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Auction underway for artwork created through East End Arts’ MLK Portrait Project

East End Arts has found a new way to promote art through art, and see Martin Luther King Jr. in a new way at the same time.

The organization’s MLK Portrait Project, the first of its kind, involved students from seven area high schools, who worked during January, February and March to create five portraits of the late civil rights leader.

East End Arts is accepting requests through Friday for private viewing of the portraits, on display at the East End Arts gallery, 133 East Main St. in Riverhead. An exhibition of the artworks will be open to the public Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Meanwhile, an auction is underway for each of the portraits, which may be seen online at eastendarts.org. People may text bids to: mlk26318804052. The bidding will conclude Saturday at 6 p.m. All proceeds from the auction will go to the East End Arts Fine Arts Scholarship Fund.

“It’s just breathtaking, it really is,” Monique Parsons, East End Arts’ director of marketing and development, said of the works. “Some of the pieces, some of the tiles are more abstract, and some of them are more realistic. They’re not only unique in their own way, but breathtaking. It’s amazing how talented some of these high school students really are.”

Students from Center Moriches, Eastport-South Manor, Mount Sinai, Riverhead, Rocky Point, Shelter Island and Southampton high schools participated in the project. Among them were Riverhead’s Emma Eager, Karla Hernandez Garcia, Alexandra Hoverkamp, Megan McKay and Nickoya Patteron as well as Riverhead High School alum Natalia Rahim. The Riverheaders joined forces with Eastport-South Manor students in producing an image of Mr. King in front of American flags.

Each of the 4-foot-square portraits holds 16 individual 12-by-12-inch tiles, each one made by an individual student.

“It’s basically like everybody comes together to create a unique, one-of-a-kind mosaic in their own way,” Ms. Parsons said. “So, it’s everybody’s different artistic style put together in one large portrait, which is very nice. And it’s showcasing unity across the school districts and within the portrait itself, showing that everybody has their own different way.”

East End Arts education director Kathleen Ruscich created and implemented the program with inspiration from artist Kenneth Jackson. Ms. Parsons noted that Mr. Jackson, one of East End Arts’ artists and painters, “has created some personal artwork himself in the same fashion, in the mosaic fashion where all the tiles fit together to create one portrait of a particular subject.” 

Regardless of the outcome of the auction, she said, the program has been “extremely successful” since the “collaboration across the community has been so strong, and that’s what we’re really looking to do as an organization, to promote the arts and give an opportunity for young, emerging artists to showcase their artwork and showcase their innate talent.”