St. Margaret’s Arts and Athletics: the Spirit of Mutual Support
Those of you who recently returned to school from summer vacation will be very surprised by the progress that has been made on the construction of the Performing Arts Center. This is a truly extraordinary building, the uses of which seem virtually unlimited. In addition to being the cornerstone of our campus and a place where the school community will come together for many functions, the new building represents a special quality of St. Margaret’s that deserves acknowledgment and celebration.
Recently, many Upper School parents gathered for dinner at the first, end of summer Tartan Tailgate party, designed primarily for families of athletes to come together to “Champion the Arts.” The idea behind the event was simple, but the meaning and significance is at the heart of a very special aspect of life at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School. It is not unusual (in fact, it is probably the norm) for schools like ours to foster a very competitive relationship between the arts and athletics. This dynamic plays out in numerous ways but in the end, the students are caught in the middle of an unfortunate struggle for their talents. It is not pretty and it is also not necessary.
This past school year, as we conducted the search for our new Upper School principal, which resulted in the recent arrival of Tony Jordan and his family, we received important feedback from the consultant who coordinated the search. As she worked with us to build the case, she became aware that instead of the arts and athletics being a battleground for student talents, these two departments worked in close contact and harmony with one another in a way she found unique in her vast experience of working with schools like ours. This was music to our ears, but for some of us it was not a surprise nor has this come about by accident.
Some years ago as we launched the Legacy capital campaign (the predecessor to the current Building on the Promise capital campaign), we were truly blessed to receive extraordinarily generous leadership support from the Nicholas family. While the level of generosity was exceptional, perhaps even more noteworthy was that this gift came with the knowledge that the funds would likely be used for athletic and academic purposes as opposed to the performing arts, which was very much this family’s passion. With this powerful dynamic in place, the unique tradition and practice of working together for the mutual benefit of all our students was both affirmed and solidly established.
Last year, when the Chalmers and the Toroks raised the idea of a tailgate party for families of athletes in support of the arts, this unique aspect of life at St. Margaret’s came full circle. As was stated that evening, those who love the arts contributed generously to the support and growth of our athletic program. It’s now time for the families of athletes to step forward and support the arts. As the 2011-2012 school year unfolds, this theme will be ever-present as our faculty and staff work faithfully to support our students in their multi-dimensional pursuits. And, for what has become a St. Margaret’s tradition, the students themselves will join hands (literally, in some cases) to support each other. Keep an eye out for this – it happens over and over again.
At the end of this school year, we will come together as a school community to celebrate the opening of the Performing Arts Center. This will of course be a joyous and much deserved happening for all who have participated in and have passion for the arts. But more importantly, this will be a powerful acknowledgement and celebration of the spirit of mutual support for the good of our students that is very much at the heart of what we stand for as a school. It is an honor to be part of it. Congratulations to us all!