In the 2018-2019 school year, the Fine Arts Programs of West High School displayed the passion, dedication, and hard work that embodied the students with the Fine Arts Assembly. After its’ massive success, the Fine Arts Assembly made its return on Jan. 23, 2020.
Preceding the Alaska Airlines Classic basketball tournament, the Fine Arts Assembly included performances from choir, band, orchestra, DanceWest, theatre, and starting this year, includes the International Baccalaureate Visual Arts class.
Many students may go through high school without considering what a Fine Arts Program has to offer. The Fine Arts Assembly acts as a way to show and tell the rest of the student body, who aren’t a part of these performing programs, what the programs offer. “I think it’s also trying to get people to join the program[s],” says Lily Slaton Barker, a senior in Symphonic Orchestra.
A majority of students might not have the financial ability to take music or dance lessons outside of school. For that reason, the art programs at West are valuable, as they are to most students, the only outlet to express their creativity and talent. For students like Slaton Barker, the arts play a major role in one’s livelihood.
Like any other program, students find a welcoming community of friends who share the same hobbies. When asked about the impact art makes in her life, Slaton Barker says that she’s in a negative mindset whenever she’s not playing her violin. “It’s my support network,” says Slaton Barker.
Students aren’t the only ones who share this sentiment. Rees Miller, a chemistry and drama teacher, delves into West’s Theatre program. As the returning emcee of the Fine Arts Assembly, he says art is his stress reliever as well as a source of stress. Miller claims art is what makes life worth living.
He expresses the importance of watching students learn and transform into artists and performers. “I just love watching people who don’t think they’re artists figure out that they actually are, and that they’ve been artists the entire time . . . I see it almost regularly in my art classes,” says Miller.
When asked about his thoughts expressing the concern and support for the arts, Miller claims that support will never be enough. As a teacher in the Anchorage School District, he often finds himself disappointed in how the arts are under-supported by the district. “They don’t do a bad job, but they don’t do a good job,” says Miller. He is, however, overly impressed by the communities that push the arts towards better recognition.
Miller isn’t the only one who holds this sentiment. Winston Katoanga is another student who hopes that the fine arts programs will receive financial support and recognition equivalent to that of the sports programs. Katoanga, who participates in choir, dance, and theatre, grew up in a musical family and had an artistic background before coming to West. Through his experiences, he’s grown appreciative of the art programs at school as it allows him to reminisce what art has brought to his childhood. Katoanga, however, finds himself questioning if support for the arts have been enough.
Katoanga also participates in cheer and has observed the amount of funding and financial aid it has received. Because of this, he wonders, “If the arts program had this amount of money, imagine the amount of things we could do with it.”
Students will only see the polished versions of pieces and won’t know the number of times it was rehearsed. DanceWest Instructor IreneRose Antonio explained that all Fine Arts teachers met together to ensure that the show would run smoothly and there were no conflicts. While all programs practice on their own time, every program had only the morning of the assembly to rehearse all together.
When asked if the Fine Arts Assembly should continue on, Antonio claimed that it’s easier said than done. A lot of time and effort is sacrificed from everyone in the programs and some still have an uneasiness in regards to if the student body will appreciate the purpose of the assembly. The Fine Arts Assembly is imbedded with the goal of inspiring students to get involved to do something new. “You got to just have hope…even if it’s a couple people,” says Antonio.