Head of School Blog
Susan Tyree Dempf, Ph.D.

The Art of Growth

Greetings Academy families and friends,

Last week I had the opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone — big time! When the need arose to provide substitute teacher coverage, I stepped in . . . to the Art Room and entered a different world. It was a great experience, firstly because I had the chance to spend time with my Fifth Class friends with whom I had periodic lunch duty last year when we were eating in the classrooms, and secondly because it reminded me that each day we ask our students to try new things, to stretch and grow in unfamiliar areas of experience and intellect. This certainly was what I experienced.

Admittedly I am not very artistic. I survived the high school art requirements at my own Sacred Heart school through my skills not in drawing, but rather photography.  Actually, I can draw — four things: mountains, pine trees, sailboats and houses. If you consider these you will realize, each is constructed by a series of straight lines . . . the closest I come to something curvilinear is a pretty good depiction of the normal curve as applied in statistics. (Please feel free to laugh!)

So, fueled by the internet and Pinterest (I am so grateful to their contributors), I came up with a few ideas. The Fifth Class boys likely noted that this was the first art class they ever had where “steps” were literally provided on the whiteboard, most likely in sharp contrast to best practices supporting individuality and creativity!  Nonetheless, there they were. Step 1: Use your blue painters tape to create an equilateral triangle. Step 2: Draw your mountain tops approximately ¼ to ⅓ of the way down your triangle and across from one side of the blue tape to the other . . . and so the steps continued. And the students followed along. By the end of the class they had produced beautiful images of mountains, with colorful skies created by their use of watercolors. They did a great job and should be proud of their work which is hanging in the Mater corridor. In the days that followed both the Fifth Class girls and boys ventured to create lanterns, which will be hung in the ‘upper deck’ of the White Center where they enjoy their lunch. While First Class students created colorful Chihuly-inspired ‘stained glass.’ 

It is good to be placed in new learning situations, to be called upon to step out of your normal routine and to have that ‘stretch’ experience. We all should try it once in a while. Doing so would help us each to recall and better understand that which Academy students know — learning is fun, it is interesting to see what happens when you add a new element to your regular way of doing things (like adding salt to a watercolor painting before it dries) and that sometimes it really is okay if you color outside the lines.

My thanks go out to Mrs. Hagen, our wonderful art teacher, for supporting the development of creativity and imagination among our students and for sharing her students with me last week.

Have a wonderful weekend,

Dr. Susan Dempf