The Artist, at 13, Gets Her Due


By Elizabeth Malcolm

In a community known for its commitment to arts and education, Stella Waugh-Stewart, age 13, should feel like less of an outsider. She’s academically successful and a talented artist.

Yet by the time she completed elementary school, Stella felt her artistic ability hadn’t been recognized. Her parents agreed that their daughter had been overlooked.

That will change, on Jan. 11, as Market Street Coffeehouse on Elliott Road in Chapel Hill launches Stella’s first public showing as a visual artist. The exhibit will open with a reception from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“I’ve never really had my art truly appreciated by anyone but my family,” says Stella. “It’s nice for it to finally be appreciated by an authority. It’s nice to have my talent be recognized.”

Currently Stella is drawing her inspiration from a role playing video game called Undertale. Described in the game, created by TobyFox, as a “robot with soul,” for Stella, Mettaton has a quality she aspires to. Diagnosed with autism, Stella said she found herself in numerous situations throughout elementary school that made her feel vulnerable, particularly compared to her neurotypical peers.

Receiving fewer art awards was only part of her experience. “Ever since I started school people were always telling me I was doing something wrong or was bad at something,” says Stella. “In terms of Mettaton, I would say he’s much less vulnerable to that kind of stuff, and I would like to be also.”

When Stella’s stepmother, Julie Gardner, commented in a Facebook mothers’ group about Stella’s disappointment at not receiving art awards, another member of the group stepped in to help.

“When I saw the Facebook post about Stella being bummed that she wasn’t recognized with awards at school, I decided Market Street Coffeehouse could display her work and host an opening night show to celebrate Stella and her art,” said Sara Owens, general manager of the coffeehouse.

“We pride ourselves on being a friendly and community-oriented coffee shop, so I knew our customers would enjoy the chance to show Stella appreciation and see her artwork. She’s truly a talented artist, and it’s exciting to be part of helping her shine.”

Following the opening reception, which is open to the public, Stella’s art will remain up at Market Street Coffeehouse through the end of January and available to view during regular business hours. Market Street Coffeehouse is located at 227 S. Elliott Road in Chapel Hill.

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6 Comments on "The Artist, at 13, Gets Her Due"

  1. Go Stella! The art shown is wonderful. Please edit this piece. There is no context for the paragraph beginning “Described in the game…”. Something important is missing.

  2. Ellen MH Mitchell | December 16, 2019 at 11:59 am | Reply

    Thank you for sharing your important work with the wider world. Such gifts should be appreciated. Elementary school art criticism can be very cruel, but fortunately it does not reflect the full range of aesthetics you will encounter in your bright, promising future.

  3. Just a note of appreciation for posting this article. It made Stella VERY happy this morning!!

  4. Thats’s amazing!
    Keep going sweet heart is real Art
    You are an artist!

  5. Hey I am dealing with the same thing lol. I have an extremely talented 10 year old daughter who does the same kinda nightcore art. Least that’s what she’s been calling it. I’m desperately trying to find a place to put her art up as well. Maybe there is a need for a parents of child artist group Hahaha. I don’t know how common it is or isn’t but I do know that the art itself is captivating! I have tons of art work that she’s done for any reference you may want but it would really really make a difference in Maya’s (my daughter) life and hopefully set the stage for a long life of wonderful art and an inspirational life!

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