Eighteen-year-old Grace Verbic, a 2018 graduate of DeKalb High School, is a freshman at DePaul University majoring in voice and opera.
Although she spends her time at college studying for classes and rehearsing for this quarter’s upcoming opera production, her artwork has a life of its own, traveling around the state.
Verbic is one of 20 Illinois high school artists chosen to have their artwork displayed around Chicago and the Illinois State Capitol Building for the next year.
Verbic spoke to MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton about her artwork, music and goals for the future.
Milton: Have you always been interested in the arts?
Verbic: Yes, I’ve always been interested in art and music. While in high school, I took art classes and was in the madrigals and Enharmonic Fusion for four years. My freshman through junior year, [Enharmonic Fusion] went to New York for the ICHSA competition. My junior year, we placed second in the nation.
Milton: Were you involved with other extracurricular activities?
Verbic: Throughout high school, I focused on art. I wasn’t involved in sports, but you’re very active in a cappella. There’s dancing and choreography and singing is active without movement. You exercise your vocal chords and your lungs. Your breath and emotion is in every song you sing.
Milton: Tell me more about your painting.
Verbic: I took art classes and loved to paint in high school. My senior year, I took AP Photography because drawing and painting wouldn’t fit into my schedule. One of our assignments was to emulate a painting. I love Frida Kahlo and her story, and I wanted to emulate her work while conveying my own message. I took a photo of my friend Fayth and photoshopped it to look like a painting Frida did of herself. I named it “Fayth as Frida.”
Milton: Was it difficult to emulate Frida Kahlo’s style?
Verbic: The assignment was to emulate a painting, and that was difficult. I like to work from my imagination, creating art that is something new. Our teacher said that if you emulate an artist, you “steal ideas smartly.” You take pieces or techniques and make it your own.
Milton: Is the artwork a painting or a photo?
Verbic: I would describe it as a photo because I used Photoshop, not paint. However, it looks like a painting with vibrant colors. It was easy to enlarge for display because it is a digital image.
Milton: How was your photo selected to be on display?
Verbic: It was through a contest through school. There was an exhibit in Chicago, and then only a few were selected to be on display at the Illinois Capitol building and travel around the state. My photo will be on display for about a year, and I get the original back at the end.
Milton: Is it odd to think that your artwork is traveling around Illinois?
Verbic: It is kind of weird, but I forget that it is traveling sometimes. It’s a piece of me, my artwork, being shown without me being there. It’s hard to describe. Someone could be looking at it right now. The true goal of artwork is to cause a reaction, good, bad or indifferent. Your goal is to make the viewer stop and think and have a reaction.
Milton: Do you have any project ideas for the future?
Verbic: I’ve been busy now with school, but I’m singing in this quarter’s opera. I’m also working on a large painting, but I keep it at home because it’s too large to take with me to college. I’m constantly sketching, too. I always think of new ideas.
Milton: What advice would you give to inspiring artists or musicians?
Verbic: Reach out to your teacher, your art teacher, your music teacher, or a counselor. If something interests you, don’t let that go. Sometimes people think that art or music aren’t serious, that you can’t do it as a lifelong career, and that’s sad and scary to think of. Growing up, my parents supported my interest in art and music. They told me to do what you love, no matter what.
Milton: How has art and music classes shaped your future?
Verbic: I was lucky to have art and music programs at school. They’re extremely important, and just like any other class, they offer a wide variety of experiences and knowledge. Art and music classes help you find out your interests, where you belong. I am happy that DeKalb High School had that opportunity for everyone. I was drawn into music in high school and now I’m studying vocal performance in college. My goal one day is to be an opera singer and to always continue to make art.