Seniors Ava Bajakian and Kassidy Puglisi: Sharing the Beauty of Their Art with the Ramapo Community

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AVA: (Top left: “Self Shape”, Top right: “I Am”, Bottom left: “Fortune’s Fool”, Bottom right: “The Eclipse”) (Photo Courtesy of Ava Bajakian)

Sarah Chagares, Editor-in-Chief

The experience of walking through the halls of Ramapo High School is usually enhanced by viewing the wonderful works of art that grace the otherwise bland walls. For the past four years two brilliant artists have been mainstays in these art showcases. Seniors, Ava Bajakian and Kassidy Puglisi, both standouts in the AP Art Studio Program have honed their crafts both individually and collaboratively in the workshops and classes of Ramapo and by doing so have not only succeeded in improving the aesthetics of our hallways, but by sharing their artistic masterpieces, they have also boosted the morale of students, staff and visitors alike. 

Becoming an AP Art Studio student is an honor and only the best and the brightest are admitted into this competitive program. To be considered for participation in the program students must have first successfully completed a certain number of required art classes throughout their underclassman years. Then, each applicant must submit a portfolio of their work, which is critically evaluated by the faculty of the art department. It is an extremely rigorous process and one that requires both talent and passion. Seniors, Ava Bajakian and Kassidy Puglisi are the cream of the Ramapo artistic crop and as such have risen to the top for their outstanding work in the AP Art Studio program. 

Artist Ava Bajakian has always been drawn to the artistic world. She recalled that as a young child she drew pictures of cookies with her friends. She was drawn to what started out as a hobby because there was no right or wrong answer; instead, she liked the idea of the artist making her own rules. The young artist continued to create throughout her childhood by repurposing t-shirts and socks to design clothes for her toys and dolls. Bajakian became even more inspired to continue pursuing artistic outlets once she arrived at Ramapo. Apparently, the classmates in her art classes helped to fuel her passion.  She explained that “Seeing all of these amazing people in the art room and in the art club, during freshman year, creating things that seemed so far above my level of skill inspired me to get better and take my art seriously.” That inspiration, combined with hard work, resulted in Bajakian being selected for the very competitive AP Art Studio Program. 

Bajakian’s favorite artistic vision is working with high contrast work of basic black and white. Although she does not specialize in a particular medium she is most comfortable working with acrylic paint, charcoal, pen, pencils, and gouache paint as well as working on digital programs. She also enjoys adding subliminal or symbolic details to her pieces. (Next time you see one of her art pieces, look for the message!) The young artist has an eclectic vision in the themes she pursues but some of her favorites include exploring identity/society/conformity; eccentricity and wackiness; and fear/horror/dissociation. She uses a plethora of symbols in her work such as butterflies, the sun, the moon, and the repeating of certain phrases. 

to communicate these themes. 

Being an AP Art Studio student has provided Bajakian with both an enormous amount of satisfaction as well as a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. She posited that she feels that way “because this is something I worked incredibly hard for since freshman year.” Her favorite part of being in the program is the freedom it gives her. She especially enjoyed working on her senior thesis project throughout the entirety of this year.           

A highlight of the year for Bajakian was serving as Art Club President, which the senior viewed as the pinnacle of her high school journey.  The Art Club was truly a special place for the senior and she offered, “Art Club is such a cool place to be. It made me really happy that I got to bring some of my non-artistic friends there and we all kind of vibed in this really cool space together and messed around.”

When she is not creating art, this multi-talented senior can be found participating in some interesting pastimes such as playing the piano or the ukulele. She skateboards and puts together niche playlists. She also makes some money by commissioning art pieces. One of her favorite things to do is to go for car rides with her sister while blasting music. 

Asked about what she will miss most about Ramapo, Bajakian reflected, “Everyone in the art community constantly strives to uplift each other and help each other improve. We all just want to see each other succeed and reach our fullest potential, and I think we’re able to communicate that through critiques, art shows, Art Club and just through talking about our work together and getting second opinions.” 

When asked about the place of art in society, the thoughtful student responded, “Art helps us feel more human. Something I focus heavily on in my work is allowing my art to not only speak to messages that are important to me, but to allow others to see themselves in my work.”

Looking ahead the talented senior will be a Studio Art major at Endicott College. She is excited to begin that educational journey which she hopes will lead to a career in her beloved field of art. Looking even further in the future, the senior hopes one day to live in Rome, Italy. Certainly Rome is a perfect home for a young artist! 

Artist Kassidy Puglisi grew up surrounded by art, especially the works of her favorite artist Salvador Dali as her family collected the endlessly interesting artist’s work. Recognizing at an early age that their daughter was gifted with a creative mind, her parents enrolled her in art classes. Those classes tapped into young Kassidy’s natural creativity and motivated her to continue pursuing her passion while a student at Ramapo. Alas, one of her fondest memories at Ramapo was finding out that she was accepted into the competitive AP Art Studio Program.  She happily reminisced about that day in January of 2020 as being one that she would never forget. 

Puglisi described the art themes she most enjoys pursuing as bright with a cartoonish, storybook like feel to them and her favorite material to work with is markers. Also integral to her art is the use of a large color palette. Always challenging herself, this year Puglisi set as a goal to experiment with different mediums and new materials as well as to become more familiar with techniques that she had not previously utilized. 

Like her colleague, Bajakian, Puglisi also enjoyed the freedom that the AP Art Studio curriculum provided. She commented, “My favorite part of being an AP Art student would probably be being able to choose my ‘Sustained Investigation’ theme. I felt it really helped me throughout my creative process to have no boundaries and be able to choose whatever I want to create.” Furthermore, being a part of the Studio Art program also provided the senior with a sense of aspirational responsibility, as it made her hopeful that her work would inspire younger students. She remarked, “I feel powerful knowing that other students in other courses could see my work and possibly use it as an inspiration, and I also love that I am able to give other students the opportunity and drive to take the art courses that Ramapo offers.”

Puglisi possesses the sensibilities of a true artist. Her passion for her creative process is evident in all of her pieces. When asked about the impact of art on her life, the artist profoundly answered, “Art means a lot to me because I can utilize it as a way to express my feelings and voice my opinions. I can also use it as a way to showcase my creativity subtly, without coming out and saying it.” Over the years art has taught her to be patient. She mused that she learned “to trust the process from art. Some pieces may start out and I may hate them, but as I continue working and developing they might turn out to be one of my favorite pieces.”

Puglisi proffered rave reviews for the Art Department faculty positing, “I would describe the art teachers as the best. They are all so knowledgeable and so good at doing what they do. I’ve learned so many interesting methods, tips, and tricks that I will carry with me throughout my college career.” She is lamented that she will miss “the positivity and encouragement I was surrounded by whilst creating my art from teachers and peers.”

When she is not with markers in hand busily working in the art rooms at Ramapo you could probably find Puglisi either running and passing on the lacrosse field or bolstering school spirit with the cheerleading squad. Amazingly, not only has she risen to the highest level in the art department but the versatile dynamo has also been a varsity member of both sports teams since her freshman year.  She commented that most people probably know more about the athletic side of her than the artistic side. Clearly her artistic prowess certainly rivals her athletic talent. 

Looking back on her time at Ramapo High School, the multidimensional student reflected on her journey. She sentimentally observed, “I will miss the school spirit and the sense of community and family that I was a part of for the past four years. Ramapo is really a family, whether it be the academic, athletic or creative side of things, and I wouldn’t trade the experience I had for the world!” 

Looking ahead, the talented senior is continuing her creative path at the University of Tennessee Knoxville’s College of Architecture and Design where she plans on majoring in architecture and minoring in interior architecture and art history. Her long-term goal is to become a designer of hotels and theme parks for the Walt Disney Company. With the addition of Puglisi’s passion and talent the Disney franchise would become an even more magical place than it already is. 

Since their arrival at Ramapo as freshmen, Ava Bajakian and Kassidy Puglisi have brightened our hallways and our hearts with their beautiful and inspirational artwork. We wish them well as they take their creative talents to their respective colleges and beyond. It has been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Our eyes have been the beholders of the artwork created by these two talented Ramapo artists and it has, indeed, been beautiful. Thank you Ava and Kassidy for sharing your talent with the Ramapo community over these past four years!

 

A few of Kassidy’s works. (Photo Courtesy of Kassidy Puglisi)