Drawn to a higher purpose

Since 2010, The Big Draw has been a big hit every year at Colorado Academy, but 2021 seemed to bring its own special exuberance to the event. As one student told visual arts teacher Stashia Taylor, “It feels like you are creating awareness about an issue, but in a joyful way.”

The year’s theme was “Make the Change”—and the focus was on ways that we can reduce, reuse, and recycle to lessen our environmental impact.

The visual arts teachers created art installations from waste—all the plastic bottles that were collected after Homecoming, Upper School face masks that had been used once and discarded, broken plastic Adirondack chairs that were stacked. “We call it ‘Chairhenge,’ as a spin-off of Stonehenge,” laughed Katy Hills, who is Director of Visual & Performing Arts.

“Everything was headed to a landfill until it became art,” added Taylor.

Head Custodian Jerel Dalrymple and his night crew saved one week’s worth of cardboard boxes, and Raether Library assistant Becci Marzonie patiently cut the boxes down to create canvases for student artists.

“We are not using any new supplies today,” Marzonie said. “We are making art out of things that had a previous life.”

“It’s interesting to see how much trash our small community creates,” said Sophomore Eliza Thorpe. “And we are pretty eco-friendly!”

“It’s a good way to raise awareness about how much trash we create,” added Senior Walker Briggs. “When it becomes visual, it’s crazy!”

Hills created one of the more popular installations of the day, taking an old upright piano that had seen better days and painting it with the question, “How will you change the world?”

Senior Portfolio students answered her question with many different words: “hugs, compromises, laughter, empathy, compassion, kindness, understanding, architecture, curiosity,” and on and on.

“This is such a cool concept,” said Senior Jordan Alexander. “It’s impactful and brings awareness to my generation, asking us how we can change the world.”

The Big Draw was started in England more than 20 years ago and is the world’s largest drawing festival. At CA, through years of monster trucks, sports cars, llamas, an antique fire truck, the Earth, and climate, students have come to count on The Big Draw to be a special day.

“It’s relaxing and makes me feel involved in the CA community.” Sara Sohn, Grade 9

“I like making different colors.” Hope Chipman, Grade 1

“I like drawing. It’s peaceful.” Van Ulrich, Grade 7

“It’s a snake biting its tail, and there are all different things you can draw.” Simon Arpin, as he studied the sculpture titled Connection, Grade 1

“Drawing is vital to every person’s visual literacy. You can tell a story and use your unique voice. This year there is a higher purpose to our day of drawing.” Katy Hills, Director of Visual & Performing Arts

By the end of the day, visual art had married musical art as students sat down at the piano to deliver impromptu performances, and the sound of music soared throughout campus. It seemed an excellent first step toward changing the world.

View and download more photos from The Big Draw.