Morristown student art show keeps alive memory of Lauren Failla

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There’s more to being an artist than just splashing paint on canvas. Presentation counts, too, according to Morristown High School senior Rebekah Lee.

“We learned a lot about preserving our artwork, and how to display it, keeping it clean and keeping it neat,” said Rebekah, one of eight students from the MHS Art Mentoring Program whose works are being exhibited at the Zebu Forno café through Feb. 12.

Professional artists Dan Fenelon and Susan Faiola mentored the students for 12 weeks during the fall semester.

“We try to help kids prepare portfolios for their college interviews,” Dan said at Sunday’s reception for the young artists. Special emphasis is given to portraits of models, something often missing from the high school repertoire, he said.

Photos by Sharon Sheridan and Kevin Coughlin. Please click icon below for captions.

Developed in 2004 by Mira Morrison of the MHS Art department and Kadie Dempsey of the Arts Council of the Morris Area with support from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the mentoring program lost its funding in 2009.

The Lauren Elizabeth Failla Foundation came to the rescue, and has promised to provide 80 percent of the program’s funding for the next five years, Kadie said.

MHS graduate Lauren Failla was a 25-year-old artist who died while vacationing in India in 2010. The nonprofit foundation honors her memory by backing causes related to children and the arts.

“She would have been so amazed” by the students’ artworks, said Jito Chadha, who was Lauren’s boyfriend and now is a foundation trustee. He flew in from Los Angeles for the reception in Morristown.

Board members intend to expand the mentoring program to other parts of Morris County–possibly Dover and Randolph, Jito said. The foundation also has scheduled an April 14 party to pack gift bags for mothers of infants at Morristown Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Jito, who works in his family’s environmental engineering firm, said dealing with Lauren’s loss has been difficult.

“You never get through it,” he said. “It’s something you never forget. You always carry on, day by day, step by step.”

Lauren’s parents, Frank and Kay Failla, and one of Lauren’s mentors, gallery owner Harry Simon, attended Sunday’s reception. Harry organized a memorial walk last month with a Seeing Eye puppy named in honor of Lauren.

Lauren’s love for art lives on through the program. MHS senior Amber Collins said she will remember the mentoring sessions with fondness.

“There was a lot of good energy, a lot of welcoming people,” said Amber, who wants to study forensic psychology and art in college.

The mixed-media artist said the program taught her to “be more creative and trust myself, not be so literal, (just) go with it.”

Art history, life drawing, still life drawing and computer arts are included in the program.

Monica Argenio, an MHS junior whose pencil portrait of the Red Hot Chili Peppers is displayed at Zebu, is  grateful for the mentoring as she looks ahead to college.

“I got a lot of good stuff for my portfolio,” Monica said.

Eight students from the Morristown High School Art Mentoring Program are flanked by their mentors, Dan Fenelon and Susan Faiola, at exhibition at Zebu Forno in Morristown. Photo by Sharon Sheridan
Eight students from the Morristown High School Art Mentoring Program are flanked by their mentors, Dan Fenelon and Susan Faiola, at exhibition at Zebu Forno in Morristown. Photo by Sharon Sheridan
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