Reflections on the Fine Arts Theme for the Year

by Katie Lebhar Black ’95
Director of Fine Arts

This year in Fine Arts the theme is “Reignite, React, Renew.” I would like to explore this theme with you today and share some of our goals for the Fine Arts Department for 2018-2019.

To reignite something, one must first recognize that something has indeed burned out. That admission can be hard to make, and sometimes even hard to notice. The good news is that the flame of the arts at Episcopal has not burned out. It is going strong. But the challenges of daily life, the hurt in the world, and the fast pace with which we live can cause passion to wane, and smoke to blur our vision. Our goal is to teach our students to look for the dark places and reignite a flame of passion and compassion that will bring healing, joy, and restoration. Our fall musical is entitled Striking 12. It is a creative retelling of the story of the little match girl who lights match after match in an attempt to find warmth. The main character of Striking 12 is a man who, in reading Hans Christian Andersen’s “Little Match Girl,” is challenged to find the people around him that need warmth and an invitation to community. In this way, we are choosing as artists to ignite and reignite the flame that allows others to be in the Light.

It is not enough to blindly walk through this world. Artists are uniquely able to see humanity as it is and to reflect it to others in order to bring truth, to start conversations, and to incite necessary changes in perspective. Our school has chosen to focus on the Health, Safety, and Well-Being of each person in our ESJ community. We recognize that participation in the arts is a healthy outlet for expression, a way in which empathy is taught and understood, and a platform for educating others on important issues. It is with a desire to react that we are bringing the play “Chalk” to our students in October. This play focuses on situations of discrimination and bullying.

Visual Arts began last year to work with students to understand the principles of art therapy and to use visual arts to help students cope with their struggles. They will continue that effort. Our choral music students are engaging for the second year with the Songbird project as they learn how music can help those with impaired memory. They will work with a local memory care facility and bring music to the residents there. Artists shouldn’t just passively reflect on the situations in this world. We are teaching our students that unless they react with love to the problems they see, they run the risk of becoming part of the problem. They can use their art to react and repair.

Renewal is refreshment, rejuvenation, and revitalization. It is the process through which we recognize that what is broken can be fixed, what is wrong can be righted, and what is rough can be smoothed. In the scriptures, God brought renewal to his people wandering in the wilderness as He gave them both vision and provision. Jesus brought renewal as he healed the sick, convicted those caught in the destructive cycle of sin, and befriended the outcasts. His Spirit brings refreshment. Over and over in Holy Scripture we see Jesus compared to living water that flows continuously so that we need not thirst. It is my sincere hope and prayer that the arts on this campus will demonstrate God’s beauty and thus bring joy, peace, and laughter to our students as they learn that by creating they can be connected to, as well as sustained and renewed by the Creator.

So this year, we hope to REIGNITE the dark places, to REACT in love to those around us, and to RENEW our commitment to honoring our Creator with our creativity and allowing the arts to bring refreshment and joy.