JACKSON – School District Superintendent Nicole Pormilli had the pleasure of discussing some of the artistic talent present in the school district through a special program by students of the Jackson Academy of the Arts (JAA).
“We actually planned this during our last school year. We have two beautiful murals. We have several wonderful academies at our two high schools,” Pormilli said during a recent Board of Education meeting where she shared the news and photos of the murals with members of the Board and the public.
Pormilli gave a review of the JAA’s history. The academy opened in September 2017 under the leadership of Theresa Licitra, the director of curriculum. The Academy offers focused study in vocal and instrumental music, studio and graphic art, theater and drama.
The academy serves as “a catalyst for students who possess proven aptitude and interests to realize their creative potential,” Pormilli said. The program also provides a personalized and rigorous environment that fosters “experiential, performance-based educational opportunities and contributes to the cultural enrichment of a global society” according to the school district.
In October 2018 the JAA Advisory Board was established and its purpose was to establish community connections, foster networking communication, and seek opportunities for master experiences, resident artists and internships.
The Board includes Laura Imbriale, Cori Bott, Jessee Bassel, Mark Wetzel, Christine Reese, Jamie Lee, Trevor Bryan, Emily Clark, Adriana Eisele, Laura Volltrauer, and Vicki Grasso.
Pormilli said the academy “offers a lot of performance-based learning.” She said this project presented the challenge of “pulling us together as a school district. I’m just amazed at the talent.”
Mural finalists were selected during an advisory committee meeting held last month, where JAA students were ‘commissioned’ to design a district mural that encompassed Jackson’s Mission Statement. There were more than 25 entries.
Pormilli said the young artists collaborated together to produce some wonderful designs and the JAA Advisory Board members then voted and selected three top entries.
JAA Academy Mural Project teachers and students include teacher Ashley Forsyth, Ella Centofanti, Alyssa Guzman, Alyssa Cameron, Carly Castelli, Emily Feiteira, Luz Victoriano Grande, and Rebecca Falk at Jackson Liberty High School.
Jackson Memorial High School teacher Lisa Stallone was joined by Alyssa Paranal, Marissa Mobley, Harrison Swindell, Jamie Kuminski, Morgan Barnaby, Emily Anderson and Gabriella Fortunato. Murals completed are featured on display in the school district administration building.
Jackson Memoral High School 11th grade student Harrison Swindell said “it was fulfilling to have started this mural from a blank canvas and make it into something that I am pretty proud of. One of the earliest photos I took of the project is from November 22, 2019 and looking at the progress it is nice to see how this mural has morphed into the completed project that it is.”
“I did a lot of work. I came in almost every day after school to work on this mural. I was invested in giving this mural the best I could give,” the student added.
“I remember when we finished the mural, I had felt a bit empty. It was so weird being done with something that you had spent almost 4 months working on. Looking back, I am proud of what we have been able to make,” he said. “Working on murals takes a lot of time and dedication, but what you get for your time is pretty good. Having something of that scale be a product of your work is a nice feeling to say the least. I am proud of what we have been able to do to make this mural what it is.”
Jackson Liberty High School teacher Ashley Forsyth said “it has been wonderful to see the Jackson Art Academy grow over the past few years. I am so proud of our art students and their amazing murals!
“The mural project provided opportunities for our JAA students to experience the creative process from start to finish. The students engaged in brainstorming, problem solving and collaboration with their peers. They worked hard together to create a beautiful mural that is now shared with the Jackson community,” the teacher added.
“You walk into the main area of our office building and see one right in our receptionist area. Another one hangs in our conference room right now. I am so proud of our students and teachers,” Pormilli said.
Board member Gus Acevedo commented, “This school district is a patron of the arts. We don’t look at it as an extension. Sports are part of what we do. The arts are part of what we do. They are not an addendum to what we do. The academics are what we do, however when we talk about the arts and anything that is creative like that, they are essential.”
Acevedo added, “Any child who chooses the arts, who chooses music, who chooses band it is important to us and is part of our concern it is not an afterthought. We offer a place for students to fail and for them to succeed.”
The board member said that for those who fear that the district might cut programs for the arts, “how do we save money cutting from the arts? How do we save money by cutting from sports or band? If we were to cut from the arts, band or sports we’d be cutting from ourselves,” Acevedo said stressing the seriousness of those subjects in regards to the ongoing budget preparation for the next school year.
“I whole heartedly agree,” Pormilli said.