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Edison High graduate Faith Riehm uses art for expression

Edison High School senior Faith Riehm, 17, is an accomplished digital artist.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Edison High School senior Faith Riehm tends to be introverted.

A sort of running joke in her family is that Faith, the oldest of four children, has a space in the garage called her “introvert corner.” It features a piano and a ukulele, and that’s where Faith, 17, gets to spend some quality alone time.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has certainly given her plenty of that as she approaches Edison’s drive-through graduation on Thursday.

“I’ve just really enjoyed having my time on my own, away from all the craziness of life and school,” Faith said. “Almost every night at sunset, I’ll ride my bike around the neighborhood or ride down to the beach. I feel like an ‘80s kid, kind of, because I just have my earphones in and I’m just listening to old songs. It’s amazing.”

Faith’s digital artwork tends to lead most people to use that same word, “amazing.” She has a website and Instagram page that highlight some of her work.

She was awarded as Edison’s Golden Key medallion recipient in digital media during a virtual ceremony, in which she was recognized by Edison graphic arts teacher Ryan Hayes.

“Faith is the most gifted and talented artist that I have seen in my 13-year teaching career,” Hayes said during the ceremony. “She has exceeded every expectation and has rapidly outgrown what I can teach her as an artist. At this point, all I can do is get out of her way and let her flourish.”

Edison High School senior Faith Riehm displays one of her digital art pieces.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Faith will be attending Azusa Pacific University after being admitted into a prestigious animation studies program there. What’s impressive about her journey is that she didn’t really have any formal arts training until less than two years ago.

She would take her tablet with her almost everywhere she went, though, looking for inspiration. She creates projects via an app called Procreate.

She said she got positive affirmation when she attended an “AlienCon” event in Pasadena with her father, Matt, a couple of years ago. She hasn’t looked back since.

“With art, I’m able to not use words and still express how I’m feeling in a situation,” Faith said. “Or even not having a feeling, just having fun with it. Lately I’ve been working on personality-type drawings. I take the nine types of Enneagrams, I assign them a color and a scenery, what I think describes each type. It’s been really fun and challenging. It’s like I’m trying to capture a personality type in an image, without any words or description, just with feeling. It’s been cool to work on that and see people’s input about how it really relates to them.”

Faith said that Hayes has pushed her to enter many art competitions, and she usually does well. She also has been a four-year member of the school’s choir program, led by Christiana Franzetti, while managing to earn a 3.8 weighted grade-point average.

“She’s probably one of the most creative people I’ve ever met,” Franzetti said. “She’s been in choir for four years, and she loves singing in the group and has always contributed. She just does so much, like she designed all our posters for events too. She designed our sweatshirts. She’s just one of the sweetest people ever, always wanting to help.”

Faith is excited about the Azusa Pacific animation program; she said only 15 students are admitted each year. The program director is Tony Bancroft, who has worked at Sony Pictures and Disney Feature Animation in the past.

“I would love to work for Disney or some kind of animation thing, just be in the art world,” Faith said. “That’s been my dream, and something I would love to do. Just working in movies or TV shows, something where I’m involved and we’re creating something bigger than ourselves.”

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