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March 1, 2023

By Fieldston Upper Senior Art Students

The Ethical Culture Fieldston School is known for its robust Arts program, weaving creative practices into our students’ education. Fieldston Upper offers students a wide array of Arts electives, allowing students to major in their area of interest. This article originally featured in the ECFS Reporter features a visual arts showcase in which we celebrate the work of selected seniors and learn about their artistic journeys at ECFS.

Fieldston Upper art students pose and smile together.
Alex B. ‘22 and Marisa H. ‘22

Every Monday afternoon, exhausted from a day of learning, members of the Film Major class collectively collapse on the flimsy blue couches in the Media Lab. We share little updates from our week — bits of gossip, philosophical meditations, one-liners overheard on the subway — and we laugh and create together. These informal conversations often become impromptu brainstorming sessions. Mr. Buskey, from his swivel chair beside us, always engages. He offers humor, discernment, and wisdom in our spontaneous writers’ room. This joyful community has wholly defined our filmmaking experience at Fieldston. 

Last year, we wrote and directed two short films: “Collide” and “Bookstore Blues.” We cycled through a million stories — a struggling guitarist’s attempt to make it big and a nude model’s journey to self-love, to name a couple — before ultimately settling on these two tales of economic hardship in New York City. Our writing process was like a tennis match of ideas. We each assumed the role of a character as we crafted snappy back-and-forth dialogue. We then cast professional actors, designed shooting schedules, and made all the necessary preparations for production day. Our shoots were a blast. Booms, cinema cameras, and clappers in hand, we worked until we’d perfected every scene. After weeks of painstaking editing, our films were ready for showcase. We held two festivals, one at a theater, complete with a red carpet entrance, and the other a little exclusive premiere on those flimsy blue couches.

A still from the short film “Bookstore Blues”
A still from the short film “Bookstore Blues”

Fieldston has been a place that has allowed me to develop as a thinker and an artist. My sculpture teacher, Ms. Fried, taught me how to combine various mediums with my interests in engineering and construction. My architecture teacher, Mr. Ganzglass, taught me to think more critically about my designs and how they impact those around me. They both helped me learn how to push myself and constantly be in a state of iteration and improvement.

Headshot of Fieldston Upper art student, Theo.
Theo C. ‘22

This project, “Planning for a Flood 101,” responds to the idea of designing for the future and is modeled after the current rising sea level risks that Lower Manhattan faces. While Fieldston is not at risk of flooding, what would happen if it were? How can we plan for the future now so we are prepared? I made a topographical scale model of Fieldston’s campus that represents the amount of land our campus uses relative to the amount of land available to us at varying levels of flooding. I will use this information to design a new campus on a smaller footprint of land that preserves the essence of Fieldston’s current campus.

Photo of Fieldston Upper Senior art project related to campus flooding.

Art is my outlet. Fieldston is academically rigorous but provides different mediums to help students relieve stress. I would never have imagined that my art requirement in 9th Grade would turn into a newfound passion. Ceramics is one of the original forms of mindfulness, and it helps ground me throughout the day. Fieldston students have a reputation for being artsy, and I never understood why — I always thought, if anything, besides being academic, we are athletic. I finally understand as I near the end of my high school career and am applying to colleges.

Fieldston Upper student poses and smiles while working on ceramics project in art studio.
Shannya C. ‘22

Even though I’m interested in the premed track, ceramics has become so deeply woven into my life that I will only attend a college that offers a ceramics course for students who are not majoring in art but have a passion for it. I owe a lot not only to ceramics but to my ceramics teacher, Ms. Quinn.

Photo of ceramic pots on display in the Fieldston Upper gallery.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was not hard to notice that the only class that got my full and undivided attention was art. I saw this as an opportunity and decided to purchase an easel and paints of my own. I didn’t have many hopes for this new hobby, as the easel was foldable and easy to store away, which meant it could have been easily forgotten. But to my surprise, the easel stayed up. Suddenly my room began to expand — and with it my creativity. The places and people I painted weren’t stuck in their rooms; their abilities were limitless. This was an escape and the outlet I was looking for. I didn’t paint about the melancholy I was feeling but instead let the emotion flow from my brain, down my arm, up my wrist, through each bristle of the paintbrush, and onto the canvas. When I returned to Fieldston in the fall of 2020, I immediately signed up as a 2D Visual Art Major.

Fieldston Upper student poses and smiles to camera.
Aidan G. ‘22

This environment only further fostered my adoration for art. Now I am able to explore new materials and subjects, allowing my creativity to run wild. I will be forever grateful to the Fieldston Art Department.

Photo of Fieldston Upper student painting portrait of a women sitting cross-legged.