“We are San Marino”: Honors Humanities Portrait Exhibition


Esther Lian, Senior Writer

On the 13th of December, 2022, the hallways of San Marino High School’s art wing were abuzz with conversation, laughter, and excitement. That day, students in the Honors Humanities Seminar held an exhibition like no other, adorning the gallery walls with portrait after portrait of familiar faces from the San Marino community. Now in its second year, “We are San Marino” is an annual exhibition that celebrates a smorgasbord of people–from teachers and administrative staff to students and lunch ladies–each captured in a hand-drawn portrait and a companion essay that deep-dived into what made the subject so special. 


The process of creating this exhibition was no easy feat. Students were tasked with selecting a subject: any person on campus with a story to tell. They then had to plan a photoshoot and an interview for the story that goes with each portrait. Honors Humanities student Celine Chih (11) saw this as “a unique and intriguing opportunity to get to know one of [her] favorite teachers as well as learning how to make a portrait.” Her classmate Isabelle Kang (12) comments that she was “kind of intimidated by the idea of painting a real person.” Yet, despite her anxiety from having to create such a personal piece of art, Kang’s oil painting of attendance technician Mrs. Lopez was indisputably breathtaking.


The most fascinating part of this exhibition was the diversity of backgrounds and talents represented. Many portraits incorporated props to aid the storytelling. One of these was Valerie Kuo’s (12) acrylic painting of varsity tennis coach, Melwin Periera, fondly known as “Coach Mel”. In her piece, Kuo captured “Coach Mel’s passion for tennis and his bright personality” by painting him with his tennis racket and his signature cheery smile.


“We are San Marino” was such a successful and meaningful exhibition because of its focus on the untold stories of the people we silently pass by on a daily basis. Artist Russell Tsai (12) muses that this exhibition “gave faculty members [and campus staff] the opportunity to connect with the art community at San Marino, which is something that is quite rare and special.” What a joy it is to hold an event that brings people together to spotlight the many uniquely remarkable individuals we have in our midst!