“I love it,” said Lexie Puringer, an 11-year-old sixth-grader at Marshall. “It’s so much brighter than it was before.”
Marshall, an independent school for grades 4-12, recently wrapped up a three-year, $4.3 million comprehensive campaign, dubbed Next Horizon Campaign, that included a complete renovation for both the art and music wings.
This most recent project included enlarged and enhanced upper and middle school art studios; flexible studio spaces for instrumental and choral music as well as movement and theater; a recording studio; a digital design studio; a ceramics studio; a darkroom; suites of private practice rooms; a music library; a green room; and a designated instrument-storage room.
“We were already a community that valued arts and music, and I think for the kids to see that the adults around them also valued it enough to take on this huge construction project, just the amount of pride and joy they had when they went into those classrooms was just huge,” said Bryce Nixon, associate head of school, external relations at Marshall. “I think they had a renewed energy about those subjects. The same thing happened when we did other projects.”
The capital improvements also included the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) wings as well, but renovating the arts and music wings were just as important, said Kevin Breen, head of school at Marshall.
“I think it’s important that we don’t treat art and music as specials. We treat them as if they are as valid as the five core subjects,” he said. “We believe the careers that await these kids will require them to invent and create all the time, so we wanted to say that this really matters.”
Breen said when the school was built in the 1960s, it was a Catholic high school with stand-and-deliver teaching.
“All the classrooms had platforms where the teacher would demonstrate and the kids would watch,” Breen said. “But so much has changed now and we’ve put learning into the hands of the kids.”
Breen said they wanted the school to reflect how times have changed in the way teachers teach and the way students learn. Marshall also added two new blocks called “Expand” and “Enrich.” Nixon said “Expand” is an ungraded class that allows students to broaden their learning outside the usual curriculum.
“Enrich” is a block where a class gets to dive deeper into something that they are working on in class or tries something new that they haven’t had a chance to do, Nixon said.
Both Nixon and Breen said the students and staff have had positive things to say about the renovations.
“They really love the space,” Breen said. “Out of all the projects we’ve done, I think this one has brought the most joy.”
Over the past several years, Marshall has taken on 25 projects to bring the school up to date. The joy the students felt using their new art room was evident during an after-school art club.
Middle school students were creating and collaborating Wednesday in the new art room. When asked by Breen what they thought of the new room, a group of sixth-graders yelled with glee that they “love it.”
Puringer was sitting at the two most colorful tables in the main art room Wednesday with fellow sixth-graders Winnie Carmichael, Presley Johnsrud and Mathew Whitebird. All of them said they loved the new room.
“I was really surprised and it made me really happy,” Johnsrud said about the first time she entered the room.
“It’s such an improvement from the last room,” Whitebird said.
All of them agreed the new art room had a lot more space.
“It’s so much bigger and more open,” Carmichael said.
The group of middle schoolers and many more were staying after school to dive deep into creative projects.
“We can’t predict what jobs will be available when these kids graduate college, but if they know how to make things and solve problems, and execute their own ideas, they’ll be ready for whatever is coming,” Breen said.
Marshall is holding an open house Tuesday from 5:30-7:30 p.m. to celebrate the completion of the Next Horizon Campaign. The public is invited to the open house to see the newly renovated spaces.