This month, our featured artist is eighth grader Hansi Zhu. Finding her passion for the creative arts from an early age, Hansi has been a constant within our art studios since her arrival in the 6th grade. Anyone that has visited IMS has likely seen one of her many works on display, such as the stunning backdrop for our 17th annual By Kids For Kids benefit concert, which raised more than $1076 for the Hole in the Wall Hang Camp. Hansi will be taking her talents to Phillips Exeter Academy in the fall.

When did you become interested in the arts?
If by “arts” you mean colors on paper, my background shouldn’t be all that shocking.

I attended my first drawing class when I was four years old, but I didn’t really take it seriously until I started attending weekly sessions four years later at a giant art school where older students scratched masterpieces out of graphite pencils, and (here’s the catch) I was able to sneak glances at their work right before my own class began. I’d grown up reading picture books about legendary painters like van Gogh and Monet, but I’d never seen such beautiful art in real life. These brief glimpses of the older students’ work every week inspired me to keep drawing, to make those lines straighter, shade those shadows smoother, and spend those hours filling in the tiny details that nobody would notice because I genuinely wanted to improve and be just like them. And that’ll be what brought me here.

But if by “arts” you mean what I think of when I think arts, I’ve been immersed in it since the first time I drew a perfect circle with a 2B graphite pencil. Art is the imitation—and the creation—of the world around me. I continue to spend hours in the studio thinking of ways to express myself because not only do I want to connect with my viewers, but I also want to decipher my thoughts as well.

What inspires you to create?
I create to help me decipher the world around me. In the studio, I can test the possibilities and make. I look at the world around me and (this is going to sound really cheesy but it’s true) I want to mimic its beauty with the delicate balances of paints and canvases. I love looking back at my work and telling myself, “hey, I did that!” And even outside the studio, I find the characteristics of art in nearly everything around me. With everything that I do, I strive to execute it in a way that embodies the subtle perfection I find in the arts. This take on life sculpts the quality of my every action.

What artistic accomplishment are you most proud of?
I take pride in all of my work, but I usually feel most accomplished when I complete a piece using a medium or style I’ve never tried before.

How did it feel to create the artistic backdrop for one of the biggest events of the school year, By Kids for Kids?
In general, it’s thrilling to see my own work being observed and hung up around the school, but the giant scale of this particular piece was pretty breathtaking to think of. To be completely honest, I’d never painted a realistic face before this project. I left art school to come to IMS right before we were going to start drawing people, so this was my first time. Starting out was terrifying, especially since I knew this was going to be the backdrop for By Kids For Kids, but it got easier as I adapted to the acrylics and peg board. I guess one of the remarkable things about art is that it’s never too late to try new methods and styles.

Can you tell us more about the piece you created?
The centerpiece of the backdrop is a woman’s face, her features distinctively African and the shadows and lights on her face all brought into bright, popping color. Her afro is shaped by the outline of the world’s continents, yet her face has replaced Africa, where all people originate from. This shows that people are people, and we all come from the same place.

The piece was painted using acrylics on three pegboard panels that were hung two feet apart in the middle of the stage. I used pegboards in reference to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, the charitable organization that all profits of the concert went toward.