“It’s a wonderful recognition and honor — and a testament to the work done by the faculty, staff and community groups here,” says Jon Grice, director of the school’s fine arts department.
Stevenson High School, the one of the largest in the state, draws students from seven communities north and northwest of Chicago. Grice says that about 1,600 of the 4,400 students enroll in fine arts classes.
The Kennedy Center award honors schools that teach a variety of classes in the four basic artistic disciplines: dance, music, theater and visual arts. Stevenson adds a fifth dimension with its Odyssey program. Every two years, the school suspends regular classes so all students and teachers can attend a two-day fine arts festival.
Participants choose from more than 200 classes, seminars and performances given by volunteer artists from the community. Choices range from local bands and a cappella groups to TV producers and improv troupes to painters and sculptors to composers of both orchestral and digital music.
“The festival is an incredible opportunity for students to experience the arts, to interact with skilled artisans and performers,” says Grice. “And it is a chance for local artists, many of whom are Stevenson graduates, to give back to the school.”
Stevenson is the third Illinois high school to receive a Kennedy Center arts education award since the program began in 1998. Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville won the award for the 2008-2009 school year, and the Chicago Academy for the Arts received the award for 2005-2006.
Illinois Issues, December 2010