Warning! Mind-blowing Artwork: What Happens When High School Boys Have Extra Time To Create

Stories, know-how, and guidance from the experts in educating boys.

Warning! Mind-blowing Artwork: What Happens When High School Boys Have Extra Time To Create
Avon Old Farms

Warning! Mind-blowing Artwork: What Happens When High School Boys Have Extra Time To Create

There are times I marvel at just how many activities I can cram into one day. When evening falls, I can usually reflect on a day layered with tasks completed and projects envisioned. While there is a sense of accomplishment in completing my daily responsibilities, I lament a day that doesn't include designated time to create. A few hours in the day when I can dive into one thing that I enjoy can benefit my overall health and is a catalyst for me to be a better person.

Presently, there is an epidemic of over-scheduling affecting teenagers in the United States. The American Psychological Association found that 31 percent of teens felt overwhelmed. Experts at NBC News say, "the pressures of schoolwork, social life, sports or other activities — combined with a relentless media culture — mean that young people may be more tense than before." Unfortunately, stressed out and overworked students don't have the vibrancy to tap into their creative voice. 

At Avon Old Farms, the New England boarding school for boys, students have a structured schedule filled with rigorous academics, student clubs, community outreach events, and competitive sports. However, students who wish to are afforded the time to be mindful, to focus on creative ambition, or simply to explore a new medium of self-expression. One outlet for a student to collect himself amidst a busy schedule — all the while producing remarkable artwork — is the Advanced Independent Project Program.

The Afternoon Independent Project Program is designed for students that show exceptional skill in a niche area such as photography, video, art, writing, or engineering. Students are placed under the expertise of professionals (both on and off campus) to learn how to expand in their own gifts and desires to excel. Each student is required to complete a significant project or series of projects and then present what he learned to the entire student body at the end of the semester. Given the space to experience a trade with the guidance of trained and proven adults, students build their resume and gain invaluable experience as they seek further education in that field.

High school boys experience undeniable personal growth through the process of creating under expert guidance without the boundary of time. The tangible result is mind-blowing artwork to contemplate and enjoy (for all of us!). Gary Keller, the author of The ONE Thing, states, "Passion for something leads to disproportionate time practicing or working at it. That time spent eventually translates to skill, and when skill improves, the results improve. Better results generally lead to more enjoyment, and more passion and more time is invested. It can be a virtuous cycle all the way to extraordinary results." Yes, the students in the Afternoon Independent Project Program are talented artists to begin with; yet, their devoted time to their craft increases their confidence and gives them the tools to expand their artistry. 

Recently, three boys from the CT private school embarked on a journey into the Afternoon Independent Project Program. Graham Deckers '20 and Penguy Si '19, were mentored by painter Greg Calibey and Alvaro de la Cruz '18 worked with me to create short videos. While the result of their hard work is stunning to any viewer that meanders through the Ordway Gallery, what they learned about themselves through the process is priceless. Here is what they have to say about their experience.

Graham Deckers '20

Graham drawing at Beaver Pond.

"Graham finds his paradise and solace in the art studio." Cristina Pinton, Visual Arts Chairperson

"The purpose of art is to express yourself in the most genuine way you can. This can be a difficult task though because sometimes the paint may not move the way you want it to, or you can't get the right color, or you can't create a certain structure with the clay. Towards the end of a piece though, you're able to start to feel satisfied with what you created because you can see your end goal start to form right before your eyes. When you finally finish the piece and step back, you feel really accomplished because you've expressed yourself and shown your experience and the skill that you have: it's very satisfying to see that take place within my art. My art has a meaning, and that is a way to pursue truth."


Pengyu Si "S.P."  '19

S.P. acting in theater.

"S.P. is, self-said, a man of few words. He prefers to communicate in writing or through art." Cristina Pinton, Visual Arts Chairperson

"AIP was a very relaxing and rewarding experience for me. Not only did I learn the basic techniques of painting, of which I had had no prior knowledge, but I was also able to have conversations with Mr. Calibey and Graham to understand their perspectives, not only on arts and aesthetics but also on the society and the world, which was an invaluable experience for me. In terms of my paintings, I created four still-life paintings and three portraits, in which I explored different combinations of brush strokes, colors, and visual effects. I spent at least two hours each day, working either alone or with Mr. Calibey, and toward the end of the season, I put in extra time in the evening to finish my paintings. Fortunately, the work, in my humble opinion, actually paid off. I would love to thank Mrs. Pinton for her tremendous efforts in bringing the Independent Project Program to Avon, because, without it, I would never have the time or opportunity to explore the fascinating world of painting and to talk to all the awesome people I got to chat with."

Alvaro de la Cruz '18

Alvaro filming for a nonprofit.

Alvaro is a visionary. He sees the untold story ...imagines ...does research — and then produces a beautiful work of art. 

"For all my videos that I create, I try to portray a message that viewers can relate to and be inspired by it. The job of a storyteller is to entertain and inspire someone in some way. "

More AOF Videos by Alvaro:

Key Takeaway

There are bound to be days when it's impossible to set aside a solid block of time to create. The important thing is to be intentional about making a space in the daily grind to hone in on whatever skill it is you want to get better at. At Avon Old Farms, students learn a variety of artistic mediums in the classroom, the Independent Project Program is a vehicle to that transports them to unseen heights of creativity.