Artist, Journalist, Leader: Marian High School's Ceci UrbanskiMar 08, 2023 04:53PM ● By Tamsen Butler
Photo by Bill Sitzmann.
It was obvious early on that Ceci Urbanski was destined to create art. “I’ve been an artist since I was 9. I used to love drawing on my mom’s walls,” reflected the Marian High School senior on her earliest creative endeavors.
Urbanski’s work has evolved far beyond the confines of her mother’s—and even gallery—walls. In November 2022, she won an art contest open to all Omaha-Council Bluffs area middle and high school students. Sponsored by Metro, Omaha’s Transit Authority, to celebrate its 50th anniversary, “Wheel Appeal” will feature Urbanski’s vibrant art on a city bus for up to a year.
The message is simple and in line with Marian’s Christian values. “The World Needs More Love,” says one colorful side set against a group of diverse men and women meant to represent the bus-riding pubic. “Spread Love, Omaha,” exhorts the other.
“I was thinking about the future and what it’s going to look like,” the 17-year-old revealed. “I think about what makes us human: our ability to love.”
That love shines through the young artist’s work and is why for her, art is about more than colors and conceptualizing. Urbanski sees her artistic practice as a form of advocacy and a vehicle for being seen and understood.
“There’s always activism to my art,” she explained. “I’m a very opinionated person, and I talk a lot. I feel like art is the easiest way to have my voice heard.”
As a confident woman artist, Urbanski is aware that many people misinterpret her confidence as arrogance. “At this point in my life, I really care about being myself,” she said. “There are things that people may find overbearing about me. I care a lot, and that’s important because what you care about and what you do really makes a difference.”
That difference for her is critical.
“Kids my age need to know that there’s hope, and that what you do matters,” she continued. “I’ve embraced the title of ‘overbearing,’ and I identify with it.”
Urbanski knows that people probably view her differently than her male counterparts. “I think that anything you do as a woman is going to be different from a man,” she said. “I’ve had the privilege of being surrounded by great female role models my entire life. My mom, my sister, and attending an all-girl school with a legacy of successful women helped me quell any doubts I had that being a woman would stop me succeeding.”
Urbanski credits her influential teachers at Marian for helping guide her along the way in her pursuit of art. “My journalism advisor Marsha Kalkowski helped me realize my potential,” she said. “She’s there to push me and to celebrate me. Ms. Roger, my AP U.S. History teacher last year, inspired me to start new things. Her class was my favorite of all I’ve ever taken.”
Marian’s influence can be seen in the student’s success, both academically and extracurricularly. Urbanski serves as the graphics editor for Marian’s student newspaper as well as the editor-in-chief of “Burn,” the school’s literary art magazine. She is involved in Marian’s theatre program and is interested in documentaries. The active senior also runs Marian’s Sustainability Club and volunteers in a South Omaha community garden during growing season.
“It’s been really interesting progressing through high school, because I’m figuring out what I like,” Urbanski admitted. “One of my greatest strengths, but biggest weaknesses, is that I say yes to everything. I’ll try anything once. I was in trap shooting for one day–I hated it. I did speech team for a week. I did debate for a year. I did soccer for a while. I did wrestling for a month. I like to try everything once, and I think it’s helped me find a lot of new opportunities. It’s gotten me far.”
Her advice to other students is to get involved in a variety of activities and not be afraid to try something new. “I like to think whenever I jump into something new, what is the absolute worst thing that could happen? Maybe you feel a little embarrassed, but that will maybe last a few days. Usually, the best thing that could happen greatly outweighs the worst thing that could happen in every case.”
As Urbanski nears graduation, she finds herself weighing the pros and cons of a professional life as an artist. The people around her have plenty of opinions on what her future should hold.
“There’s a split,” she said. “Some people in my life would not like to see me go into an artistic field because my talents would be better suited in law or better-paying disciplines because I do take my academics very seriously. I love studying and I love school.”
Urbanski has not yet decided on which college she will attend, although she did earn a scholarship to Loyola University Chicago, a private Jesuit Catholic University. She previously wanted to major in global studies but has since decided that she’ll pursue art in one fashion or another.
“There’s a stereotype of artists that they all wind up burned out and broke. And if that’s the case, so be it,” said the Marian senior. “I keep finding myself coming back to art. It’s what I love.”