzo was biracial himself — Filipino and Chinese. He lived a quiet, simple life, Wright said, and worked as a church calligrapher. “If that was a position today, I’d want it,” she said. “I love calligraphy and script.” 

When falsely accused of murder, St. Lorenzo escaped to Japan, only to be arrested for the crime of being Christian. He was imprisoned, tortured and killed for not renouncing his faith.

Largely self-taught in art, Wright took one class from Janice Lennox, art instructor at Shakopee Area Catholic School.

Wright has amazing natural talent, and she has worked hard to develop it, Lennox said.

“I have . . . watched her grow in skill and confidence into the wonderful, faith-filled, determined young woman that she is,” Lennox said.

The past two years, Wright earned first and second place finishes at the regional level in an annual poster competition sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. The theme is “Keep Christ in Christmas.” 

She awaits the status of her latest entry. Wright’s poster shows Jesus kneeling in front of a small girl, with “a light effect” shining on him. The girl reaches for the star of Bethlehem, which Jesus is handing to her. 

“It is so precious,” said Sherrill Ostergren, Wright’s grandmother and biggest fan.

On March 1, Wright placed third out of 140 entries in the visual arts competition with a digital painting at the Shine On talent competition for Catholic schools at Providence Academy in Plymouth. The competition for fourth- through eighth-graders was hosted by the Catholic Schools Center of Excellence, which supports Catholic elementary schools in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Wright received a $500 award to further her education in the arts and a $500 grant for her school’s art classroom.

Wright applied to Benilde-St. Margaret’s School in St. Louis Park for ninth grade. She wants to attend a college preparatory school on her path to becoming a psychologist or psychiatrist. Of course, art will always be part of her life, she said.

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