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All That We Can Be: New Visual Arts Spaces Expand Creativity

The following article by Art Chair Jenna Boccella appears in the current issue of Saint David's Magazine.

New Art Room, rendering courtesy of Platt, Byard, Dovell, White

Boys thrive when they have plenty of room to move, grow, learn, and express themselves physically, intellectually, spiritually and artistically. The new visual arts spaces at Saint David’s will allow students to more freely expand the boundaries of their creative experiences while remaining firmly grounded in the school’s commitment to the aesthetic, one of the four pillars of the school’s education. Visual arts faculty are eagerly anticipating the opening of these new spaces in the fall of 2018 with an eye to maximizing their design in order to support, broaden, and enrich our already strong curriculum.

Two large multi-media studios will be located on the third floor of the new building facing south and east. Large windows, already part of 22 East 89th Street, line the eastern wall allowing for abundant morning light. Glass doors on the southern side of the studio will lead to a terrace, where students will be able to work outdoors and where plants can grow to be used as subjects for projects.

A moveable frosted glass wall in between the two spaces will allow for greater flexibility of scheduling, and the option to teach whole homerooms or divide classes into small groups. Art shows will also be held in this large, open area. Large, deep utility sinks will allow for quick cleanup for wet media. Custom made modular tables on wheels will allow teachers a broad range of options for arranging ideal movement and flow of work and demonstration areas.

New Pottery Room, rendering courtesy of Platt, Byard, Dovell, White

The pottery room, much larger than the current space, will be adjacent and include prep and kiln rooms as well as an upgraded ventilation system to keep the environment dust-free. The large, new woodworking studio will be located on the sixth floor. It will comfortably hold twelve students and be outfitted with high quality tools and equipment.

These new spaces will allow the department to reach curricular goals that have been germinating for over twenty years, but that were not previously feasible due to space limitations. For example, fourth, fifth, and sixth graders will now be able to attend art, woodworking, and pottery classes in half homeroom groups for a full semester, rather than in trimesters, affording boys time to more deeply explore each discipline, hone skills, realize projects, and learn through trial and error. Also, all grades in Pre-K through Eight will come to dedicated art spaces rather than having teachers visit classrooms as they currently do.

Ms. Boccella with eighth grade observational drawing class

The art and pottery studios’ proximity to the new STEAM spaces and a shared Commons area will foster collaboration between visual arts, science, technology, and math programs, and create an environment in which these departments share equipment, ideas, and philosophies.

Displaying their work for the community to enjoy viewing is a key part of the students’ art experiences at Saint David’s. In our current, compressed building, there are very few places to show the fruits of our boys’ creative efforts. The new building will boast many large, light-filled areas to highlight student art, both in the planned art suite as well as in other areas around the new building. 

There will be magnetized whiteboard walls lining the studios as well as the Commons area, where there will also be one large wall of self-healing material on which to display two-dimensional pieces. Hannah Frassinelli, art teacher in Omega and Grades Two through Six, mentioned how much she is looking forward to holding student critiques in the comfortable and casual Commons area with the boys’ works in progress hanging on the magnetized walls.

New Woodshop, rendering courtesy of Platt, Byard, Dovell, White

Mr. Gary Kessler, who has been teaching woodworking at Saint David’s since 1985, looks forward to teaching in a state-of-the-art woodshop with dedicated areas for certain tasks such as sanding, construction, power tools, and detail work, as well as space for two lathes which are currently in storage. Boys will be able to return to wood turning projects in the expanded shop.

Throughout the school’s history, Saint David’s boys have benefited from rich art making experiences that deepen their appreciation of the aesthetic. Our new art rooms will broaden, enhance, and expand these experiences.

The new building at the corner of 89th and Madison and the visual arts spaces that it will house will be a tremendous boon for the boys and faculty of Saint David’s. It will allow our excellent faculty to reach curricular goals that we have hoped to reach for many years while practicing their craft in beautifully designed, commodious spaces. These spaces will optimize the potential for boys to learn good studio habits, experience a large range of media and techniques, and to practice “thinking and doing like artists.”

The skills, routines, and habits of mind that boys will acquire in these special rooms will be an integral part of the careful observers, balanced thinkers, creative problem solvers, and “good men” that they will become. 


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