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Young Cartoonist Discovers That Public Art Can Tell A Story

Young Cartoonist Discovers That Public Art Can Tell A Story

Amity senior Jessica Edwards of Woodbridge honed her cartooning craft this summer when she participated in a Site Projects art fellowship in New Haven.  The fellowship culminated in an exhibit at the Ely Center for Contemporary Art, organized by Site Projects Inc.  About 11 high school students from a variety of area high schools participated in the fellowship.  They met three times a week at the New Haven Free Public Library throughout the month of July, each working on their own artwork.

The assignment was to use anime to tell a story that reacts in some way to public art in New Haven.  Each fellow featured a different city landmark, ranging from Maya Lin’s Women’s Table to murals such as Felice Varini’s tromp-l’oeil Square with Four Circles on the Temple Plaza.

Jessica chose a mural by a woman artist, Swoon, herself sponsored by Site Projects several years ago to create large-scale murals in and around the downtown area.  Swoon’s mural Dawn and Gemma on Chapel Street features prominently a woman breastfeeding her infant, with members of the community making up a busy tapestry of comings and goings around them.  The trademark of Swoon’s work is that she uses paper cutouts in her murals, cutouts that she glues to the walls like doilies.  Over time the paper disintegrates and eventually may disappear completely.

Jessica said she felt inspired by the mural and took photos of it.  Her graphic story is that of two kids who discover the artwork and react to it, coming to the realization that art can make a better world.

As this reporter entered the room where the art fellows were working, she was greeted by a deep silence, with each of the young artists deeply ensconced in their work.  Some students worked with traditional drawing and coloring techniques, others used technology software programs designed specifically for artist-illustrators.

Jessica was using ink and a fountain pen, which set her work apart.  Having lived in Japan for several years, she was exposed to manga artists, and used a Japanese pen with a collection of different-sized nibs.  She said she is working on her own graphic novel in her spare time.  After graduation, she is hoping to continue her development as an artist at Brown University or at the Rhode Island School of Art and Design.

Another of the young artists at the table already knew what her message would be, “It made her realize that the world wasn’t boring,” she said of her cartoon character. “she just hadn’t been paying attention.”  The fellowship, it seemed, challenged these kids to pay attention.  And they did.

By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent


  1. Jessica Edwards creates an anime scene as part of the Site Projects fellowship
  2. Jessica Edwards (right) joined forces with other anime enthusiasts from across New Haven

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