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The Warrior

Artist of the issue: Gabriel Franco

By Lara Sonuga, Editor

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His name has been echoing down the hallways of Lane for months, used in casual conversation by students and teachers alike. Whether it is because of this year’s senior notables or because of the t-shirt that he designed, Gabriel Franco is a name that most will recognize.

Earlier this year, Franco, Div. 790, collaborated with senior Malak Afaneh, Div. 768, to create a t-shirt that became a popular clothing item as well as a political statement. His involvement with the project began in a Facebook group. Afaneh made a post asking for an artist to assist her in drawing the design that she had envisioned.

“She messaged me and told me she wanted to do either a Muslim girl as Rosie the Riveter wearing a hijab, or a black woman wearing a hijab that said ‘black women for muslim rights,’” Franco said. “I just messed around with those ideas for a little bit, and we talked about what would be good and what wouldn’t, and I came up with a few sketches.”

The final design — a female in a hijab dressed as iconic figure Rosie the Riveter — was one that pleased both of them, and eventually would please the rest of the Lane population as well.

Franco said that the feedback they received was “all positive.”

“I didn’t know that it would reach out as far as it did,” he said. “Malak was on Fox News talking about it, and there were multiple articles written. I’m impressed with the results.”

Franco’s artistic tendencies have been present in his life since he was young; however, he hadn’t taken any art classes prior to his freshman year.

“Ever since I was little, I’ve always had a pencil; I just doodled all the time,” he said. “But my first actual painting was my freshman year with Ms. Chisholm.”

During his four years at Lane, Franco has taken a drawing and painting course, two drawing classes, an AP art class, and a film studies class. He named two teachers in particular who had a powerful impact on him and his artwork.

“Mr. Ceh definitely helped me realize how much I like realistic painting,” he said. “He made me become a better artist because he was so demanding. Ms. Chisholm made me realize that I loved painting and ignited the creativity in me, and helped me push myself to do things that I wasn’t comfortable with or wasn’t used to.”

Ms. Chisholm, who describes Franco as “one of the most creative students I have had” with a skill set that is “truly unique,” was delighted to have him as a student in her Art 1 class.

“Gabriel made a huge impression on me as a freshman, academically, artistically and because of his character,” Chisholm said. “He made art that was very mature and provocative and did not hesitate to explore diverse materials. His ideas were smart and nuanced, and his execution of them was spot on.”

Chisholm encouraged Franco to join After School Matters. His involvement in ASM and completion of Art 1 marked the point in his life in which he knew art was his passion.

“I’ve fallen in love with it,” Franco said.

His devotion to art is something that many people have been able to recognize and appreciate. Franco’s artistic skills and achievements led to a senior notable nomination; he was voted the most artistic person in the class of 2017.

“I’m really thankful that I got nominated for that and voted it,” he said. “It’s cool that I’m the most artistic of the senior class, but I don’t think that’s fair to everyone else. I have mixed feelings. It’s a senior notable, it doesn’t really matter, but at the same time I’m glad that my peers see me producing art and appreciate it as much as I want them to.”

Franco’s humility is another aspect of his personality that his peers and instructors have been able to recognize.

“He doesn’t boast about things he does. He’s very humble about that. I think that’s very big of him,” Mr. Ceh, an art teacher who has had Franco as a student for two consecutive years, said. “A student’s attitude is everything. What most people misunderstand is what art teaches on a daily basis. The discipline, the hard work, the consistency. He has all of that. I think he’s going to be very successful someday.”

Franco plans to enroll at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in the fall.

“I can’t see myself doing anything else,” said Franco. “Nothing else interests me or excites my passion.”

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The student news site of Lane Tech College Prep
Artist of the issue: Gabriel Franco