Cora Devaney, who also goes by CeCe, used to be known mostly for her athletic achievements. The recent San Luis Obispo graduate excelled in volleyball, soccer and track and field before choosing to focus on the latter, a tradition in her family.
“I wasn’t sure which sport to pursue, but when it became clear that track is where I had to most fun and probably the most talent, that’s when it made it easier not to do soccer,” Devaney said.
This season, Devaney earned a trip to the CIF-Southern Section track and field finals in high jump and discus and a scholarship to join the track and field team Seattle University. But a film Devaney made for San Luis Obsipo’s Senior Showcase talent show earlier this month will likely leave an impression much deeper than that of her athletic career.
Normally a singer, painter, musician and writer, Devaney said the idea for her first film, titled “Paintbrushes,” arose when someone else auditioned to sing the same song as her at the showcase.
“I was bummed out because the song really meant a lot to me, so I was like ... I will just write my own thing,” Devaney said.
What emerged was a short video collage with a melodic piano soundtrack (partly performed by her), GoPro footage Devaney accumulated over the course of three years and a monologue that tackled the struggles of the human condition. She explored subjects such as love, sexuality, mental health, drug addiction, regret, friendship and death. She put it all together in seven hours.
“I wrote that whole monologue right after my godmother died,” Devaney said. “This year has been rough, but most of it has been me dealing with emotional constipation because I just don’t feel like processing things all the time, especially since it has been such a busy year.”
Her video gained attention in the community when it was reported that it would not be shown in the Senior Showcase. Rumors popped up that the video was deemed too provocative and not allowed by San Luis Obispo High School principal Leslie O’Connor, but both Devaney and O’Connor told The Tribune that was not the case.
Devaney and O’Connor said it was held out of the showcase because the student group putting on the event didn’t want mixed media played at an event meant for live performances. Despite that, a petition that was started to allow the video garnered more than 300 signatures.
“It got a little bit blown out of proportion,” Devaney said. “People kind of took the opportunity to revolt against Mr. O’Connor, which is kind of frustrating to me because then it’s not about the art, it’s just about being able to stand up against ‘The Man.’ ”
Devaney’s film ended up being shown in the lobby of the event. On YouTube, the video has been viewed more than 20,000 times and includes comments like this one: “Your video is incredible and truely [sic] made me feel everything I have been hiding away for a long time.”
“It was really therapeutic [to make the movie], and it was a big deal that so many people would reach back to me and say, ‘This helped me as well,’ because that was the whole point,” Devaney said.
Her artistic and athletic sides are shared by her mother and sisters, she said. Her mother Kathy, who Cora said has an artistic side, competed in track and field at Cal Poly and held the SLO High School record in discus until it was broken by her sister, Vivien, who went on to throw at Notre Dame and is now studying classical literature in Europe. Her other sister, Bridget, who excels at detailed drawing, holds the hammer throw record at UC Irvine and is making a run at the Olympics.
“I’m not going to lie, the pressure put on in my family is really crazy,” Devaney said, adding that she liked being a top high jumper unlike other Devaneys. “I’m really grateful for sports. It has given me a lot of anxiety ... but I am really happy that I have been able to use it to help with financial aid, especially in college. A lot of pressure, still worth it.”
At Seattle University, she hopes to parlay two of her favorite passions — music and helping people — into a career in child music therapy. This summer, she is training four days a week to prepare to compete in the heptathlon.
“I want to step off the plane in Seattle and just feel comfortable with jumping in,” Devaney said. “I hate feeling behind.”