By PRISCILLA GREEAR, Staff Writer | Published March 3, 2005
St. Pius X High School has completed the renovation and expansion of its fine arts wing, providing lighter, more technologically conducive space for artistic exploration and inspiration for the music, drama, art and dance programs.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory will dedicate the new wing on Friday, March 11, at 9 a.m., which will be followed by an all school Mass and reception. The dedication will kick off St. Pius X Arts Department’s month-long “Spring into the Arts” Festival, a full slate of events promoting St. Pius’ students.
The construction associated with the Building on Faith Capital Campaign was completed on Jan. 3 of this year. Principal Steve Spellman said that construction was completed in a remarkably short time. “The school solicited the construction bids in the second week of January 2004, and groundbreaking wasn’t until March 26. It’s difficult for me to grasp all that has been done on this campus since last March.”
Other aspects of construction included expansion of the cafeteria and kitchen and of the stadium. The whole campaign has raised just under $7 million to date.
The last piece of the construction project was the $ 2 million arts wing. The wing includes four expanded classrooms, dressing rooms for men and women, and a second floor prop and costume storage space.
“The expansion is a testament to the tremendous commitment of our community to arts education,” said Fine Arts Department chairperson and dance teacher Lisa Martin. “In a day and age where arts programming is being cut from the public sector for us to be able to break away from that and still be able to support them, that says a lot about St. Pius and the community.”
Martin said that the school works to form well-rounded students and that it’s offering fine arts courses in a true artistic space “really enhances their educational experience.” “And it helps promote a creative thinker which is necessary in day to day life, not only being a student.”
She reported that the fine arts students are very excited about the enhancements. “One of my students said the actual room itself makes her feel more like an artist. It creates an atmosphere that’s more conducive to creative thinking and learning.”
The drama classroom features an arched ceiling. The room provides ample space for acting classes and storage as well as a mirrored wall for actors to view their movement. The dance room, with a large window facing the southeast, features a new, state-of-the-art, sprung floor, which is a two-inch thick cushioning that provides give and flex in the floor when people are jumping. “This is a nicer one and more developed technology for the dancer,” she noted. “This room approximates the size for the stage, making the space perfectly suited for rehearsing performance numbers.”
At the end of the wing is the new art room, which features large windows that welcome in daylight from the northeast. An additional benefit is its proximity to the other fine arts faculty and classes, as before it was in another area for the school. Art teacher Corinna Brannon said that “because of its proximity to the other departments there is a sense of belonging for the art room. There is also a sense of ‘we mean business’ which is a great incentive for the production of high level work.”
The new band, guitar and chorus room, which is across from the art room, is a dramatic departure from the old cinderblock echo chamber in the former arts wing. It is acoustically engineered in a way that band and chorus director Richard Marcus reports that—for better or for worse—he hears notes he has never heard before. The room has an abundance of storage space for instruments and music, practice space and offices, and easy fold-down risers for the chorus to use.
Development director Steve Siler said that there is now more cohesiveness to the wing and the new facilities have an additional 10,000 square feet, which takes care of all the former space and storage limitations. “There’s just a great feel to the rooms. Whereas previously we just had these basic cinderblock spaces, this is really inspiring and pleasant to be in,” he said. It “inspires creativity instead of deadens it.”
He added that the architect Jay Suever from MSTSD, Inc., is an alumnus of the school, and “he designed a space that is really just wonderful in terms of light and airiness.”
Students at St. Pius have the opportunity to explore many art disciplines and discover where their talents lie. The archdiocesan Catholic school features an extensive curriculum in areas of band, chorus, classical guitar, dance, theatre and the visual arts, and after school programming in music, theater, art and technical production. Dance classes include ballet and jazz, and the drama department offers courses including history of theater, speech, acting, advanced scene study and improvisation, and directing. Art classes include survey of visual arts, drawing, clayworks, 3-D sculptural forms, design fundamental, exploring painting, and studio art. On the music scene, offerings include a concert choir and women’s chorus, and pep, concert and jazz bands and a wind ensemble.
Martin said that her dance students range from seniors who are beginners to those who are training outside the school four to five days a week and take at school as a supplement.
This year students have for the first time put together a liturgical dance to “Amazing Grace” that will be presented during the dedication Mass. Martin said dance “helps you tune into yourself as an individual, tuning in and understanding the gifts you have. Everybody is different and (it’s about) how can you use these gifts for a greater good.”
The Spring Music Festival begins with a concert with the school band and the Catholic School Youth Band on Friday, March 11, at 7 p.m., and concert choir, guitar and art exhibition on Saturday, March 12, at 7:30 p.m.
The first juried visual arts exhibition will be Saturday, March 12, through Saturday, April 17.
The spring dance concert will be Friday, March 18, and Saturday, March 19, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 20, at 2 p.m. It will involve dancers of all levels, and performances offer a variety of movement from classical ballet to swing dance. Another addition to this year’s program is the use of props with movement. “Nobody Loves Me” incorporate chairs, and “Nocturnal Tribe” requires dancers to move with bamboo sticks.
The drama department will present “West Side Story” on Wednesday, April 13, and Thursday, April 14, at 7 p.m.; on Friday, April 15, and Saturday, April 16, at 8 p.m., and on Sunday, April 17, at 2 p.m.
For information call St. Pius at (404) 636-3023 and speak with Dale Stanley, ext. 266, or Lisa Martin, ext. 381, or visit www.spx.org.