You cannot work at a school without thinking about the succession of beginnings and endings—commencements to be sure, but culminations nonetheless. Not to sound clichéd, but we evolve through a series of episodes or journeys, climbing a course of challenge, hard work, and excitement as first rehearsals evolve into opening nights and senior choir concerts; undefined paint applied to canvas renders a young artist’s unique vision; voices around the piano turn into a full-fledged musical with lights, costumes and a healthy dose of nerves; and a single perspective behind a camera finds itself a series of CA student films coming to an Alamo Drafthouse near you this May. This is great stuff, and, in all my years of education, it never ceases to amaze me how passion, thought, eagerness, and discipline draw forth works of art and rich aesthetic experiences for all who share the academic year at Colorado Academy.
As this school year winds down, I want to note some of the sweet culminations that accompanied the final trimester at CA, including the inspiring All-School ArtFestival, celebrating the work of students in all grades who transformed our campus into a vibrant gallery; the Lower School K-1 and 2-3 performances, including Orff instruments with theater and song; the conclusion of the Conservatory of Theater’s long awaited musical, Little Shop of Horrors; a new approach to the Instrumental Music Honors Festival offering all children the opportunity to play before instrument-specific judges and receive immediate feedback; and the premiere of CA’s concert dance performance, In Concert ’17, which featured our first conservatory company of dance and a guest work of choreography by Middle School dancers.
For Visual Arts, this year was even more exciting with the addition of the new Ponzio Arts Center where our Senior Portfolio students learned how to hang expansive shows in a generous flow of space. Presenting 11 shows in all, our 36 portfolio students worked steadily to present a showcase of a passion for their peers and the CA community as a whole. Art teachers talk about the work on the walls and podiums as offering insight into the people they have become over the past four years. They speak of the integration of English and other academic disciplines into the students’ artwork, or their dedication to service exemplified through a study on the homeless, or their love of the outdoors and nature from Colorado to the world presented through every medium.
Our mindfulness training at CA requires we ask ourselves the question, “What is important here?” and clearly this is exactly what these students have decided, and, in some cases, struggled with, as they climbed their individual paths towards pursuing a truly authentic body of work. Their mentors have taught them well and are present to guide them when needed, but students hold the reins of responsibility for these projects, the creators of both the process and the product as young independent artists. Having watched the teaching process evolve over the past two years, I am constantly impressed by how our arts faculty is able to urge, and perhaps allow, students to explore creatively beyond the readily available thought; how they observe students change course, and sometimes heart, in the middle of project and re-direct their efforts towards a fresh perspective; and most importantly, how insightful and sensitive they are as instructors, granting students validity of vision, yet furnishing clear feedback and critique with kindness. What is important here is that these students are urged to take calculated risks, and they are expected to use anything and everything that may have affected them over the past 18 years. This year, Anna Kuelling’s projected light on her sculptures came from slide images her parents took in India 25 years ago.
The faculty often talks about how, for some students, this may be the last time they will seriously pursue their art, while for others it is a starting point for work at the next level. Either way, they believe that having their work culminate in an opportunity to “show” with peers and for community, is remarkable. I agree. It is remarkable. It is also real-world experience, and, as I watched one photographer struggle last week to find the perfect way to display her work on the grand wall of the Ponzio Arts Center, I was reminded of a poem by Christina Rossetti, entitled Uphill, which speaks to the length and incline of any worthy pursuit:
Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole day long?
From morning to night, my friend.
All of our talented portfolio students have their own stories of hard work and not always straight paths in completing and mounting their shows. They know art takes time. They know art endures. They are incredibly mature and enlightened human beings. The dawn-to-dusk metaphor, similar to the 10,000hours required for expertise, is a growth index for transforming the experience of art into a rich, satisfying, and sweet culmination.
Also, mark your calendars, because for the first time in CA’s history, we will premiere the works of our senior portfolio filmmakers at the Alamo Drafthouse at Aspen Grove on May 1 at 7:00p.m. The premiere will include a Q & A with the directors and actors and will also kick off the 6th Annual CA Film Festival hosted online: www.6thannualcafilmfestival.com. The online film festival will run for one week only, from May 1 until May 7, and will include over 40 films! Their teacher says, “For many of my students, this is the equivalent of playing a varsity sport; it reflects their commitment, not only to an art form, but also to the school and their own growth. I’m very proud of these young students, and more than one has expressed an interest in pursuing film beyond CA.”