Art contest introduces a fresh face in portraiture

by: Ray Pitz, GIFTED ARTIST — Jesus Trejo displays a portrait of Cesar Chavez that he sketched for an art contest last month.

When Jesus Trejo attended the Cesar E. Chavez Leadership Conference in Monmouth last month, he had no idea just how much of an impact it would have on him.

Not only did he learn numerous bits of information about the revered Hispanic labor leader and civil rights activist, but he placed third in an art contest honoring Chavez.

'He didn't believe it at first,' said Sonia Contreas, a community liaison at Aloha High School, who translated for Trejo. 'He never thought he would win anything.'

Trejo's entry was a pencil portrait of Chavez that he based on Internet photos of the man who lead the historic grape boycott in the 1960s.

The Aloha High School junior estimated it took him two weeks, drawing off and on, to complete the portrait, which he entered as part of the conference held March 7. The annual event attracted 1,300 Latino students throughout the state including 100 from the Beaverton School District.

The background of his artwork, which includes fields, mountains, Mexican and American flags, all came from Trejo's imagination. He also included a prominently displayed dove.

'It represents peace and that's what (Chavez) stood for - peace and freedom,'

Contreas said of Trejo's art

Trejo, who moved from his hometown of Queretaro, Mexico, to the United States three years ago, admitted he had never heard of Chavez until he arrived here.

Attending Sunset High School for 1½ years before beginning classes at Aloha after spring break, the 18-year-old said he learned more and more about the late Mexican activist, including the fact that there's a Portland street that bears his name.

What stands out in Trejo's portrait of Chavez's are the man's expressive eyes.

'That's something he did on purpose,' said Contreas. 'He does that when he draws faces because there's something about the eyes. It's something that stands out.'

Trejo said he enjoyed the conference so much that he hopes he can return next year. He also plans to continue with his drawings

'It's his passion,' said Contreas. 'It's something he's done since he was little.'

Placing third in the competition also gave Trejo confidence in his drawing abilities.

'He said this has inspired him and he believes if he keeps up with his drawing and expressing himself, someday he will be somebody,' Contreas said of Trejo.

In addition to Trejo, two area students were honored at the Cesar E. Chavez Leadership Conference with 'Outstanding Student Leadership Awards.'

They include Maria Alonso Martinez, a junior at Westview High School, and Bryan Ortiz, a senior at Sunset High School.

'The Outstanding student achievement award was given to students that are making a difference in their school and community by volunteer week,' said Cecilia Boscole, a community liaison at Southridge High School.

Meanwhile, on April 5, the Cesar E. Chavez Leadership Conference Planning Committee organized a fund-raising dinner, auction and dance at Willamette University to provide funding for the organization's scholarship fund.

So far, $500,000 has been distributed to Latino high school students throughout the state to help them with their education.