Campus Life

Annual Celebration of the Arts Highlights Individual Achievements and a Vision for the Future

The Gunnery celebrated the arts and honored individual students for their accomplishments at the annual Arts & Letters Luncheon on April 16. The event included the opening of an exhibition of student art, including painting, drawing, photography, sculpture and ceramics, in Solley Dining Hall.
“We celebrate the arts because they make us look at life in a different way. They make us stop and think, they make us dream,” Visual Arts Chair Andrew Richards P ’21 ’23 said in his opening remarks, noting: “As a school, we have so much to be thankful for. We are standing in the shadow of our new Arts and Community Center and it’s going to transform arts and culture at The Gunnery.”

Jesse Perkins of the Performing Arts faculty presented the Drum Major Award to Eli Berano ’19 and Tony Zhang ’19 for their passion, leadership and commitment to music. “The title of Drum Major is typically associated with the leader of a musical organization typically a marching band or bugle corps,” Perkins said. “At The Gunnery, we give the Drum Major Award to students who have shown those same qualities toward music in general, and more specifically towards a variety of less formal, but equally important extra-curricular music events and experiences that take place regularly on our campus.”

Several students were recognized for their accomplishments in the visual arts at the state and regional levels, including Jean Fang ’19 and Julian Morris ’22, who received Connecticut Scholastic Art Awards in January. Fang was honored for her painting titled “School,” and Morris received awards for two of his hand-blown glass pieces.

Fang also was one of three students who received awards at the 27th annual Student Art Show at the Kent Art Association. She received an Award of Excellence for her painting, “Blossoms,” and Linda Fan ’21 received an Award of Excellence for her painting, “Tribute to Claude Monet.” Charlotte Xu ’20 received an Honorable Mention for her painting, “Tibetan Mandala,” in the juried exhibition.

In addition, two students were honored at the sixth annual Emerging Artists High School Expo, a juried exhibition at Hunt Hill Farm in New Milford: Jihoon An ’20 received the award for Photography and Talia Zabit ’19 received the award for Mixed Media.

The luncheon provided an opportunity to recognize 11 students who have been inducted into the National Art Honor Society, which was established in 1979 by the National Art Education Association with the purpose of “inspiring and recognizing those students who have shown an outstanding ability in art.” The 2019 honorees are: Maddie Aitken ’19, Anne Beatty ’19, Jean Fang ’19, Phil Liu ’19, Julian Lopez ’19, Sage Mines ’19, Catie Stammen ’20, Jasmine Tian ’19, Talia Zabit ’19, Amaan Zafar ’19 and Tony Zhang ’19.

Head of School Peter Becker shared with students and faculty the school’s vision for the arts and “what it is we hope for the arts at The Gunnery” with the opening of the Thomas S. Perakos Arts and Community Center in January 2020: “At The Gunnery, we ask students to learn to take public risks, to be makers not consumers, to be citizens who imagine a beautiful future without cynicism, to face failure with hope,” he said, quoting the vision statement.

The vision statement outlines four elements – Creation, Risk, Connection and Wonder – that are essential to each student’s experience in the arts at The Gunnery, whether they go on to colleges and universities that are dedicated to the arts, or are simply fulfilling a graduation requirement, and perhaps discover along the way that they really do like painting, drawing, theater or music.

“At The Gunnery, we invite our students to be creators and makers,” Becker said. “Whether in the visual or performing arts, students are asked to leave their mark on the world, to challenge someone to see the world in a new way, to express their perfectly unique point of view in the hope that this invitation is exponentially increased by those whose paths our students cross. Learning to be creators in the arts can inspire the maker-instinct across disciplines and practices – whether that means creating poetry in English or setting up the right play at the right time on the soccer field. Our students are agents in the world, not passive recipients.”

Students may think they are learning how to throw a pot, or sing or act, but the arts also break down barriers for those who are nervous about trying new things in the arts, as well as those who want to actively engage in the arts for the rest of their lives. “I know of so many students for whom the arts had a real transformative impact during their time here and who are grateful for all the great work that goes into allowing students to have that experience,” Becker said.

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Founded in 1850 by abolitionist, educator, and outdoorsman Frederick Gunn, The Gunnery is a coeducational college preparatory boarding and day school for students in grades 9 through 12/post-graduate. Dedicated teacher-mentor-coaches challenge students to reach their full potential in a home-like setting where character and citizenship are valued as much as intellect and achievement. Individualized attention and high expectations help young learners develop not only the skills and confidence they will need in college, but also the moral compass and love of learning that will serve them well in life. The school attracts ambitious, academically curious students who will both shine as unique individuals and thrive as contributing members of a deeply connected community. By the time they graduate, Gunnery students have become well rounded, grounded young adults with a sharpened sense of who they are and who they want to become.