On Friday, February 9, the Warner Art Gallery showcased the "Secret Lives" of faculty and staff at St. Andrew's. Arts Department Co-Chair and Warner Gallery Director John McGiff first had the idea for this type of gallery show approximately 15 years ago, prior to the O'Brien Arts Center being built. The show then was on a much smaller scale; however, was successful in creating what John referred to as "a sense of community that celebrated the adult population regardless of staff/faculty designations."
John's intention this year was even more ambitious. He noted, "This time around, it was important not just to underscore the working community of adults here, but to help the students look beyond the obvious roles we fill in our jobs to create the opportunity for them to be surprised by how multi-dimensional one's interests could become as one grows up. We also wanted to expand the definition of what a creative life might look like. How can one develop a creative practice that engages one with the outside world and commits one to being sharp, constantly developing a skill set and always looking to get better at this given practice? 'When you stop getting better, you stop being good' is a life attitude that many of us subscribe to in ways that are 'secret' or unknown to the community. We wanted to celebrate this power, have some fun and then break the mold a little."
The gallery show kicked off with a Chapel service in Engelhard Hall celebrating creativity and featuring a piano performance by facilities team member Joe Kalmbacher, a poetry reading by English faculty member Will Porter, and a musical theater performance of Sisters by Arts Department Co-Chair and Director of Theatre Program Ann Taylor, Director of Choral and Vocal Music Program Quinn Kerrane, and Director of Technology Peter Hoopes. Following the indoor performances, community members were invited outside to watch an ice carving demonstration by Chef Ray from Sage Dining Services and to view and discuss the restoration work facilities team member Jay Knight has completed on his 1966 Chevy Nova. Inside the gallery, the many talents of faculty and staff were on display through paintings, photography, sketches, wood carvings, model car building, ceramics, knitting, and quilting—and the list goes on.
The Secret Lives gallery show will remain open through Wednesday, February 28.
John McGiff's Chapel Talk
One of the experiences I've come to appreciate here, after meeting and working with so many persons—young, middle-road and beyond—is how I am constantly surprised by the hidden dimensions of the lives of our faculty, staff and students—where we've lived, how we spend our time away from here, what activities and practices we engage in to keep ourselves at least partially whole and balanced, and maybe even downright boisterous and crazy passionate about this gift of life we all share.
Because we live so closely with one another, two different social expectations tend to form. We both appreciate the multi-dimensional character of everyone here—adults are teachers, coaches, parents, advisers, and staff members; students are artists, athletes, scholars, and budding social citizens. We teach one another so much, but we are also mysteries to one another and tend to put each other in neat, understandable boxes to keep it all manageable and in check. Makes sense; makes our social landscape navigable. Oh yeah, that guy Joe Kalmbacher in the sunglasses and goatee in the white van, he delivers my Amazon Prime boxes to Central Receiving—but did you ever hear him play piano? And Ron Lindsey, he's an incredible electrician and good guy—but did you know that he races Suzuki Hyabuse motorcycles up to 170 miles an hour, plays pool better than Jackie Gleason in The Hustler, and could give Garry Kasparov fits on the chess board?
We humans are tricky to understand and appreciate, so we are dedicating this chapel today, and this current gallery exhibition to the "secret lives" of normal persons who have creative passions they pursue on their own because this brings them joy and fulfillment. This is the healthy, energized adult at play. These are examples of the curious child alive in adults that you know: these are your role models and outliers... This focus also begs the question of us all:
How do we spend our time when it opens up; what restores, renews, and connects us, roots us to being, in our bodies and imagination, glad to be here, alive and feeling creatively in motion. Not just that we are contributing to the social good but that we are investing in—and growing—ourselves and thereby benefiting the world around us with an uprising energy.
Spinning some complex shape on a 3D printer, planting and growing a garden, whittling a piece of wood, making a table, creating a forest dream space with discovered timber and stones, finding that one part of the newly made car engine that was screwing up the timing of everything else, and then fixing it, choosing the right tie, that perfect, marvelous hairband, having your heart stopped by a pitch of voice in a song, the particular riff of a guitar: we are all designers and purveyors of taste and beauty, everyone here, and many of us find happiness in regular hands-on acts that give us a sense of satisfaction which is the feeling of movement—super essential to the shark in all of us. Let us celebrate this drive and passion that is a human—nay, an animal—siren call with thousands of manifestations. We are all of us created and, by the virtue of this shared cosmic energy, we are creators, as well. This active principle drives everything we attempt. Let's embrace it and celebrate its flowering in our community.