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At a K-12 school, younger students often spend their days looking up to the older students, aspiring to be like them one day. So when 5th-grade Spartans were invited to a special “meet and greet” session with GAC’s best High School visual artists, they were delighted. Together as a class, the young artists toured the Art & Design Center, the building where the most serious and talented visual artists take classes. AP art students were there to welcome them, displaying their many pieces of artwork and answering questions from wide-eyed, eager 5th graders. Even better: for the first time, 26 of those 5th graders had their art displayed next to the work of their High School role models at this year’s Black & White Fine Arts Exhibition.
One of those 5th graders, Camryn Marion, was already scheduled to dance in the performing arts portion of the evening, but stopped by the visual arts display in her dance costume beforehand to see her artwork on display. “It is good to know that I am good enough to be presented in both dancing and visual arts,” Camryn said. “Since performing last year, I pushed myself to think positively and picture myself featured in the show.”
At GAC, K-12 alignment of the arts curriculum benefits students like Camryn. “It exposes the rising sixth graders to the possibilities they have in middle and high school,” said Lower School art teacher Ms. Tammy Whitworth. As students age up, they are exposed to and led by older students who excel in their area of interest. Some performing arts classes feature student leaders, bringing a new layer of unity to the class. Skylar White, a 9th grader, saw her own growth while learning from Josh Swope, then one of the senior student-directors in her Middle School drama class. “He helped me get over my fear of going on stage,” Skylar said. “He taught me that nothing is too scary to do.”
Student leadership roles are equally inspiring for the mentors, too. Dr. Marcus Miller brought the All-National Choir veteran Ethan McDonnell into the middle school class as a student conductor. Ethan worked closely with the students on perfecting phrasing, part-singing, and theory. During their Winter Break tour, Ethan experienced the culminating effect of working with the group. “To watch the students grow in their musicianship in such a short period of time and to see them discover new things about music while away from the classroom setting was very interesting.”
For developing young artists, K-12 mentorship programs build not only the quality of the growing artists but also the strength of the entire school community. Students remain inspired and have the tools to keep accelerating in their craft throughout their education.