At Episcopal, community is often referred to and celebrated. It is something cherished by students, families and alumni. But how exactly do you define community? This week’s Arts Signing Day is a great place to start.
Ten members of the Class of 2021 announced their decisions to continue an arts education in college. Among the group of talented teens are students with dreams of becoming a fashion designer, a theme park designer, a theater director and a visual artist. Some students will minor in theater as they pursue a major in another subject area. All of them are making the arts a priority and seeking a way to continue being a part of an arts community like the one they love at Episcopal.
Keeping Community Connections
“Continuing an arts education means that I will continue to put my creative energy towards something productive and beautiful, that being a play or a musical,” says Martha Rhodes, who plans to minor in theater at Rhodes College. “The arts community at Episcopal is supportive, uplifting, and comforting and I hope to find and contribute to the same thing at Rhodes.”
“Theater is a special community here at Episcopal,” says Madi Bell, who will minor in theater at Tulane University. “I hope to continue spreading what I found here.”
Addi LeBouef, who will be a member of the University of Alabama at Birmingham wind ensemble agrees that community is key. “The people you meet in band are the best because they get it and why you love it.”
Celebrating the First Steps in a New Journey
As classmates and faculty gathered in a circle in the VPAC lobby, there was a sense of the love and community shared among these seniors. With cameras snapping and college colors flying, there was excitement similar to the feel of an art opening or a closing night theater performance. In a way, this was the curtain call on their high school art experiences. It was also the beginning of an exciting new journey.
Chris Yura, who will attend Savannah College of Art and Design to study theme park design says art has always been a part of his life. “I have been drawing since I was able to hold a pencil,” he says. “My love of art started with drawing dinosaurs and it just continued on from there.” At a table decorated in red and gray, Emily Lynch celebrated her acceptance into Muhlenberg College where she will study theater. “I can’t imagine not doing it every day,” she says when thinking about how important theater is for her. She looks forward to attending Muhlenberg with hopes of becoming a theater director. Not far from Emily, Katie Knight celebrated her next steps as a visual artist with teacher Veronica Hallock. Katie will attend Sewanee University this fall and says she is glad to be able to do what she loves in college. Ellie Veillon will continue pursuing what she loves at LSU in the fall. She has loved art since kindergarten and says her interest in fashion design has grown over the past few years. Ellie will major in fashion and art design.
The Benefits of Hard Work
Getting accepted to college and earning the opportunity to continue doing what you love does not happen by accident. Visual and Performing Arts Department Director Paige Gagliano says signing day marks the culmination of many hours of determination and hard work put in by the students. She points out the opportunities for growth gained through arts experiences such as improved confidence, empathy and the ability to work with others. All of this is something Evan Meek has experienced firsthand. “I have so much pride for this program,” he says. “I’ve grown as a person.” Evan will minor in theater at Rhodes College. Charlie Roth, who will minor in theater at Princeton University also recognizes the benefits gained from performing. He says the experience has impacted how he interacts with others and evolved how he sees the world.
Abhay Basireddy, who will minor in theater at MIT recently played the part of Ken in “Rumors.” When discussing his part in the play, Abhay said he found the Episcopal theater community to be accepting, authentic and inclusive. “The best part of this experience has been gaining a family and meeting people I never thought would have been interested in theater,” he said.
Creating Art in Uncertain Times
Finding a way to produce art with health protocols in place has been daunting; however, the arts faculty were undeterred. This fall, students performed a play written by Gagliano titled “We’re in this Together.” It provided an opportunity to celebrate community at a time when those opportunities had been lost. As progress has been made and restrictions have been eased, additional opportunities were available this spring. “Rumors” provided audiences a laugh, and a recital offered a stage to showcase newfound talents. The arts are poised for an exciting return to pre-pandemic life, and these ten students are proof that Episcopal student artists will be ready.
Head of School Dr. Carrie Steakley recognized the challenges and congratulated the seniors and arts faculty on a job well done. “I am so honored to be among you,” she told students. “I’ve been blown away by your performances. You have raised the bar in odd circumstances.” Dr. Steakley and Upper School Division Head Tom Forti recognized Gagliano for her tireless efforts on behalf of the school’s art students regardless of the challenges that arise. Forti told those in attendance that the arts are a “critical piece of working with the whole child,” and that the students’ efforts have been first class in every way.
Continuing the Episcopal Mission
Episcopal’s mission is to serve the whole child, and art is a key component of what makes that possible. Students learn more about themselves and the importance of being a part of something bigger than themselves. They learn the importance of community.
Congratulations to the following students who will continue studying the arts in college!