One in 5000: Erika Lopez Finds Art in Silence

A senior walks the halls of Francis Lewis High School for her last few times before graduating in June. Looking at the empty canvas, she thinks of what to draw next. Which of her emotions is she ready to express and put out into the world? She comes to a conclusion and reaches for her sketch book and a pen. This, this is what Erika Lopez wants the world to see.

Afraid to express herself verbally, Lopez discovered her ability to draw when she was a child. At the age of five, Lopez watched her dad paint and was mesmerized with his abilities. Little did she know, she would begin her own drawings when entering elementary school with selective mutism.

“I really wanted to talk but I just couldn’t,” said Lopez. “I had so many feelings that I kept in and never told anyone. That’s when I started drawing because I was able to express myself without words. It made me feel good about myself; that I was good at something and it would allow me to escape myself.”

Entering high school, Lopez began to take her art more seriously. At the time, being in a state of depression, Lopez had been up one night questioning what she wanted to do with her life and what she would regret not doing.  

“It took me a moment but I realized it was art,” Lopez said. “I’ve been doubting myself for so long that I wouldn’t be able to do it or nobody would like my art. But that night, I saw things more clearly and that the possibility of failure didn’t even matter.”

With the support of her family, Lopez spreads her art through social media, ans she attends art events to showcase and sell her work.

“These events allow me to connect with people who like my art in person,” Lopez said. “I get to explain my drawings and the meaning behind them and it’s really cool when they resonate with my work and take something away from my art.”

Leaving high school soon, Lopez plans to continue to pursue her art and create a business for herself. She will also learn how to tattoo and continue to spread her artwork and show people that they are not alone.

“The message I want to send to people is to let people know they aren’t alone with what they feel and any negative feelings that they are having can be turned into something beautiful,” Lopez said. “Kind of like what I do with my art, there are some pieces where I paint from a place of pain and that pain ends up becoming a drawing that people get to enjoy looking at.”

Over 5000 people – including students, teachers, staff, and administrators – are part of the Francis Lewis High School community. One in 5000 is a series that delves into the individual stories of the people in our community.