Melina Mitsogiorgakis Makes Art With A Purpose

Melina Mitsogiorgakis remembers drawing for as long as she can recall, and over the years she has sold her work for charity and had pieces featured and honored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Arts Club in Gramercy Park – not bad for someone entering her junior year in the Classics Institute at Tottenville High School!

And the more the 16-year-old from Greenridge reveals about her life, the more incredible her talent becomes; add to that the way she uses it to help a family member in need.

Melina’s older brother, Stefanos, suffers from a severe case of Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS), a rare condition he acquired after a series of infections. The disorder can make him hallucinate and become violent.

Sometimes, Melina says her parents had to wake her up in the middle of the night to usher her over to her grandmother’s house, which is nearby in her neighborhood. And while some children might consider the constant possibility of an urgent wake-up call at 2 a.m. to be a severe obstacle, to Melina, it’s something she regards almost nonchalantly because she knew she had to accept it. “There was never a scenario where his violence was directed toward me, but it still wasn’t pleasant,” she says. “But my grandmother’s was only two blocks away, so it wasn’t terribly inconvenient.”

That acceptance has helped her cope with diffi cult living conditions at home and inspired her to start a fundraiser in 2013 to raise money to pay for her brother’s care and raise awareness for PANDAS. Working with a print shop in the borough and other studios, Melina sold reprints of her own sketches and raised several hundred dollars for the charity.

“Doctors visits and treatments, the expenses really add up. I had so much artwork, and people always seem to have a positive reaction to my artwork,” she says. “I thought it would be a good idea to make a ton of reprints and put the money into the foundation for research and treatments.”

To say people usually have a ‘positive reaction’ to her artwork doesn’t nearly do it justice. Although Melina remains humble about her artistic talent, which she credits local SMB Studio Arts in helping her refi ne, the accolades she has racked up for her works are impressive.
She won multiple awards from The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards in 2016, as well as this year’s Haney Medal from the School Art League of New York, given to an underclass student with the most growth and potential in the field of art.

She has also earned some scholarships for her artwork, but tries to avoid the spotlight as much as possible.

“It’s not like I feel that I don’t deserve it, but I don’t like all the attention,” she says. “When I look at my own artwork, I see all the things I could have done better. I don’t think, oh wow, this is great, which everyone else seems to say. But obviously, I understand awards are going to look good for college.”

Melina says she’s not sure if she will attend a college with an art-driven curriculum. At the moment, she mostly draws for only a few hours a week, and is also interested in science at school. She carries an overall average grade of about 98 in her classes.

And she’s managed to attain that average while not only living around the diffi cult condition her brother endures, but also while coping with a health issue of her own the last couple of years: a visual and sensory medical complication that she fi nds difficult to describe and has yet to be diagnosed. To Melina, it seems like she just considers it all one more obstacle she has to work around.

“I’ve learned to live with it and manage,” she says. That is surely an understatement, because in spite of being hindered by her own senses at times, she’s been able to achieve high grades and draw pieces of art that have garnered recognition from some prestigious institutes.

Although she describes her art style as “hyper-realistic,” where she tries to draw objects as close as she can to how they appear in real life, Melina says she is still exploring various mediums to create her art, and doesn’t have one specifi c artist who is an inspiration.

Look for some of her artwork to be displayed this fall at SMB Studio Arts, 3777 Richmond Avenue.


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10 Sep 2016

By Paul Williams