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Nila Causes Controversy

Samantha Datnoff, News Editor

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Nila Evans, one of many eleventh graders at Pikesville High, was challenged with the task of creating a controversial artwork that addressed a contemporary issue in society. With high ambitions and an unknowingly powerful idea, she set her mind on a work with consequences no one could have imagined. As her artwork spurred turmoil among the students at PHS, she exceeded the goal of her plans. But was this conflict a formal debate, or a misconception that got out of hand?

Mrs. Hall describes, “students were responding to a call for art that was based on a controversial issue.” The students had recently read about an incident at the Congressional Art Competition in which “a high school artwork was removed and replaced multiple times for its highly controversial symbolism.” Her classes were then assigned to create their own artwork pertaining to a controversial issue.

Nila Evans sought to meet the goal of the assignment by evaluating the racial tension between various races and demonstrating the mistreatment of colored individuals by white supremacy. In the work, she depicted a crowd of colored people, under figures adorned with white sheets to symbolize members of the Ku Klux Klan. In addition, she included Lady Liberty covered in blood to show the diminishing of freedom and equality in society. To capture the attention of her audience, large bolded letters which stated “We Matter Too” were painted on the work.

“Minorities are trying to come together to show that we are important in society too, but in history we’ve been shown that we are not important at all,” says Nila Evans in reference to her work.

As Nila’s work started its life displayed on Pikesville’s walls, the piece received criticism almost immediately. Students who passed by the work began to take pictures and share it on social media. Though, these actions did not raise any red flags to Nila in the early stages of her artwork being displayed. She describes the instant in the following:

“The very first time my friend told me people were taking pictures of it and posting it on social media I didn’t think it was a negative impact. But then Ms. Hall told me ‘you got to go write a description, people are taking it out of hand.’”

Eventually, a misconception about the meaning of her artwork spread throughout the school, creating chaos in the social dynamic at Pikesville. Soon, Nila’s artwork was vandalized as a student tore the corner of her piece.

“I cried when I found out… I broke down in the hallway in tears,” claims Evans as she recounted her reaction to the vandalism.

It comes to show that the misinterpretation of artwork is more common than it seems, and that the stories about misconceptions can really happen to anyone. Nevertheless, Nila does not regret any decision she made with her artwork, and only wishes it did not have to be censored.

“The idea of the project was to start controversy and I got people talking… keeping it up there allowed people to think more,” she says.

Essentially, Evan’s artwork was not made with the intention to disturb any viewer, but to evoke questioning into the audience’s minds and help them realize their reality. While the work was short-lived on Pikesville’s walls, one can only hope a valuable lesson is learned from this experience: think before you act.

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Nila Causes Controversy