Do not conform to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…Romans 12:2
There is nothing more thrilling than connecting in a very personal way with a work of art. Imagine how thrilling it must be for the artist to create it. To take the mundane material of life, run it through one’s imagination, and surprise people. At its best, art makes apparent the spirit from which it proceeds and reaches me, the beholder, at the center of myself. In that sense, art is a great connector…of hearts and minds and souls. And that is why it is as important as math and science and sports. Art, like those other disciplines, is an exploration. Each in its own way explores and tries to makes visible what is invisible: will power, mystery, time, space, spirit, sanctity. At Notre Dame, they instinctively know this and intentionally embrace the concept. NDP has a great Art Department. The accomplished faculty is comprised of both artists and educators. They bring out the best in each girl, in some cases nurturing a gift she never knew she had. In middle school, according to Art Instructor, Christian Leitch, the girls are taught to ” Open their eyes to art and the world and to develop their own aesthetic sense.” Practically, they are instructed simply to “put their mark on a piece of paper.” To be able to express oneself in this way is to build confidence. From there, they are encouraged to take chances and not be afraid to do so. By 8th grade, and right up through high school, the girls learn to develop their newly discovered gifts in order to make their mark – not just on a piece of paper, but on society – through their gifts. They are taught to become more introspective and to integrate mind, body, and spirit through art. The results are astounding. There is much to be in awe of when visiting NDP. The grounds and facilities are impressive. The depth and breadth of the faculty is inspiring. The new turf field is state of the art. The atmosphere itself is always joyful and welcoming. But what consistently grabs my attention upon any visit to NDP is the exhibit of really wonderful art displayed throughout the school. In hallway after hallway you can view deeply personal photographs and prints, extremely original collages and mixed media works, and masterful oil, acrylic, and watercolor paintings. All of it created by NDP students. And not just the natural born “artistic types.” But also by the young girl who used to say, “I can’t draw,” by the captain of the lacrosse team, and by the excruciatingly shy. NDP is a great place to learn not only that you have a gift for something, but that you just might have more than one! I sympathized with the young 7th grader who was confronted with the apparently impossible choice of fall field hockey or Ms.Leitch’s after school jewelry making class. Ms. Leitch said perhaps she could offer the course again in the winter, which greatly pleased the 7th grade field hockey playing jewelry maker. She breathed a sigh of relief and turned her attention back to her task at hand, fashioning out of clay a replica of a Native American pot on which she would put her own mark. Crisis averted.
There are, of course, the standouts. The ones with natural talent, who combine that natural talent with a desire to explore, an instinct for technique, an intuitive originality, and the discipline of habit. The ones who may very well go onto art school for college, who may pursue artistic careers…who may just be the next big thing. I met two of these standouts in Ms. Christine Plumer’s AP Art History class. Ms. Plumer is the Art Department Head and she was teaching a course on ancient Greek sculptors when I visited (ever heard of Praxiteles? The girls in Ms. Plumer’s class
have). While there, I met seniors Kristin Hutton and Zooey George and later spoke to each at length. I was immediately impressed with their poise coupled with a natural and authentic humility. They both are uniquely talented artists and it will be interesting to follow their progress though college and beyond. They spoke about their early interest in art, where that interest has taken them and who has influenced them. Zooey credits her artist father as a huge influence and favors Monet and Renoir. She specializes in portraiture. Kristin “always liked art,” “can’t imagine not doing it,” and is drawn to the narrative aspect of art. She is crazy about the work of Cindy Sherman, Basquiat, and Milton Avery. Both credited Ms. Anne Walker, the upper school art instructor at NDP with helping them develop their personal style and with exposing them to important opportunities. This past summer, Zooey spent a month at the Maryland Institute of Art (MICA) where she expanded her artistic repertoire to include design and graphic arts, textiles and fiber, receiving 3 college credits in the process. Kristin spent the summer at The Art Institute of Chicago painting, photographing, and writing, also for college credit. Both Zooey and
Kristin said their summer college stint was the experience of a lifetime and both are likely to attend college at a full-blown art institute or a university with a strong art program. Regardless of where they end up, I hope they will continue to express themselves through their artistic gifts.
One of my obsessions is the quest to discover new artists for myself before they’ve been discovered by the world so that I may experience the art for myself, first hand, without preconception. As I move through the world, I keep my eyes open and my hopes high. Currently, I’ve got my eye on a very interesting piece that hangs in the lobby of NDP.
What was the first “work of art” you created where you stood back and thought to yourself, “Wow! I made that!” Do you have a daughter whose talent is just waiting to be brought out? Let us know. Send your remarks to Bluenote. Click on “comment” below.