Accident claims life of 'phenomenal' and 'exceptional' artist

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Anna Kreja’s artistic talents were apparent from her very first class at Mother McAuley High School.


“Her work was phenomenal from the get-go. She was really passionate about it,” said Kathleen Gordon Davis, chairman of the visual arts and technology department at the high school.


In fact, Gordon Davis said Kreja was one of the most talented and creative artists that she has encountered during her 29 years at the school.


“She was really exceptional,” Gordon Davis said.


Kreja was enrolled in integrated biology and art as a freshman, a course that introduces students to basic drawing techniques and composition skills along with the laboratory biology curriculum.

But the class was just beginning of her artistic journey at Mother McAuley.

She also took part in painting, art history, studio art and AP studio art classes. The portfolio she created in the advanced class won a Scholastic Art Silver Key Award.

Kreja, 19, of Oak Lawn, was struck by a car last Wednesday at about 1:30 p.m. near 110th Street and Cicero Avenue, police said.

She was taken to Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn where died a short time later, police said.

A 2013 Mother McAuley graduate, Ms. Kreja was crossing Cicero Avenue after getting off a bus when she was hit a car driven by a 53-year-old woman, police said. The driver was not cited, they said.

Ms. Kreja was coming home from classes at the Academy of Art, where she was a sophomore, and preparing to walk to her apartment on Keating Avenue where she lived with her mother, Karen, when she was hit.


Rich Kryczka, an instructor at the American Academy of Art, recalled Ms. Kreja as a quiet girl who thoroughly enjoyed her classes.


“Being at school is where she wanted to be. It was all in her smile,” said Kryczka, the chairman of the illustration department at the American Academy of Art.


“It’s sad. She was a really good kid,” said Kryczka, who taught an illustration class in which Ms. Kreja was enrolled.


He described Ms. Kreja as a soft-spoken individual who preferred to listen.


“She was a thinker,” he said.


Ms. Kreja had ambitions to be a professional illustrator and write children’s books, Kryczka said.


Duncan Webb, a dean at the American Academy of Art, said Kreja was “a conscientious and serious student.”


“She had a lifelong commitment to her art, and she was determined to be a successful professional artist,” Webb said. “At our institution, we have a family environment, and I can tell you students, faculty and staff are feeling loss. It looked like she had a bright successful future.”


Gordon Davis owns two of Ms. Kreja’s works, one that is displayed in her classroom at the school. She said Ms. Kreja had innate creativity, which is difficult to teach.


“It’s heartbreaking,” Gordon Davis said. “I think she was proud of her work but she didn’t have to toot her own horn.”


In addition to her mother, Ms. Kreja is survived by her father, Jack, and several aunts and uncles.


Visitation was at Hickey Memorial Chapel in Midlothian. A funeral Mass was held Wednesday at St. Christopher Church followed by interment at Resurrection Cemetery in Justice.