‘Hearts in the Arts’ Winner Tells Story in His Work

June 09, 2010 / by / 1 Comment

Pictured left to right: Akysha Carter, Anna Whitbeck, Gilbert Parra and Jessica Terry

Not so long ago, Gilbert Parra’s life wasn’t such a pretty picture.

“I was out in the world, getting in trouble,” he recalls. “One day I had this feeling, ‘Why are you doing this?’”

Parra was running with the wrong crowd, but he started going to church and was saved two years ago. Now 19, he will be a second-semester freshman at GCU and is using his artwork to make a powerful statement about his new direction in life.

“I have a vision of how I want (my work) to look, and it just comes out,” he says. “Since I’ve been saved, it’s not about me anymore. It’s about the Lord.”

Parra’s striking acrylic painting, titled “In God’s Hands,” won a $1,000 prize and a $500 Target gift card in the recent “Hearts in the Arts” competition sponsored by GCU. The contest was held in conjunction with the “Go Red” campaign against women’s heart disease.

Parra says “In God’s Hands” was inspired by the story of his friend Jesi Smith, a cheerleader at GCU who was diagnosed with a heart disorder as a child and has undergone several surgeries. In the piece, the dominant image is of two hands cradling a human heart.

The artist’s scriptural basis for the painting was Matthew 22:37: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

“The hands represent God’s hands,” Parra says. “Jesi knows now that God will protect her heart, no matter what she goes through. I had been wanting to do something about her for a while.”

Parra says he is primarily a graffiti artist, although he also has worked in pottery and produced custom-designed clothes, shoes, hats and backpacks. He is a graduate of the magnet arts program at South Mountain High School in Phoenix.

“I’ll paint on anything,” says Parra, who is studying graphic arts at GCU. “I don’t ever want my art to drift away from me.”

The contest’s other winners were Anna Whitbeck (ages 5-8), Akysha Carter (9-12) and Jessica Terry (13-17). All four winners were honored at a reception on campus on Tuesday, June 8, that was hosted by Fran Roberts of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, the chairwoman of the “Go Red” campaign.


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