Biddeford High senior Olivia Whittaker is the class valedictorian and an accomplished artist. She plans to attend Bates College. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Mike Fecteau, the softball coach at Biddeford High, calls senior second baseman Olivia Whittaker “a special kid.” But he’s not just talking about her contributions to the Tigers.

Yes, she is a valuable member of the team, the type of kid, Fecteau said, “that you like to coach.”

But she’s also the class valedictorian, an accomplished artist who sells her paintings at local craft shows, a member of the Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institute and the school’s National Honor Society treasurer. She plans on attending Bates College as a pre-med student.

She’s also inspired by her mother, Christee Whittaker, who has fought cancer for many years and has been cancer-free for four years.

We met with Olivia before a recent softball practice to talk about her many talents.

Q: What does being involved with these teams (she also played volleyball) mean to you?

A: We’re really just a big family. Everyone is so supportive of each other. It’s been great over the last four years to see myself grow into the person that as a freshman I knew I wanted to be. I idolized all those upperclassmen. Now I’m in that position and it’s such a blessing to guide all these underclassmen to become what I know they can be.

Q: With your mom,  you’ve gone through a lot of personal stuff. How have you handled that?

A: It’s been a long, long process going through what she’s been going through. As a caregiver it’s been really taxing. You’re filled with stress and anxiety making sure she’s OK and making sure that she’s going to get better. That’s when I found my love for art when going through those times. I would use art as a way to release the anxiety and detach from reality, and mesmerize myself in the colors and my paintings.

Q: Did being part of a team help?

A: Having people on my team, I always felt they had my back. In middle school, when my mother was first diagnosed, my team organized wearing colored socks of the ribbon of the kind of cancer she had for one of our last games. And that was really so emotional for me.  Being part of a team is really, really powerful.

Q: Is there any style of art you prefer?

A: I prefer painting. I do a variety of things, though. I do commission work so if somebody has an idea that, “I want either a landscape or the picture of a house that’s a certain color,” I take it. For me, I like landscapes best but I do anything.

Q: Oils, water?

A: I use water colors, oils and acrylics.

Q: How did the idea of having your own business (Under A Paintbrush) come about?

A: I work out of my bedroom right now. I go to local craft fairs and sell my art there, and some of my art is sold (at Honey Maker Mead Room in Kennebunkport). I sell my painted wine glasses there.

Q: Painted wine glasses?

A: Yeah, it’s pretty cool. You get to paint on glass and then bake it and then you can use it just as you would a normal glass.

Q: When did you discover that art helped you?

A: I was in class (in middle school) and started realizing I got in this meditative trance state when I was painting, and I kind of just forgot about all my stress and anxiety. I realized it was something I could use at home.

Q: You also teach an art class (for Biddeford Adult Education)?

A: I teach a therapeutic spatter painting class … I realized I wanted to give back to the community that really supported me going through all the cancer treatments with my family. I wanted to share with them my discovery of therapeutic art and how it helped me.

Q: What do you get out of teaching these classes?

A: I get a sense of community. It’s amazing to have all these people come up to me at the end of the class and say, “This is powerful,” and, “You did a great job,” and, “I really want to come back to one of these classes again.” It’s a warm feeling I get knowing that I helped these people out.

Q: Are you going to continue your painting at Bates?

A: Yes, I hope to minor in art, along my pre-medical track.

Q: Any idea what field you want to go into?

A: Oncology or radiology. Being around the doctors’ offices when I was young made me realize this was the path I wanted to take.

Q: How do you do all of this – schoolwork, painting, sports, teaching a class?

A: Well they’re all things that I just love to do so it’s never a burden for me to get up and say, “Oh I have to go.” I’m never like that.

Q: Volleyball and softball are really different sports. What do you like about them?

A: It’s a good balance, the differences between them. In volleyball it helps you with your reaction time, quick-thinking skills. And in softball it’s a lot of analysis of where the ball is going to be played in the field. I really enjoy the differences.

Q: How would you describe yourself as an athlete?

A: I would say loud. When I’m on the court or on the field, you’ll know it’s me. I’m the one yelling, communicating with my teammates on every play.

Q: And as an artist?

A: This one’s hard, I never really thought about that. Creative I guess, unique. Versatile, that’s it.

Q: What are you hopes for these last two months of your high school career?

A: I can’t believe I’m so close to the end of my high school career. It’s so surreal. I’m just hoping to take the best of everything I can do and carry it out for these next two months.

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