“The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.” Oprah Winfrey
Nine Episcopal seniors will embark on an adventure this fall in pursuit of their dreams. After countless auditions, miles of traveling and sleepless nights preparing portfolios, these students are attending some of the nation’s top art schools, including Bates College, Berklee College of Music, Drexel University, Illinois Wesleyan University, Louisiana State University, Loyola University, Texas Christian University and Tulane University. College Counseling Director Justin Fenske says Episcopal students have gone on to study art in the past, but this year’s group of nine is the largest in recent memory. “This shows the growth of our programs,” says Fenske. “We’ve always had success but that success is now building upon itself.”
Deciding what you want to be when you grow up and choosing the right college can be daunting for people of all ages. For those passionate about the arts, the process is even more grueling. Once these students determined that they wanted to dedicate their life to a profession in the arts, the college application process began. All of the students applied to multiple schools, with some students submitting 20 or even 30 applications. Art school applications are quite rigorous with audition tapes and portfolios required for each. Then there’s the waiting. After completing their applications, students and families waited anxiously for news. Many received invitations for in-person auditions in multiple states, meaning families logged frequent flier miles along the way. As intimidating and overwhelming as this may sound, these future artists say they wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world.
Future LSU music education and music performance major, Lauren Smith, says the process was tiresome but she enjoyed every minute of it. Lauren has long dreamed of the day she would begin her music journey. Her thesis was on the racial disparity in classical music and how not seeing people who represented her among those in the music she loves impacted her. Now Lauren will have the opportunity to fulfill her dreams and impact the face of classical music. Such a passion inspired her to withstand the grueling application process. “Make sure you love what you’re pursuing,” she advises anyone considering their future.
Ethan Wax, who plans to double major in musical theater and marketing at Illinois Wesleyan University, agrees. “This was one of the most stressful, but rewarding experiences of my life,” he says. Wax says it was rewarding to meet people with the same passion for the arts and to see the different methods used by other performers. Fellow actor Maggie Ewing, who will attend TCU in pursuit of a BFA in theater with an emphasis in acting, says the application experience was an “insane, challenging, rewarding process of self-discovery.” However, she says the experience was worth it. “Have faith in yourself and put all of your efforts into it,” she advises her classmates.
Even as these students were preparing to pursue their dreams, the day-to-day requirements remained. With that in mind, Lauren Reed, who will attend Bates College as a dance major, advises anyone interested in pursuing an art degree to start the process early. “Keep up with school work - school work doesn’t stop because you have to go out of state to audition.” While the requirements of high school do not stop during the college application journey, Fenske says faculty are supportive and ultimately want students to be successful. In fact, Fenske says a major strength of Episcopal is the faculty’s ability to mentor students and help them develop beyond what is typically available in the classroom. “Our faculty members are committed to helping our students excel and they work diligently to make sure there is no limit on what students can achieve,” he says. Fenske points to the creation of the Dance Masters Seminar course and the Theatre Masters Seminar course as examples of how the faculty personalized course offerings to meet the needs of this talented group of students.
The majority of this group of nine seniors have known for some time that art was important to them. “I have to dance,” says future Tulane dance and communications student Mackenzie Bell. “You can do anything you set your mind too,” Bell advises others as she reflects on her decision to pursue her passion. “I knew I liked art, but I never thought about majoring in it,” says Tess Cunningham, who will pursue a BMA in music industry studies – performance track with a minor in business at Loyola University New Orleans College of Media and Arts. Tess says she researched her options and found a way to make a career of doing what she loves. Senior Lara Rende, who will attend Drexel University to obtain a degree in animation, had a slightly different path. Lara was new to the country and not at all sure what degree to pursue. However, she says she followed her gut and decided to study animation. “I created a portfolio in one week,” says Lara with an excited smile. After several sleepless nights and being accepted into Drexel, Lara says the entire experience was worth it.
These nine students have grown through the college application process. Aspiring musical theater performer, Ethan Massengale, who will attend TCU this fall, says the experience brings those in the process to a space of vulnerability. “It is the most exciting, yet nerve-wracking experience,” he says. He encourages others not to give up. “If you really want to do it, it will work out.”
This week’s announcements certainly did not happen overnight. These students and their families have committed years of their lives to seeing this dream come true. Jessica Fletcher, who will attend Berklee College of Music to major in professional music with concentrations in vocal performance, songwriting and music business, advises others to practice every day if they are serious about the field. As for audition day, she had this advice. “Go in there with confidence and look them in the eye. You have what it takes.”
The success of these students is a shining example of Episcopal’s whole child philosophy, which allows students to explore and excel in academics, arts, athletics and spirituality, all on one campus.“The combination of challenging academics and faculty dedicated to providing students art conservatory-level programs is really something special,” says Director of Performing Arts Paige Gagliano. “It has been rewarding to see Episcopal’s whole child mission in action as these students have developed new skills and discovered new talents.”
At Episcopal, 90% of students participate in the arts. The school offers a range of art opportunities including music, visual art, theater and dance. There is truly something for everyone.
Now that these students have completed the college admissions journey, the true adventure of pursuing their dreams begins. We wish you well in life’s adventures. Good luck to each of you.
"If you tap into what made you happy as a kid, it probably will make you happy now." Clare Crespo '86
As a young child, Episcopal graduate Clare Crespo loved playing with food, creating worlds and making shoebox dioramas. She also enjoyed cooking Louisiana cuisine with her dad and grandmother. As an adult, Crespo is still doing all of these things with enthusiasm and joy and she has even made a successful career out of her passion.
According to Clare’s website, she is a fantasist. She says that means that people hire her to put fantasy into their spaces, with her art adding an element of warmth, magic and heart. “I want my stuff to make people smile,” she says from her studio in California.
One look at Clare’s bright, creative work and you can’t help but smile. Clare’s creations include everything from crocheted oysters and poboys to dioramas that tell the story of fine jewelry and even a necklace-wearing, stuffed coyote. Clare’s first cookbook, The Secret Life of Food, launched her into the public eye. The book features creations such as an aquarium made of Jell-O and flip flops crafted from potatoes and string beans. The food is presented in artistic, imaginative settings and not a traditional kitchen. “I’m not a chef,” says Clare. “I just used food as my art supply. I’m an artist always.” The Secret Life of Food was a hit. National television talk show hosts took notice of Clare’s unique approach to food preparation and she began making appearances across the country. “These experiences opened up a lot of wild jobs for me,” she says, reflecting on opportunities to work with national brands, such as Duncan Hines and Breyers.
After this initial success, Clare was ready to tackle something a little smaller – the cupcake. Before cupcakes were cool, Clare was making these treats in a way that fooled the taste buds. She made cupcakes that looked like hamburgers, sushi and even cottages in a fairy garden. Her second cookbook, Hey, There Cupcake! was a successful second act to the first. Next up, a children’s television show.
Clare had dreamed of creating her own children’s program since finishing graduate school at the California Institute of the Arts. After several networks tried to change her original idea, she took the project on herself. The YummyFun Kooking Show ultimately came together in a grassroots effort in which her husband built the set, her friend served as the stylist and her neighbors all chipped in. “It was so fun, so sweet and so many kids loved it,” says Clare. “It was a pure project from my heart.” Episodes of the show are available here, on YouTube and at museum gift shops across the country. Even with such tremendous success, a family of her own and a supportive network in California, Clare’s compass still points home.
Clare grew up in Baton Rouge. She remembers baking Christmas cookies with family and she remains passionate about Louisiana food and culture. She still returns home as often as possible. This love for Louisiana and attachment to home can be seen and tasted in many of Clare’s pieces. “It’s hard to leave Louisiana,” she says. “It’s so specific, so comfortable and unlike anywhere else. Often my creations tap back to roots.” Her yearly calendar, Hurray Today, always features a nod to Mardi Gras and dates such as the New Orleans Jazz Fest are prominently featured. Her cookbooks also include family recipes, such as her grandmother’s Milky Way cake or red velvet cake.
“If you believe in it and you breathe into that dream, it can come true,” says Clare.
Clare enjoys connecting with others and encouraging them to follow their dreams, no matter how unconventional they may seem. She remembers telling her story to a Girl Scout troop years ago. “That can be a job?” she remembers the wide-eyed crowd asking. Whether it’s a troop or a museum workshop, Clare’s message is always the same. “Listen to your voice because that’s what’s going to guide you,” she says. Clare says while her own journey has been fun and immensely satisfying, there have also been challenges. “It’s hard because there’s no path, no mentors,” she says. “You’re just forging ahead blindly.” This commitment to a dream and the confidence required to make that dream a reality just come natural to Clare and she hopes the next generation of artists can do the same.
It’s good to know that artists like Clare Crespo are sharing their creativity and magic with others. Congratulations on your success, Clare. Episcopal is proud to have played a role.
Don’t feed the plants and DON’T miss Episcopal’s presentation of Little Shop of Horrors!
Soon the VPAC stage will be converted into a flower shop. This is not your typical flower shop. The shop hides a secret and the characters within are dealing with everything from fame and love to success and shame in a comical, musical theater setting. Theater Director Paige Gagliano says it took some time to decide on this year’s Upper School play and it was the students who ultimately cast the deciding vote. “We just need to laugh and dance,” one student said in an endorsement of this year’s quirky choice.
This will be the fourth time that Little Shop of Horrors hits the Episcopal stage. Gagliano feels the importance of tradition as she flips through an original copy of former theater director Danny Tiberghein’s 1998 script notes and revisions. Members of former productions even have children in the 2019 rendition. While Little Shop of Horrors is a show filled with tradition (the Tiberghein version began its run on April 2nd just as today’s version does) it is also a show of firsts.
“It’s not going to be the Little Shop you’ve seen,” says Gagliano.
First of all, there is dancing. Gagliano says while the original story doesn’t have a prominent dance component, the 2019 Episcopal version does. “With a dance teacher as talented as Christine Chrest and the tremendous talent among the Episcopal dancers, we had to incorporate dance and movement into the story,” says Gagliano. The audience will also be more involved in the performance than in the past. “There’s nothing between the audience and the actors,” says Choir Director Mary Kannenberg, who is directing the music along with Band Director David Gambino. Whereas the orchestra would normally be a buffer between the actors and the audience, the band members are backstage for Little Shop of Horrors. In addition, the actors address the audience and interact with them throughout the show in a way that draws the viewer in and makes them feel like a true participant in the performance.
The Little Shop of Horrors cast is a mix of new Episcopal actors and longtime student thespians. Gagliano is excited that the production has attracted new students and says it’s very special to watch these students interact with members of the class of 2019. These seniors have worked with Gagliano since their first musical theater experience in eighth grade. Now as they approach their final curtain call, some are looking forward to continuing their musical theater studies at the university level. The Little Shop of Horrors experience allows them to mentor their fellow actors in a fun and memorable way before they launch into the next phase of life.
Episcopal theater productions typically feature an impressive set that immerses audiences in the magic of the story, thanks to the talents and skills of Lighting Director and Set Designer Louis Gagliano. Think back to the Jungle Book Junior tree house and that giant snake. Little Shop of Horrors promises more of the same with an impressive version of the plant, Audrey II. The greenery will even come alive with a student puppeteer and student vocals.
Little Shop of Horrors will be open for business on the VPAC stage April 2, 3, 5 and 6 at 7 pm, with a preview night on April 1st. Whether you come for nostalgia, for a new take on a classic or to bid farewell to a group of senior stars, the show will certainly not disappoint.
Tickets are on sale now. Click the link here to reserve your seats.
Now is your chance to get face to face with Middle School art. The Middle School art show Face Time is on display in the VPAC lobby through February 18th. The show features a wide variety of subjects and media, including self-portraits created as students explored more about their own interests and identity.
Middle School art teacher and Arts Department Chair Russell Roper says students learned a lot about themselves leading up to the current showcase. In one assignment, Roper requires students to fill a gallon-size bag with mementos that represent the most important aspects of their lives. Roper says these “portraits in a Ziploc” are then used to inspire students to create art based on their contents. The Face Time show features decorated boxes safeguarding these keepsakes. In another assignment, students are asked to reflect on the products and services they use in their daily lives. Afterwards, they create digital art pieces using the logos of these companies.
Visual art has long been embraced by the Episcopal community. The VPAC space, with its paint-splattered classrooms and lobby adaptable for student displays, is a testament to a commitment to art education. Students have the opportunity to take art classes in every division with topics ranging from drawing and painting to photography and digital art. As an artist, Roper is pleased that students have the opportunity to try it all. He hopes such early and consistent exposure to art will encourage a lifelong appreciation for art among his students.
We invite you to explore the Middle School art show. You will certainly see some familiar faces on display. In addition to the self-portraits, the exhibition also features relief sculptures inspired by nature, handmade clay masks and furniture models based on animal studies.
Can’t make it to the VPAC? The Episcopal Middle School art show will be on display at the Jones Creek library during the month of March in celebration of National Youth Art Month.
Below is a sample of the work now on display. Stop by the VPAC lobby to enjoy the full show.
Madeleine Cope, Senior Thesis Student and Dancer, compels us to get out from behind our desks and utilize movement in our learning experiences.
What does dance mean to us? Is it an art form, utilized for its expression and creativity? Is it an athletic form that can lead dancers down an elitist path as we see in reality competition shows? Or, is it an enjoyable activity pursued by people all around the country for sheer pleasure and enjoyment? Whether we know it or not, we witness dance more often than we think. From seeing it on TV, on the VPAC mainstage , or even at social events, we can all admit that dance is a platform for expression that has been an element of life for as long as we have known. Although we have seen dance via different mediums for ages, it seems as though we haven’t utilized dance for what all it can do for us. Recent research has shown that dance can have meaningful benefits outside of places like a stage or TV screen; in fact, it can be utilized in our daily lives during a school day for our academic success.
Cognitive psychology teaches us that to create long-term memories, we have to make our material and ideas personally meaningful to us. This is accomplished by associating knowledge with other concepts or activities we have experienced. Jane Bonbright, a researcher for the National Dance Education Organization, notes that retention can also be facilitated and catalyzed by incorporating more areas of the brain in the initial encoding process for establishing long-term memories. Because dance can combine all of these psychological concepts and provide as an active and engaging learning system for children, it has the ability to be a great device for not only teaching children of young ages but for establishing well-suited academic habits in its students. Although it may seem a bit hasty, or even a bit radical, we should start considering dance as a way to facilitate brain development and the creation of higher retention rates among young learners.
In Jamie Steele’s research study for the Journal of Dance Education, she focused on the academic success of a fifth-grade class learning about different means of energy through dance. Steele not only found that the students left the class with greater communication skills from the group assignment but the students were able to, “...explain (1) visually through diagrams, (2) kinesthetically through dances, (3) verbally through explanation, and (4) manually through a [hands on project]." In this sense, Steele discovered what researchers like Bonright have recently uncovered: that dance can combine many of the essential skills needed by modern young students to succeed, while also being able to allow children to learn via an active format that enables the brain to facilitate the creation of long-term memory.
Needless to say, dance has some untapped benefits for young learners that most of us did not even realize. Knowing this, we must question: why haven’t all schools utilized dance education or other active learning methods like it so that students may reap its benefits? While traditional learning methods are often effective, I argue that experimenting with the use of active learning systems, like dance, may allow students to reach an untapped potential that will enable them to have better academic success. As Dr. Adrienne Sansom writes, “[Dance] is a modality [that] helps us gain knowledge through the body and grasp the essence of learning from within, connecting to ourselves in the deepest, most direct ways.” If we take Dr. Sansom’s sentiment and learn to apply it to an upcoming generation of learners, not only will they be able to make deep connections to their content, but they may be able to see inward and discover the value of meaningful learning.
Madeleine Cope has been a student at Episcopal since Pre-K and is currently a high school senior. In addition to her involvement with the Honors Thesis program, Madeleine participates in Episcopal’s Dance Ensemble, acts as Co-Choreographer for Episcopal’s Lower and Middle School musical productions, participates in Episcopal theatre productions, and is a Math Tutor for Episcopal’s Math Center. Her thesis revolves around the concept of utilizing new education methods, especially those involving dance education and active learning environments.
Senior Thesis Student and Oboist, Lauren Smith, shares ideas from her thesis, arguing for more inclusive and diverse classical arts, which would allow all children to see themselves represented on the stage.
Music has the ability to touch the souls of individuals and move the masses. It has been at the center of social revolutions, and its captivating nature has withstood the test of time. We are fortunate here at Episcopal to have access to many art forms and opportunities. It was here where I first became a musician, picked up an instrument, and had the opportunity to join a musical ensemble.
A particular genre that has truly revolutionized almost all music that we hear today is classical music. Without it, the world would be quite a dull place. “Classical music” is a broad and insufficient term used to describe a plethora of music types, and sometimes we tend to forget that. Its elements exist in your favorite songs and movies, and surprisingly, it even played a tremendous role in the innovation of hip-hop and pop music.
The “orchestra hit” is one of the most used samples in pop and hip-hop music. Its sound takes the form of a musical bang that draws the audience in and helps drive the song’s beat. The orchestra hit was originally sampled in the early 1980s by Peter Vogel, the same person that created one of the first sampling and sequencing synthesizers in the mid-1970s. This sample was from Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird, which was originally scored in 1910. The particular moment in Firebird that the orchestra hit was sampled from was at the beginning of a scene called “Danse Infernale du Roi Kastchei.”
Though classical music may be everywhere, when it is performed in its traditional essence, it is quite exclusive. The full glory and splendor of classical music is not available for everyone to enjoy freely. There are a plethora of reasons supporting why classical music is indefinitely reserved for people of a certain demographic, but the stigmas attached to the music type as well as socioeconomic, historical, and psychological factors all play a role in why this art form is still so rooted in a traditionalistic mindset, despite the progressiveness of other art forms.
People love to have role models, especially when they look like us. Where the problem lies in classical music is that there are not enough role models for black and brown artists. Yes, there are some, but the amount is miniscule. In solely American orchestras as of 2016, less than 1.8% of participants were black and less than 2.5% were Hispanic. That amount is even less for ethnic participants when assessed on a global scale, especially considering that classical music, as most recognize it, is originally from the Eastern Hemisphere of the world, particularly Europe, although it has rhythmic and percussive influences as well as modal influences from Africa and Asia.
When I was much younger, I loved to watch performances of the Berlin Philharmonic, one of the world’s leading orchestras. The performances I watched on YouTube most definitely contributed to my ever-growing love for classical music. As much as I looked up to each and every performer, particularly the oboists and the conductors, I always found it difficult to truly see myself playing among them, let alone conducting the musicians, as an adult. I felt so distanced from the classical musicians that passionately played their instruments on my computer screen.
Yes, it was and is a dream of mine, but I never saw anyone else that looked like me to demonstrate that it was a legitimate possibility.
Classical music is expensive. Buying instruments (many of which cost thousands of dollars), the materials needed to play (e.g., reeds, ligatures, tools), and paying for lessons are some examples of the tedious expenses required to be considered as a classical instrumentalist. For musicians coming from underserved communities, which are oftentimes densely populated by people of color, receiving a musical education of the same caliber of their mostly white counterparts is especially difficult due to the prominent socioeconomic disadvantages.
As human beings, we all have preferences, whether implicit or explicit. When it comes to viewing performers on a stage, due to general social psychology that has been influenced and molded by history and racist justifications, if a ballet or symphony is being performed, the performers are expected to be white. So much so that the very principles of ballet performance are centered around identicality and the reference is a white-skinned, fairy-like performer. Even in symphonic performances, visual aesthetic preferences may lead people to expect a stage composed of similar looking people due to the art forms’ emphasis on symmetry and synchronization.
Diversifying the arts, specifically classical music is essential to its growth and ultimately its survival. The traditional aura surrounding classical music as it relates to what type of people are the dominant performers and observers is counterintuitive to the definition of art. Art is a “diverse” range of creative activities, but in classical art that is still performed today, the diversity element is inadequate. Diversifying classical music does not necessarily mean contemporizing the music itself, but rather taking measures to make it more inclusive for all individuals, especially because it is such a powerful medium of expression that can be life-changing for anybody no matter their skin color.
Lauren Smith has been an Episcopal student since Kindergarten, and she is currently a high school senior. She is a member of the Honors Thesis Program, and her thesis addresses the lack of representation in classical art forms, specifically in classical music and ballet, and how in order for the arts to progress, diversity is a necessity. Lauren is an avid participant in the arts. She is in Episcopal’s Wind Ensemble, Concert Band, Jazz Band, the Louisiana Youth Orchestra, and a variety of other ensembles. Lauren is also an Episcopal athlete who has participated in numerous sports over the years, and she plays multiple other instruments aside from the oboe, including the piano, saxophone, and clarinet.
Episcopal student artists are sharing the joy of the season with song, dance and music. Here's a look at recent festivities on campus and throughout the Baton Rouge community.
Photos provided by Episcopal senior Mason LaFerney.
Beyond Woodland Ridge
Congratulations to Episcopal students who are sharing their art with the Greater Baton Rouge community.
"The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack."
Lower and Middle School students will become wolves, monkeys, vultures and elephants as they take the stage for the upcoming production of Jungle Book Junior. Audiences will be transported to the jungles of India as students explore this classic tale of a human child raised by animals. As is customary with theater productions at Episcopal, viewers will be asking themselves – how did they do this?
For ten weeks now, students and faculty have spent countless hours together learning lines and practicing movements. Families have provided support, snacks and car rides to and from the VPAC throughout the entire process. Elaborate sets have been created and costumes have been ordered. Along the way, a remarkable thing has occurred.
The 2018 Jungle Book “pack” has been formed. This pack is comprised of students from all divisions and all backgrounds. Lower School Music Teacher Tricia Delony and Theater Director Paige Gagliano say students are getting to know each other as they serve as mentors, coaches and cheerleaders for their cast mates. This can be seen as seventh graders compliment third graders for a job well done or as young students aspire to be more like their older counterparts. Delony and Gagliano emphasize that the students are part of a whole, with each role and each performer important to the community’s success.
An Episcopal theater production is an empowering experience for student actors. Delony says as the performers learn their lines and grow to own their character, the story truly comes alive. “They become comfortable enough to dig deep and do what comes naturally,” she says. This sense of empowerment is also allowing students to share their culture with their cast mates. Eighth grader Nidhi Sthanki has choreographed the opening song as a celebration of her Indian culture. Delony and Gagliano say Sthanki has taken pride in working with her cast mates and enjoyed the process of sharing a part of herself with others.
Gagliano says theater productions are also a celebration of the learning process and that process can be messy. “Mistakes are ok,” she says. “We want the performers to stop being afraid of making a mistake.” Gagliano says even as students stumble on lines, they are gaining life skills as they move on and try again, proving that even mistakes are a bare necessity of learning.
A majority of the Jungle Book performers are athletes, academics and artists. Delony and Gagliano say having the freedom to explore multiple interests creates the well-rounded child at the heart of the Episcopal mission. In addition, these empowered actors and actresses are developing the sense of responsibility required to juggle multiple interests at one time. For example, Gagliano says students are communicating with each other about what they may have missed in the event of a scheduling conflict and some have asked to come in even if they are not on the rehearsal schedule to make up missed practice time.
In a play that explores themes of love, kindness and acceptance of others, these young performers are naturally gaining confidence, empathy and understanding. “That’s what art does. It teaches us lessons,” says Gagliano. Once the curtain closes on the 2018 Jungle Book pack, students will be left with a lasting sense of community. Audiences will know that the performances, which appear effortless for such young students, were actually the result of hard work, hours of preparation and a commitment of many to the success of the pack. That is simply how an Episcopal theater production is done.
Make plans to attend Jungle Book Junior! Click here to purchase tickets for performances that run November 12th through 15th.
The annual Fall All School Student Art Show is now on display in the VPAC lobby. The exhibition features students in all three divisions and a variety of mediums. “The vitality of the art work displayed in the VPAC lobby for the 2018 All School Fall show from the three divisions is engaging and surprising,” says art teacher Kate Trepagnier. Trepagnier and art teachers Caroline Hagan and Russell Roper hope members of the Episcopal community will stop by and enjoy the creativity on display.
Episcopal students enjoy a wide range of artistic opportunities. Students can explore painting, drawing, photography, pottery, sculpture, mixed media and digital arts. Such diversity of choice in the arts is a key component of an Episcopal education and a necessary complement to the learning taking place in the traditional classroom.
Project-Based Learning in the Arts
According to the National Art Education Association (NAEA), the arts teach students that problems may have more than one solution and that varying perspectives should be celebrated. Art encourages critical thinking skills that have significant application to more traditional classroom subjects. Roper says art projects truly are a project-based learning experience.
One example of a project-based art experience is taking place in Roper’s Upper School Sculpture class. Students are tasked with determining what type of monument they would erect on Episcopal’s campus. To really get students thinking, Roper tasks students with completing a monument application similar to what a city council might require. Once students determine their theme, they conduct a site analysis, an elevation plan and a financial estimate for the project. After the planning process is complete, students construct a model of the monument using the best media for their design. In the end, students have a complete proposal that required significant research, planning and analysis, in addition to artistic abilities.
Digital Art Opportunities
“The addition of digital imaging has expanded what we do,” says Roper. The Episcopal art teachers are veterans with a passion for sharing their craft. These artists and Episcopal have embraced new technologies and the new forms of art associated with them. Dianne Madden, who teaches digital design and photography classes, brings more traditional art forms into the digital age. Students in the Communication Design class created posters promoting the art show and eighth grade Digital Photography students have a number of their works on display. In addition, students in Roper’s eighth grade class worked on a series of assignments on animals using Photoshop to transform traditional drawings into digital recreations of the creatures as comic book superheroes. Another popular assignment among seventh graders is the study of themselves in a number of self portrait assignments. For the first nine weeks of school, students use their own image as their muse as they explored color theory using the Brushes app to create digital selfies. A sample of these digital selfies and superheroes are on display in the current exhibition.
Art as Expression
“Art develops critical and diverse thinkers by promoting the solving of open-ended questions. It is the goal of our program to set the groundwork for each student to appreciate art as the language of the soul,” says Hagan, who is guiding students through art projects connected to the Lower School Community Read of Wishtree. The Episcopal artistic process provides students numerous opportunities to express themselves. Roper says he often reminds students that “artists are meaning makers” as he helps them establish a title for their work based on what they are trying to convey. To determine a title, students are asked to reflect on their project, the revisions they have made and the journey they have experienced. These reflections are written down and used to help give insight into the final product.
The Fall All School Student Art Show will provide observers a glimpse inside the Episcopal artistic experience, with everything from PreK-4 watercolor pieces to Upper School AP student paintings. Large paper mache works exploring ice cream, French fries and pizza will be food for thought for visitors, while the digital selfies and sculptures should not be missed. The exhibit will be on display through the end of October.
Don’t miss this opportunity to celebrate the arts at Episcopal.
For members of the school’s Dance Master Seminar the answer is simple. “Without the arts my experience wouldn’t be the same.” “Arts are everything to me.” “The arts give us an outlet we don’t have in regular class.” “I took no art classes last year and I felt dead. With dance classes this year I feel more like myself.”
The arts, and more specifically dance, are powerful for students of all ages and all backgrounds. Research collected by the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO) shows that “dance has a positive impact on student achievement, teacher satisfaction and school culture.” NDEO offers the following specific examples of the positive impacts of dance:
Episcopal dancers are quite familiar with these benefits. In fact, senior Madeleine Cope is currently working on a thesis examining the benefits of implementing dance at schools. Through her own research and experience, Cope says she has found that dance also boosts verbal and non-verbal communication skills. She equates learning dance with learning a new language as dancers hone these skills and learn what it means to be present and engaged in the moment.
There are also the emotional benefits that are garnered from dance. Watching members of the master seminar perform in the dance studio without the frills of stage lighting, costumes or professional sound, you feel the emotions of the dancers. These teenage performers are strong, powerful and fully focused on their movements and the message they are conveying to the audience. There is passion in each twirl and joy in each leap. The students are poised, graceful and expressive beyond their age.
Within the studio, students are comfortable enough to be vulnerable with their expressions. They celebrate each other’s success and provide positive, constructive feedback with the goal of helping their fellow dancers. Most of these students have been dancing since they were preschool age and many of them perform with multiple ensembles. In reflecting on the Episcopal arts experience, the dancers say the school provides a more loving and supportive atmosphere in which students can flourish. “This is a community here.” “We’re different, but that’s ok.”
Such cohesion could only be achieved in a nurturing, caring environment. That environment is cultivated by dance teacher Christine Chrest, who is now in her fourth year at the helm of the Episcopal dance program. When watching this professional dancer interact with her teenage protégées one thing becomes abundantly clear – Chrest truly cares about her students and wants them to be successful in whatever they do. This passion and Chrest’s expertise make the Episcopal dance program truly special.
For members of the Dance Master Seminar, dance is a lifelong commitment. Many of the current students have aspirations of pursuing a major or minor in dance once high school is over. As part of the seminar class, Chrest guides students through the process of creating their own choreography and writing scholarship essays to compete for spots in university dance programs. Chrest is like a proud mom as she reports on the success of Episcopal dance program participants thus far. Alumna Emma Scott Singletary ’17 is currently dancing at Elon University and former Episcopal dancer Azha Alston ’17 is studying dance at LSU.
As Chrest puts it, dance lights a fire within students that transcends the studio. Students are motivated to study, achieve and excel in the classroom because they are consumed by their passion and creativity. At Episcopal, there is a marriage of the arts and academics that truly helps students learn more about themselves and the life they want to live. It is one thing to say that arts are integral to a well-rounded education, but it is another to witness the focus and determination in the dancers’ eyes as they express themselves in such a vulnerable way. The art of dance has opened students’ minds to different possibilities and perspectives that are helping them define who they are today and where they want to go tomorrow.
Don't miss your chance to see the Episcopal dancers in action.