Art Department Meeting “A Step in the Right Direction”


Therese Pivarunas

On Thursday, April 4, about 20 students and various teachers gathered in the faculty dining room with the head of school, Ms. Demert. Going around the table, each one of the students took a turn to introduce herself and say how she was involved in the art department. Some were painters, others were dancers, and many were actors, but they all had one thing in common: a deep appreciation and enthusiastic support for the arts at SHA. Ms. Demert also appreciates the arts, and announced this meeting, along with others for a variety of groups back in January, to find students’ perspectives—suggestions for improvement, what they liked, etc.
All who attended the meeting were definitely eager to share their perspective—prior to it, they shared a Google Docs to better organize their thoughts and ideas.
At the very beginning, both the attendees and Ms. Demert agreed that budget mattered and worked to find the most efficient way to address concerns.
The auditorium was the first and probably the most important topic discussed. Several of the seats have cracked or are missing pieces of wood, leading to the possibility of cuts or scrapes on unaware students. On the stage, nails stick up in some places—a serious danger that needs to be fixed as soon as possible. A stage covering—one that could be rolled out and rolled back easily—was one suggestion to help the stage be smoother and safer.
Furthermore, though a project of this scale would be more akin to when the athletic center was built, and would not happen for a few years at the least, several people would like to see the auditorium be completely renovated. To paraphrase one of the attendees, “I would love for there to be sloped seating and a level stage. We don’t even have to take away the old- fashioned style of the auditorium, but these would provide a better experience for students who use it in any way.” Still, this is a long way off, as it would require support from alumnae in order to be done.
Other suggestions to enhance the arts experience at school include short workshops to introduce students to different, perhaps unfamiliar, kinds of art, such as Chinese dance or digital art. Due to the limits in schedules, some students find themselves having to choose between art electives. These workshops would help them explore a wide variety of artistic styles without worrying about schedules.
Ms. Demert does support the arts at SHA, but several students felt that this support was not fully reflected among the general student body. They feel that it is ignored, even mocked, by others in favor of athletics. One student remembers a classmate saying, “No one cares about their stupid show anyway”—bashing the upcoming musical while her friends laughed. Others feel that athletics are prioritized over the arts.
It really isn’t fair to artistic or athletic students, though, for them to be pitted against each other in this way. Instead, each could be supporting and becoming more appreciative of the others’ work. Communication between the groups could definitely lead to the start of more support and camaraderie, and increased positivity all around.
On another positive note, students love the multiple arts opportunities already at SHA. It has positively affected them in multiple ways, one student saying that art changed her life. Another appreciates how theater helped her become more outgoing. Still another likes how there are Intro-level classes—Intro to Art and Intro to Dance, for example—that give students an easy way to find what might interest them. Art has been a way for them to express themselves, as well as connect with others who have similar interests.
In the end, students feel that this meeting was a good step forward, and hope for a follow-up later on, where more can be discussed.