By Jessica Palisca '21
Making its debut in 2019, the Fine Arts Distinction Program starts again for the 2020-2021 school year. This program is for people who have a passion for and want to work at a higher level in art. Forms of art include theater, band, chorus, studio art and graphic design and leads to a distinction at graduation. The program is run by art history teacher, Amy Jackson.
Her interest in art sparked in kindergarten, when she won a competition. She did not start pursuing art until her junior year in high school. Jackson majored in studio art at Wake Forest University and then received her master’s in art from Virginia Commonwealth University. She also took many online courses and classes through museums.
The program mirrors the global studies and the STEM programs at North Cross, which include projects and seminars. Jackson said that the program is more than just sitting in a classroom.
“Students have the opportunity to work at a high level in their field” Jackson said, “collaboration is encouraged, students become a part of an arts community and engage with the greater arts community in Roanoke.”
For admission, students express interest during their ninth or tenth grade year at NCS and they have program and seminar requirements, in addition to course work. Over the course of their high school career,students earn 500 points to receive the distinction at graduation. Points can be earned through coursework, activities related to fine arts and attending outside seminars and performances. Other requirements are summer reading, an art-related DeHart project, completing a senior performance or show and a comprehensive program self evaluation.
The five goals of this program are to inspire students in the arts, to strive towards the highest level, encourage students to seek connectedness, promote the fine arts and honor students who have dedicated their time to it. Joining gives students many opportunities, such as traveling, summer internships, volunteer projects, All-District and All-State participation.
Chloe Hunt ‘21, who has been acting since she was five, joined the program last year. She has acted in The Virginia Children's Theatre and Mill Mountain Theatre productions and has interned at Virginia Children's Theatre.
While she does not plan to major in art in college, Hunt hopes to sing in an a capella group in college or do musical theater outside of her course work.
“I like how this program is more fluid than the other distinctions in the sense that art has so many elements.” Hunt said, “In just one of the seminars, I was exposed to poetry and studio art, and I know a lot of the other students produced interesting reflections. Being somebody who does musical theater, I am not as visual or lyrically talented as some of the artists in the program, so it really helps me to learn from them.”
“I think it is really important to stay connected with the arts because it provides a great respite from whatever a given person is dealing with.”
Phoebe Anderson ‘22 , who joined the program last year, focuses on art and writing. “I like that I can express myself without the need for someone being there immediately. It’s nice that I can work on a project, whether it be an artwork or a story, and I can work out all the details before sharing it.”
One of the opportunities she has taken advantage of in the program is the seminars.
“I’ve gotten to go to some interesting seminars, like the Ruth Badger Ginsburg seminar last week. It’s just fun to get other opportunities related to the arts.”
She said she will continue to take art through high school and potentially take art and writing classes in college.
Even though this program is only in its second year, it’s already full of students. The program hopes to expand and stay running for a long time so students continue to have an outlet for their artistic skills.