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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest High sophomore promotes inclusion in art, presents work to Utah’s First Lady

Nov 22, 2021 11:57AM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest High sophomore Elena Parker created a rendition of what she hoped to create on the sidewalk and presented it to Utah’s First Lady Abby Cox at the unified soccer state championships. (Photo courtesy of MeriAnn Freestone-Parker)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

There was a planned festival including a young athletes’ clinic and an exhibition of 20 chalk artists to showcase their insights of the meaning of unified sports at Rio Tinto’s plaza, outside of the stadium where the semifinals and finals of the unified soccer state championships took place.

Then, it poured—and continued to rain, dampening many spirits and making it hard for activities to continue as planned.

Hillcrest High sophomore Elena Parker began her chalk art picture under a tarp that her older sister, Amber, held for her.

“I was the only one that showed up and I tried to push through the rain,” said the 15 year old, who said it was kind of “peaceful” to work outside in the rain after school on Oct. 8. “It worked for three hours before the rain came sliding down the slope.”

Not wanting everything to be washed up, Parker began thinking on the way home.

“Once it didn’t work, I remembered I had this giant pad of paper and I could use those, frame it and bring it to the event” the next day, she said. “I talked to them and said I could do this, but it wasn’t until I actually brought it where I learned they thought about presenting it to Abby Cox.”

This year’s state tournament was promoted by Utah First Lady Cox’s statewide “Show Up” initiative. The First Lady and other community leaders announced the desire to introduce the unified sports program to more schools—from 40 across the state to 100 by the 2022-23 school year—and expand it from soccer, basketball and track to more sports.  

Parker embraces that belief personally as well as in her artwork.

“It’s a really good cause to show unification in sports between different abilities. It’s just something that needs to be shown more,” she said, adding that she had looked forward to seeing other artists’ work illustrating that as well.

Parker’s sidewalk drawing initially had athletes together on a podium with “We stand together.” On the paper, she still used chalk, but changed her design from a podium to a banner.

“I feel like that expressed the idea of standing together a lot more,” she said.

Parker, who learned about the opportunity from her art teacher, Hillcrest High’s Kari Bennett, and her sister, researched the concept as they were planning to work together before the rain came and they realized one of them would need to shelter the other.  

Parker has taken some classes at school, but she is mostly a self-taught artist. Parker has won Canyons School District’s Film Festival both as a filmmaker and as an artist with the poster contest, received an honorable mention at the district high school art show and was honored as a regional winner in the PTA’s Reflections contest.

“I learned from teachers how to get perspective and color theories, but I think most of the creative process and developing a drawing itself I mainly taught myself,” she said.

However, this was Parker’s first time working with chalk.

“Chalk is a lot like other mediums like colored pencils, crayons and even paints. You just need to know how to work with one medium then it’s easier to translate that. Color theory also helps; you take a few colors and blend them together,” she said, adding the chalk that was purchased for other artists she shared with Hillcrest High’s art program.

Parker also didn’t know that she’d have the opportunity to see Gov. Spencer Cox and talk with the First Lady.

“It was really cool,” she said. “She’s really nice and she’s going to hang it at her office. I always love sharing my artwork and just seeing other people enjoy it makes me happy.”