UMO student uses art to heal and inspire


From Mount Olive University

“To create art is to express myself in a visible form,” said Celeste Aguirre Oñate. “It means putting my interpretation of my experiences on display to others. Creating art also brings me great joy, satisfaction and healing. “

Oñate graduated in Fine Arts from Mount Olive University. Although her world today is filled with vivid colors, happiness, and the expectation of a bright future, her life has not always reflected such optimism. Oñate recalls an unstable childhood resulting from frequent moves and new schools due to his father’s job.

“At one point we were living with parents,” she said. “During these years, I have had difficult experiences which have had a negative impact on my emotional and mental health.”

To cope, Oñate used art to express himself.

“One of my earliest memories is when I was doing art,” she said. “In my good and bad years, art is what kept me going.”

A move to Goldsboro when Oñate was in high school provided a fresh start and a clean slate.

“I started to accept myself and become who I am,” she said. “Somehow through this process, art has become more than a hobby. It has become a major part of my identity.

The first in her family to earn a high school diploma, an associate’s degree, and soon the first to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, Oñate worked hard to achieve her goals. His diligence and determination paid off. In the spring, she received the title of visual arts student of the year from UMO.

Professor Cheryl Hooks said, “Celeste is a hardworking and determined student. She is creative and insightful. His works reflect his self-awareness and cultural sensibilities. Working with her has been a joy!

Whether it’s throwing clay on the potter’s wheel or mixing paints in the art studio, Oñate tries to find inspiration in his everyday life.

“But sometimes,” she said, “I find it better not to focus too much on inspiration and just do it! The end goal is just to create.

Oñate recently had the opportunity to talk about his works with UMO President Dr H. Edward Croom and his wife. Oñate described a series of canvas prints she painted depicting both men and women in her native Mexican culture.

“Men and boys are brought up to be tough and never show emotion,” she said. “In these images I have painted men in my life surrounded by flowers to express a stark contrast to reality.”

Oñate also painted a series of women of Mexican descent covering their eyes, mouths and ears.

“Unlike men in our culture,” she said, “women are told what to think, what to say, what to do and even what to wear. I wanted these paintings to portray this feeling of cultural opposition.

Described by her friends as caring, hardworking and talented, Oñate is on track to graduate in December. Her future plans include teaching art to elementary school children and possibly continuing her own education.

Ultimately, Oñate wants to be the kind of teacher that students admire.

“There are many UMO instructors who have made an impact on my life, including recently retired Professor Larry Lean, Department of Fine Arts Chair Bob Murray and Professor Cheryl Hooks. In particular, Professor Hooks not only had an impact on my educational journey, but she also deeply influenced my personal life. Until I met Ms. Hooks, I didn’t have a solid role model.

Oñate aspires to be that kind of positive example for others, and she plans to use her art to achieve it.

“Art is what I’ve always loved to do,” she said. “Nothing else is equal to the happiness and fulfillment it gives me, so how could I have chosen anything else for my future career?” “


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