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 ‘It’s humanizing’: Eastern Star Gallery show facilitates student, faculty connection

Photo credit: Oona Seppala
Visual Arts teacher Hannah Kremin positions her artwork and prepares for the opening of the 2023 Eastern Star Gallery faculty and staff art show. Kremin’s piece on display is called “Swan’s Dance” and was made from clay, plaster, acrylic, sand and wax.

Have you ever wondered what your teachers do in their free time? Have you ever seen your teacher out in public and remembered they have a life outside of school? 

To highlight another side of Archer’s faculty members and create more connection between students and faculty, Archer’s Eastern Star Gallery began the year by displaying faculty and staff members’ artwork. This faculty show opened for the first time since the pandemic Sept. 1 and included many mediums, from embroidery to a 10-minute short film.

Three weeks before the opening of the show, Visual Arts teacher Hannah Kremin and Visual Arts Department Chair Marya Alford hosted an open call via email to all faculty and staff to see which faculty members were interested in participating. Alford said that another purpose of the show was to expand the view of which types of artwork belong in a show. They received an array of submissions online and in person, many coming from faculty and staff who are not involved in the arts at Archer.

“We did experience a lot of faculty and staff being like, ‘What if it’s bad? What if it’s not good compared to everyone else’s?’ And we had to reframe the conversation to, ‘Any single creative endeavor that you feel connected to is valuable for students to see,’” Kremin said.

The exhibition was completely cost-free for the art department. It was also sustainable, as staff were encouraged to bring in artwork they had already made. Kremin and Alford also had their own work on display but wanted the show to focus on the other faculty members.

“We’re used to having our work shown, and so this is about honoring people who don’t normally have their work on display,” Alford said.

We’re used to having our work shown, and so this is about honoring people who don’t normally have their work on display.”

— Visual Arts Department Chair Marya Alford

History teacher Kathleen Niles has been at Archer for 19 years. Niles’s grandmother did embroidery and gave her kits to help her learn as a child. She began working on the colorful embroidery displayed in the show in early 2020, and the original pattern was created by a woman in Guanajuato, Mexico. Niles is still working on the piece today and displayed it with the unfinished sewing. Before this, Niles had never participated in any art show at Archer.

“It’s fun for faculty to see what colleagues are up to when not at work,” Niles said. “It’s an opportunity for all of us to get to know each other better, and it helps build community and provide opportunities for us to have new conversations. It’s a lovely tradition.”

Some participants incorporated their school-related hobbies into their artwork. Fitness instructor Valeria Moncada included a photograph of her doing gymnastics and cheer in the exhibit.

Film teacher Andrew Ruiz displayed a 10-minute short film called “Fish” about a father and son immigrating back to Mexico after the mother passed away. Ruiz shot the film in 2014, and it premiered in 2016 at different film festivals. Ruiz said he is accustomed to having his work displayed, but this was a prime opportunity for teachers to be role models for their students.

“There is something to be said about the faculty modeling the willingness to put themselves out there by displaying their work,” Ruiz said. “What really impressed me is the willingness to show their outlets — like, ‘This is where my creativity sparks,’ and I hope this models an environment for students where they feel comfortable saying okay, ‘I also want to show where my creativity sparks.’”

Students of all grade levels wandered through the gallery, pointing, squinting, oohing and ahhing. Dakota Tooley (‘26) sat on the steps inside the gallery, put on headphones to watch Ruiz’s film, and bent down to get a closer look at the gold, bird’s feet sculpture Visual Arts teacher Talya Petrillo made. She described how she got to know the faculty and staff around her on a deeper level through seeing their original artwork.

“It’s important because it shows me a new side of my teachers that I wouldn’t have known otherwise,” Tooley said. “It’s humanizing, and it builds a bridge between me and them because we don’t really get to have this kind of connection in the classroom.”

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About the Contributor
Oona Seppala, Senior Reporter
Oona Seppala joined the Oracle as a staff reporter in 2022 and became a senior reporter in 2023. She plays on the varsity tennis team, is a member of Archer's a cappella group, is on the Honor Education Council and Service Squad. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her friends, reading, and playing instruments.

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