‘Encounters with the Arts’ to Showcase Student Creativity in Immersive Experience
Every day, Westwood High School senior Ethan Dunton practices his saxophone, guitar, or bass—focusing on big-hair genre music that will be featured at an event highlighting WHS student artists. Fellow senior Brodie Nicholson has been putting the finishing touches on his sculptures created with found objects. His pieces, which explore Buddhism, will also be on display at Encounters with the Arts on March 23rd. The two-hour event begins at 6:30 p.m. at the high school and is free.
“It’s a celebration of student independence, interest, and a wide variety of music,” said Heather Cote, director of Performing Arts at Westwood Public Schools. After a hiatus due to Covid, Encounters with the Arts returned last year as a more student-directed exhibition. This year, the students have improved the show to deliver a well-orchestrated sensory experience. There will be different spaces where visitors can be immersed in music and art.
Encounters with the Arts is a yearly open house for celebrating WHS student achievement and informing middle school students about the high school’s visual and performing arts programs. Student artwork is exhibited in the school’s art gallery, throughout the arts wing, and in open studios. Student musical performances feature the talents of large performing groups as well as smaller musical ensembles and soloists. Attendees are invited to explore the exhibits and performances.
Dunton will perform with several different groups for more than 10 different songs. His playlist includes Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen and Motley Crue. “It’s a unique, liberating experience to be able to choose our own songs,” said Dunton. He even created arrangements for several of the songs. Visitors will hear a version of “Welcome to the Jungle'' by Guns N’ Roses featuring three saxophones, instead of guitars. “The show sheds light on performing arts in a way we haven’t been able to,” said Dunton.
Nicholson wants to do exactly that with his sculptures. “It’s not necessarily people appreciating my art, but what they can learn from it,” said Nicholson. As part of his AP Sculpture and Ceramics class, he has been engaged in what’s called a sustained investigation process. He took a cue from his father’s Buddhist practices and is using his art to explore Buddhism. Nicholson expects one of his pieces will greet visitors outside of the show. “My biggest piece is entirely out of cardboard where I am trying to create a person meditating with a lightbulb inside and in a darker environment,” said Nicholson. “It’s about my family, exploring religion not necessarily how I can be religious, but how I can bring these tactics into their daily lives.”
Both Dunton and Nicholson credit their art with providing them a release from the stresses of life and the freedom of expression. “It’s all things that kids want to do and they are really invested in it,” said Cote. “Independence is one of the most important things I teach them for four years. If they can’t do it when they leave me, they won’t do it. They can go out and play and sing and appreciate it.”