In 1970 Richard Nixon was just beginning his presidency, “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” was one of the hottest shows around, and Country Day plopped down a L-shaped building with an art room.
More than four decades later, Barack Obama is winding down his presidency, and television is a borderline antiquated technology. But that art room – it’s still there.
With the renewed push for school growth, it’s time to address one of Country Day’s weakest infrastructure points: no fine arts center.
Yes, we understand that new buildings by themselves can’t make a program successful, but it’s hard to improve our arts programs without a serious overhaul of their surroundings.
A multitude of programs could benefit from building a fine arts center: drama, orchestra, band and visual arts, not to mention our school’s publications.
Our drama department puts on four productions a year, but when they need to build a “cafe in Paris on the Champs Elysee,” it ends up looking more like a McDonald’s despite the prop department’s best efforts.
And our musical groups (middle- and high-school orchestra, concert band and jazz band) practice in what can objectively be called a hot mess.
Acoustically, the music room is far from perfect and, aesthetically, it looks downright sad compared to some of the other area schools (yeah,we’re looking at you, St. Francis).
But of all our arts programs, our visual arts are probably the most slighted.
It’s actually a wonder we’ve been able to keep up with competitor schools, considering our art room (the sole location for seven grades’ worth of visual education, which is especially vexing since we have a visual or performing arts requirement for graduation) hasn’t been upgraded in a generation.
For large studio-art classes, every table space is filled, and even at maximum capacity the room fits only half the number of people it should.
For heaven’s sakes, our ceramics class learns outside, which, thanks to California’s Mediterranean climate, is fine 70 percent of the time.
But the students shiver and sweat the other 30 percent, depending on Mother Nature’s whims, space heaters and fans notwithstanding.
Our school’s publications would also benefit from a new fine arts center.
The Octagon’s workroom is affectionately known as the Cave, and let’s just say that it didn’t get that title from being a light, well-ventilated and large space.
And the Medallion is even worse off. The 25-person staff has a single filing cabinet in which to store all the physical materials needed to create the keepsake book we all take at the end of the year.
And it isn’t even a very large filing cabinet!
Country Day’s motto is “Academics, Athletics, the Arts, every day.”
Well, we built a new science center in 2004, a new lower-school building in 2008, and a new middle-school building in 2015.
Meanwhile the gym was just given a high-five-figure facelift and looks better than ever.
So it’s time we stop giving mere lip service to the quality of the arts at Country Day, and provide this neglected facet of our school with a space of its own – preferably before bell-bottom jeans come back into fashion.