Vincent Van Gogh said, “I want to touch people with my art. I want them to say ’he feels deeply, he feels tenderly.’”
The legendary artist would be touched by the work of 10-year-old Jake Keller.
The Santa Monica fifth grader combined paint, pastels, imagination and compassion to create an award-winning entry for the ICAN Associates Annual Child Abuse Prevention Month poster contest.
A student at Summit View School in Santa Monica, young Keller was honored April 5 at a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting, and will be honored again on April 28 at a special reception.
The contest was open to students in grades 4 through 6 in schools throughout Los Angeles County, and Jake’s winning poster was chosen from thousands of entries.
The supervisors awarded a $30 prize to Jake, half of which he donated to the Grossman Burn Unit. It was the second donation he made to the hospital, which specializes in treating burn victims. Several years ago, after a fire that destroyed his home and injured his little brother, Leo, Jake gave half of his savings to Grossman.
Jake says, “I entered the contest because I wanted to stop child abuse so kids can stop getting hurt badly.”
“It took me three days to come up with the idea and about two hours to draw it,” he said. “Art class is one of my favorites!”
Although he is genetically predisposed to art, as his mother, Lisette, is an artist, Jake showed little interest in following in his mother’s footsteps until recently.
“He would scribble more than draw,” his father, Michael Keller, said. “Then last year he saw his mom and babysitter draw cartoons, so he started drawing cartoons.” Soon, Jake was “finding his style” and showing real talent.
His desire to help children stems from his own struggles. Diagnosed with learning disabilities, he had difficulty in school, according to his father. But, after the family moved to California from New York in 2002, Jake developed new self-confidence through sports, his own determination and Summit View, which specializes in children with learning differences.
Today, Jake earns high marks, is co-captain of the basketball team and president of his school.
In spite of Jake’s learning disabilities, his father says he was never worried about his son finding his way in the world.
“I knew he had it inside of him,” he says. “I told my wife, ‘Don’t worry about Jake, he has work ethic and the ability to make friends. He’ll make it in the world one way or another.’ ”
Jake was particularly inspired by a 2002 Fortune magazine article about famous people who had learning disabilities. Four of them were billionaires, including Virgin Airlines’ Richard Branson and broker Charles Schwab, who talked about how difficult their childhood and school days were.“I used to read the article to Jake all the time – now he reads it to me,” said Keller. “He is totally entitled to the world; he is totally entitled to anything he wants to do.”