The Museum of KIPP Art (MOKA) Showcase + Auction is an annual tradition that celebrates the innovation and creativity of student artists across KIPP SoCal and highlights the importance of providing a well-rounded and immersive arts education.
This year’s theme—#MOKALife: Through the Eyes of a KIPPster—focuses on the essence of life and how it is shaped by the cultures and traditions within a community. With this theme in mind, students create original artwork that showcases their individual, historical, local, and global perspectives on life, reflecting on experiences to help grow and nurture the seeds of life for current and future generations.
We recently sat down with two KIPP Vida Preparatory Academy student artists, Benson and Philia, to get a sneak preview of their MOKA masterpieces and learn more about their artistic process.
Meet Benson L.
Benson's MOKA art piece depicts a powerful representation of Mother Nature
Benson L. is a second grader at KIPP Vida Prep who started drawing at a young age. Over the years, his skills have continued to flourish, and he credits a lot of his artistic growth to his siblings, who encouraged him to practice drawing early on.
When Benson learned he would be one of five students representing KIPP Vida Prep at MOKA, he said he was crying inside and that his “heart [was] dripping” with joy. However, becoming a MOKA finalist wasn’t always easy for Benson, who admitted to having self-doubts during the process.
“It took a lot of time and confidence. At the start of MOKA, I didn’t think I would make it. So I brought myself down and started to not really try,” said Benson. “But once I got feedback and felt better about myself, I kept working and started adding the colors and more details.”
Because of his perseverance, he worked through his doubts and finished his MOKA art piece, which depicts a powerful interpretation of Mother Nature. Instead of Mother Nature being one entity, he pushed his imagination and envisioned himself as Mother Nature.
His head and body embody wood in his drawing, while leaves represent his hair and cascading rivers represent his arms. Now that his piece is complete, Benson says he’s incredibly proud of himself and hopes his artwork inspires others.
“I hope people feel inspired when they see my artwork. I want there to be more art in the world. I hope it inspires people to start drawing,” said Benson. “Even if someone tries to bring them down, I don’t want them to listen to them. I want people to believe in themselves and do their best.”
Meet Philia M.
Philia's MOKA art piece depicts her deep appreciation for nature
Philia M. is a third grader at KIPP Vida Prep who is extremely passionate about art and nature. In second grade, she was even endearingly nicknamed “Park Ranger” by her classmates because of her deep love for the outdoors.
Philia, who confessed to being extremely shy, admits that she uses art as a way to express herself, both when she’s feeling happy and when she’s feeling down.
“I drew this [MOKA art piece] because it makes me feel happy, but sometimes I might draw different things when I'm mad. So I feel different every time I draw,” she said.
When it came time to share about her MOKA art piece, Philia’s genuine fondness for art and deep connection with nature shined through, causing her initial shyness to melt away. Philia enthusiastically shared that the theme inspired her to draw one of her eyes and show glimpses into how she sees the world.
The eye in her drawing became a window into her deep appreciation for the wonders of nature, such as the sun, ocean, mountains, volcanoes, and planets. She continued drawing inspiration from nature's beauty and replaced her eyebrows with a vibrant collection of flowers she loves encountering outdoors. In contrast, her eyelashes took the form of towering trees she enjoyed seeing during her family’s many memorable road trips to Idaho.
For the tears, she shared that she didn’t want to depict sadness or sorrow. Instead, she drew scenes that bring her immense joy, such as sunrises by the ocean’s edge, the majesty of mountains alongside the road, and the charm of cabins in the forest.
“The first tear [on the right] is a sunrise. I put different colors in the sky because when we wake up, sometimes it's orange, red, or different colors. Then I drew the ocean, and it took me a long time to figure out the colors for the ocean. It makes me happy to see a sunrise, so I drew that,” she said when she described her process for drawing the tears.
For her skin, she said she found it both challenging and rewarding when she blended all the colors to create her desired skin tone.
The MOKA Journey Continues
Now that they’ve finalized their artwork, Benson and Philia will work closely with their art teacher, Ms. Ralph-Forton, to practice their public speaking skills and prepare for potential questions from MOKA guests.
“Art allows students to gain confidence in a non-academic way. It’s a time for them to be individuals,” said Ms. Ralph-Forton when asked what she hopes her students gain from experiences like MOKA. “My goal is to push students outside their comfort zones but have them know they’re in a safe space.”
This year, Benson and Philia will join more than 100 students and alums from across 18 KIPP SoCal schools to showcase their artwork at the highly-anticipated event on Thursday, June 1, from 6-9 p.m. at the California Science Center.
We hope you’ll join us for this inspiring event as we celebrate the artistic endeavors of KIPPsters brave enough to give us a glimpse into their life through their artwork.