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Valley Stream student artists, featured in village guide, speak of inspiration

South high School student Alysse Fazal, left, and recent Central High School graduate Paula Guevara had their artwork featured in the 2019 Valley Stream Summer Guide.
South high School student Alysse Fazal, left, and recent Central High School graduate Paula Guevara had their artwork featured in the 2019 Valley Stream Summer Guide.
Photos by Nicole Alcindor/Herald

Each year, the village releases a local summer guide, a booklet that features important phone numbers and information about village services, promotes various summer events and, for the past three issues, has highlighted the work of local student artists.

As part of a village initiative to celebrate talented Valley Streamers in the guide, the artwork of Alysse Fazal, an incoming sophomore at South High School, and recent Central High School graduate Paula Guevara were selected to appear on its front page.

“This was the third year we decided to invite Valley Stream students to contribute original artwork that captures the essence of what summer in Valley Stream looks like to them,” Mayor Ed Fare said. “We asked the high school art students to dig deep into their creativity and stretch themselves artistically, and the result was fantastic.”

Art as therapy

“I lose track of time when I’m painting,” said Guevara, 18. “Whenever I’m stressed, I go paint and draw, and I feel better, because doing art is therapeutic and calming for me.”

She typically spends up to six hours a day on her art, working with media including as colored pencils and watercolor, she said. The 2019 summer guide featured her watercolor depiction of the village’s newly constructed courthouse on Rockaway Avenue.

Guevara said that as a child she enjoyed the quiet of her room, where she could be alone and release stress through painting. As she grew older, she discovered she wanted to share her artwork.

“Showing my artwork to other people is a way for me to show people how I feel,” she said. “Most of my artwork are portraits of myself, so when I show them to other people, I’m telling them more about who I am.”

When Guevara was younger, her mom bought her coloring books, which helped introduce her to drawing. “Ever since Paula was little, I knew she had a passion for art, be-cause she would always finish her coloring books as soon as I would buy them for her,” said her mother, Jesennia. “When I found out that my daughter wanted to pursue a career in art, I knew that she would be nothing but amazing, and all I could do was give her my complete support.”

Guevara credits Central art teacher Mario Bakalov for pushing her to do her best when she was in his 10th- and 12th-grade classes. “Mr. B would always help me to bring my ideas to life on paper and he was always there for me,” she said. “He always helps me to see what I can improve.”

“I feel fortunate to work with talented young people like Paula, and help them realize abilities that they always had inside,” Barkalov said. “I have gotten to know Paula over three years, and her humility and genuine kindness shine as bright as her ability to see the world and translate it to paper as an artist.”

In the fall, Guevara will attend Farmingdale State College, studying liberal arts. In the future, she hopes to attend art school, and she aspires to have her own interior design company.

Although she has worries about pursuing a career in the arts, she continues to motivate herself by living out what she describes as her life motto. “I’m scared that I’m not going to be able to make a living off of art, but I always remind myself of this: ‘Always do your best and never stop pushing yourself to do your best every day.’”

Photos through her lens

Fazal, 15, was returning home from the beach when she said she saw a pink, orange and yellow sunset, with traces of light blue in it, and ran inside to grab her Canon Rebel T2i camera.

Returning to her lawn, Fazal hoisted herself onto the roof of her parents’ car, framing her shot with the large tree in the front of her house — its long branches covered in dark green leaves — and then snapped the image.

It was one of two featured in the guide.

“I can discover new things about photography when I take photos from different angles,” Fazal said. “. . . My pictures will never be the same as somebody else’s because I take photos to represent my own perspective, and I can put photos through my own lens by editing them.”

For the past four years, Fazal has explored taking photos from different angles to convey her own ideas. As an adolescent, she said, she gravitated toward what she viewed as the new and adventurous — which, for her, was photography.

“All students ever did in elementary school was paint and draw in art class, but I wanted to try something different than what everyone else was doing,” she said, as she looked down at her camera. “Capturing pictures is exciting, and it adds an artistic portion to my life.”

Last fall, Fazal began high school and discovered that photography classes were only available to students in 10th through 12th grades, not freshmen.

She asked to take photography, and the teacher made an exception. “My teachers quickly realized that I had an eye for photography,” Fazal said. “They worked with me and helped me develop my gift through editing.”

Fazal credits her teachers Jenna Petikas and Roseann Valletti for inspiring her art, and developing her talents. “Alysse’s drive and dedication towards her love for photography is outstanding, because even at such a young age, she is able to see through the lens with a true artist’s eye,” Petikas said. “She knows just how to capture that perfect shot.”

“Gifted, mature and dedicated are the best descriptors when reflecting on this talented young lady,” Valletti said, “because she has captured the beauty of our local Valley Stream community from gorgeous sunsets, to amazing trees and perfect florals.”

Fazal said she also found that her father’s interest in photography helped motivate her to pursue her passion. “The camera I have now was a gift from my dad,” she said. “It was his old camera.”

“I’m very proud of my daughter because she has surpassed what I’ve been doing in photography,” her father, Shafeek, said. “We are very grateful for what she’s accomplished.”

Fazal’s photography has also been featured in the Long Island Museum for the Long Island Contest Exhibition. Last Halloween, her work was in the Nightmare on Main Street Student Art Exhibit in Huntington in Suffolk County. It also appeared in Trails of Society Literary Art Magazine, Volume 6, for the June 2018 Valley Stream junior/senior high school edition. She also achieved the highest honor of distinguished for her photography in the 2019 New York State Art Teachers Association Portfolio Project.

Although Fazal plans to pursue a career in cardiology, she hopes to continue to take pictures as a hobby. “Anything is possible when it comes to photography, because there’s so many ways you can depict a photo,” she said. “The colors in a photo have the power to change somebody’s whole perspective.”