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VWU Art Majors Display Work in Local Exhibition

Britni Arrington and Whitney Leao are enrolled in the pre-professional track in Art Therapy and Counseling

University News | February 16, 2024

In celebration of Black History Month, Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay and the Virginia Beach Art Center invited young aspiring Black artists to submit individual artworks for their 3rd Annual Black History Month Emerging Artist Exhibition. Virginia Wesleyan students Britni Arrington’24 and Whitney Leao ’25, along with students from Old Dominion University, Norfolk State University and Tidewater Community College, submitted artwork for the exhibition. Both Arrington and Leao are enrolled in VWU’s pre-professional track in Art Therapy in Counseling; majoring in Art and taking at least 16 credit hours in psychology.

Senior Britni Arrington displayed artworks from her senior capstone project at VWU. “My work was an ongoing experiment of a wheel thrown donut-type shape that I became quite fascinated with,” said Arrington. “They explore different alterations to the base form like cut out patterns or stacking.”

During her years at VWU, Arrington was a member of the University’s swim team and Batten work staff. She was also involved in Marlin Ministries and with her local church community. For the past two years, she has worked on campus in the Center for Enrollment Services.

“The exhibition experience was valuable just to see all of these talented black students’ art work. To see all of the people creating beautiful and meaningful art from the black perspective was inspiring and encouraging.” 

After graduation from VWU in May, Arrington will be attending graduate school at Eastern Virginia Medical School to earn a master’s degree in Art Therapy and Counseling.

Junior Whitney Leao likes to explore different forms of art. “My media varies so I had a mix of photography, painting and sculpture in the exhibition.”

She says she had an emotional connection to each piece of work. “I enjoy taking the time to admire the small things, and I wanted to capture that in my photographs “Orange Dream” and “Pink Pom Pom. There’s beauty and magic all around us but it often gets ignored. I think it’s time that we start taking the time to embrace the natural elements that the planet provides.”
She noted that her sculpture, “Vernell,” and her painting, “Irene,” honor her paternal and maternal grandmothers. “When I was younger I didn’t understand the importance of knowing my family’s past. I didn’t take advantage of the little time that I had with my grandmothers to learn more about them, their life experiences and where we came from. So with these artworks, I wanted to honor them and illustrate the connection between me and my ancestry.”
Leao notes that last semester she took Associate Professor of Sociology/Criminal Justice Dr. Jeffrey Toussaint’s “Diversity and Society” course and that experience has now elevated her artwork to a level she did not know she could achieve.

“Now, intersectionality plays a substantial role in the art that I create. It influenced the meaning behind my artwork and encouraged my identity to shine through.”

Leao, who received an honorable mention for her work in the exhibition, is a member of Eta Sigma Phi and the Classics Club. She plans to graduate from VWU in 2025, with hopes of continuing her education at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Art Therapy and Counseling.