Save the Miramonte High School Art Center

Comment on this post to save the art center.

MHSLETTER_lilywilliams_narrow

To whom this may concern at Miramonte High School and the Acalanes School District,

As supporters of the Miramonte High School Visual Arts program, we are writing to you on behalf of the Miramonte High School art center. It has been brought to our attention that this beautiful center will be turned into a student wellness center and the visual art program will be downsized into a smaller classroom. The Miramonte High School visual arts program has constantly been under scrutiny from the academic and athletic minded Acalanes School District and we are asking to you support your arts community by giving them the proper tools and space they need to thrive. A student union, wellness center, or tutoring center can be in any classroom or cafeteria space, but a proper art center cannot be in any other classroom for reasons we describe below.

The Miramonte High School art center was designed to be an art center, and no other space at MHS has its necessary features for art-making. The upstairs gallery provides inspiration to each year of students and a crucial space for critiques to take place. Cubbies in the sliding wall are ideal for laying projects flat for drying and safe keeping. The downstairs studio spaces allow for privacy when artists are exploring and creating their AP Art projects. The multi-level floor plan of the center enables students to communicate their art easily with their peers and the teacher, while still having private work areas. Huge windows provide natural light which is crucial for an artist of any age. This art center was built for artists, and artists need proper creative space to grow their skills. In the way you would not make a football player practice in a swimming pool or tell a biology student to dissect a frog in the drama theatre — the visual arts center is the home of the visual arts practice.

Miramonte High School visual art graduates have gone on to attend prestigious art schools (with scholarships) and made waves in the world-wide arts community. There are MHS visual arts grads working as illustrators, animators, directors, fine artists, filmmakers, industrial designers, and more. These former art students are making waves in the world and it was thanks to the crucial art center and safe haven during those hard teenage years. Over the years these students have attended board meetings to speak up for the visual arts program, provided relationships for MHS kids wanting to go to art school, and worked hard to raise up young artists. It saddens us to know this program is being relegated to a less functional location, and yet again art kids art being told they are second rate MHS students, unworthy of a proper creative space.

We ask that you keep the Miramonte High School visual arts program in the visual arts center, and continue to make sure visual artists are supported and that their growth is encouraged during their time at MHS.

Thank you,

The Friends of the Miramonte High School Art Center (signatures below)

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To add your signature and name to this letter, please comment with your:

  1. NAME
  2. YEAR YOU GRADUATED (or “current student”, “teacher”, or “parent”)
  3. Optional: A comment or story about why the art center is important to you

I ask that you only comment if you are a current student/former student/teach at MHS/are a parent of a student/or are in some way affiliated with Miramonte High School in Orinda California. Please leave the comments as a space for those who love the MHS art center.

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Video of the MHS art center embedded from the Miramonte High School website.

23 comments

  1. Lily Williams, class of 2010 and Parents Club/VPA award winner for 2-Dimentional Art year 2009-2010.

    As a passionate art student who struggled through the tough environment MHS provides, this art center was my safe haven. I owe so much to this space and Mrs. Jensen’s stewardship of it.

  2. Tyler Woo, class of 2011 and senior year’s voted Most Artistic 2011.

    Countless lunches, laughs, and some of the best friends I had at Miramonte High School is what the art center represents to me. It was a space of quiet contemplation, striking talent, and potential to inspire the very same passion, that I shared with my peers, in every student who passes through there.

  3. Rosemary says:

    I love the Miramonte Art Center ! My 21 years of fabulous students with incredible talent and dedication will always be with me ! I can still feel the sun pouring in and the spirit of the place. Best to all! Rosemary Jensen

  4. garrettakol says:

    Looking back on my time at Miramonte, all of my best memories of class were in the art center room, all the way through senior years. The open studio style set up allowed students to connect with one another, share ideas and growing as artist and humans. Miramonte must continue to foster free thinking and creativity, and this room serves as an incubator for that. Any other room on campus would not function for serious artistic pursuit, be it from a practical standpoint (having a place to clean your brushes after every single class) or for more creative reasons mentioned above. My grandfather’s office designed this space with input from Mrs Jensen to specifically function as an art studio, which it does perfectly. Any other use would be a waste of space and a kick in the face to Miramonte’s creative community.

  5. Sofia Collins says:

    Some of my fondest moments of my four years at Miramonte are within the walls of our beloved art room. I went from Art 1- AP Art in that gorgeous space, and it was everything we could have dreamed of. The room is specifically designed to allow art students to share their work with the greater student community, safely house their equipment and pieces, work smoothly and efficiently, and have everything they need to get their school assignments done (big printing press, light tables, lockers, sinks for clean up, ample storage space, large tables to work on,etc). This room was MADE for students to make art, and it would be a horrible mistake to turn it into anything but that. A student center does not need a gallery space, multiple sinks, lockers, nor multiple floors, it does not need to push out the one hub of creativity Miramonte has. Please consider what this room provides for the art students, and the importance of allowing art to change the lives of Miramonte’s students, as it has for its alumni like myself.

  6. Bridgette Thornton, Miramonte High School 2007,2008 / Campolino High School 2009, 2010.

    This art room was my saving grace during my time at Miramonte. I LOVED the painting classes and spent many of my lunches working on my artwork. Some of my best friends to this day were made in that classroom. It is because of this classroom and focus on Fine Art while I was in High School that I’m now able to work as a full time painter selling art to Serena & Lily and Anthropologie. I can’t imagine having had art in a different space or not having art class at all. By moving the art department to a smaller less adequate space you are sending the message that Fine Art is not as important as other programs. I would argue that it is more important, during High School students need a creative non-stressful outlet more than ever.

  7. 1. Jeanne Eberhard
    2. 2010

  8. Ann Pister says:

    Ann Pister, class of 2011
    The art center and Mrs. Jensen played a huge role in my development as an artist all four years at MHS. I even had a painting displayed in the art center gallery when I was in first grade.

  9. Marisa Rowland
    Class of 2009
    The art center and Mrs. Jensen shaped me as a person and my entire career path. In fact, I personally know that at least 4 out of our small 9 person AP Art class ended up in an artistic or adjacent art education field. It is where I learned about art and design, where I learned to critique and take criticism in a constructive way, where I learned to create and engage with my surrounding in both a physical and ephemeral way. I would not be the person or on the career trajectory I am without this experience in this space. Art entered my life at a critical time when I was injured and could not play on the field. Being able to have a space where I could play on the canvas or beyond was crucial. Physical space informs the art that can be created. It is a literal container. Confine the space and confine the art and creativity and evolution of our future.

  10. Katherine Fearing says:

    Katherine Fearing, Class of 2012

    I have never taken an art class at Miramonte but I had always wanted to while I was a student there. My friends, however, took art class, and I would sometimes visit them and see their artwork. Whenever I walked into the art room, I felt a sense of pride that my school could offer such a wonderful space for students to study art. It would be such a shame to take that space away.

  11. Class of 1994

    When I attended Miramonte we had a basic classroom as our art room. When I saw they had moved the arts into the old library building I thought… fabulous! Finally money and space was being allocated outside of sports.

    I took AP art and crafts class as well. It was my favorite time of the day. I went on to get a scholarship to attend Syracuse university and majored in illustration and design. Since then I’ve had a 20 year career in the NYC contemporary art world.

    It would be a shame to reduce the visual arts footprint from the school. As an older alumni who depended on that art room as a high schooler I would strongly urge the board to reconsider their plans.

  12. When we moved to the art center from the old classroom it was a dream come true. The space made us take our work more seriously. Please let it remain devoted to the visual arts.

  13. P.S. the above is from Katy Norris, class of 2000

  14. The art center must absolutely be used for the purposes it was intended for. This place was my saving grace through my high school years. Miramonte High School can be an intense, grueling, even a cruel atmosphere for students (I know it was for me), and the art center acts as a necessary respite for many students, but especially students who may not have alternative means of expressing themselves. Please do not take this ideal space away. The art center, under the direction of Ms. Jensen, inspired me to pursue the arts, and eventually complete my Master’s degree on a scholarship from The Art Institute of Chicago. I can imagine being in this beautiful space so clearly now. Please, foster the creative potential of the future students of Miramonte High School. Creative thinking is beneficial to all paths, not just the artistic.

  15. Mason Tong says:

    Mason Tong
    Class of 2006

    The art studio at Miramonte High School is an embodiment of creativity, ingenuity, and expression. It was designed for the arts and logistically planned to foster generations of students. To that end, it has done so amazingly. My personal experience with high school counts this building as the one place on campus that I truly felt at home. It was my base of operations. It was my hub for friends. I even ate lunch here and waited for my parents after school in this space, drawing and painting with every moment I was given. More over, I came here to center myself in the hectic storm that was my childhood. For myself and many, this art studio was our shelter, our proving grounds, and the foundation for our futures. I recall coming to this space and hearing from parents and other students how this studio reflected well on Miramonte’s spirit of excellence. To find a facilities that properly held all the needs for its creative student body is a treasure. No other space is like this. No other space could begin to replace it. The decision to change it into something that could be built elsewhere with other specifications would be an affront.

    Miramonte’s values are supposed to uphold the passions and spirit of its student body, but how can this be true when such a blatant disregard of the arts is committed? How can an administration believe it fosters growth when it decides to uproot the creative gardens for its students? How can Miramonte be a school of excellence when it chooses a path of disregard and apathy? The art studio should remain as originally intended. Such changes will negatively impact students and only impress upon the county, the community, and future generations that Miramonte is willing to sacrifice the spirit of creativity for a multi purpose room. This would be a tragedy of the highest order.

    After graduating from Miramonte, I carried the belief that I could pursue my passions in college. I believed that my teachers and administration supported me and believed in me. When I went to UC Davis I held in my eyes the pride and confidence that I could succeed and test myself. Today, I have my hands on numerous artistic, creative and design tasks for my employment at Capital One. I count my experience at that art studio as my beginnings and I know that there are many more students who would say the same. I implore the administration to reconsider as there is still a chance to uphold what I know at heart is in line with Miramonte’s values and true love for its students.

    Thank you.

  16. Adrienne Parker, class of 2010.
    The art center was where I spent the majority of my time while I was at Miramonte. I took as many art classes as I could, encouraged by my counselor and Ms. Jensen to pursue what they clearly saw was my biggest passion. During lunch time and breaks, the stairways was where all of my friends would gather and talk. At every opportunity, we would also use these breaks to look through and admire the student works in the upper gallery space. This room is the center of all my most positive memories during the immense stress and work of high school. It is such an amazing source of creative energy, and it should be preserved as such. I’ve graduated now with two art degrees from UC Berkeley and California College of the Arts, currently working as a freelance animator, and none of that would have been possible without this amazing space at our school.

  17. Emily Hinkamp says:

    Emily Hinkamp
    Class of 2010
    The Art Center was a place of inspiration, socialization, masterpieces, scratches, critiques, states of flow, figure drawing sessions, small-batch print making sessions, documentaries, music jams, lunch haven, gallery walking, reverence, and truly, reverie. It breaks my heart to hear that this room — program — INSTITUTION — is being downsized, and words can only begin to describe the impact the art program at Miramonte made on my life, career, and point of view in this grand world. To downsize and develop this place into something else, undoubtedly also something of importance, is to disregard the grand momentum and power that this program has made, exponentially, on the future.

  18. vshummer says:

    Tory Hummer
    Class of 2010
    The Art Center was one of the only spaces on campus I distinctly remember being impressed by. The space is built to serve the needs of the art students and it would be a shame to disrespect the art program by removing them from a room that was designed for it.

  19. Grace Ho says:

    Grace Ho
    Class of 2006

    I understand the desire for a student wellness center. I really do. Before I went on maternity leave this year, I was teaching at another very prestigious and academically pressured school: Gunn High School in Palo Alto. Gunn had a new student wellness center, and I see the appeal.

    But not at the expense of the arts. One might argue that this trend of devaluing art education – learning both how to create and appreciate beauty and meaning – is contributing to the increase of mental health issues in the first place, as students suffer enormous stress with fewer opportunities to express themselves creatively or engage in practices that encourage them to reflect on the wonder of life. Having a student wellness center is a lovely idea, but from my experience as both a highly driven Miramonte graduate (back then, given my astronomical stress levels, I would have been a prime candidate for the kinds of services this wellness center would be offering) and now a professional educator of similarly pressured high school students, I can honestly say I believe that keeping the art center in its current form is more beneficial to the student body’s mental health than turning it into a wellness center.

    After I left Miramonte, the art center was the only physical space on campus that I consistently bragged to others about. It was also the only place I brought friends to visit after graduation, when I had the chance. It has been 12 years now since I graduated, and I still have yet to encounter anyone who wasn’t amazed by my description of the art center when they heard it; everyone would tell me how lucky I was to have gone to a high school that so valued the art program as to provide it such a beautiful and perfectly designed space. Not much else about our campus was unique: not its football field, its Olympic sized pool, or its various other amenities. Only this art center. It has been the pride and joy of our school and community. Please keep it that way.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Pearl Biggers
    Current Student

    The art center is a beautiful space and exceptional natural light. It is ideal for budding visual artists. I fail to understand why the architecture room can’t become the student center. It’s difficult to view the art room being moved as anything other than a demotion and an indication of the lack of priority afforded to studio art. As a current AP Studio Art student, I am offended that administration didn’t bother to consult any of us before making this decision. Miramonte administration seems to be somewhat in love with surveying students, and a simple survey could have solved this problem and made art students feel heard and supported instead of shoved into the corner. Art’s therapeutic effect on me is unparalleled by anything other than actual therapy, and I know that many of my peers in art feel similarly. I can guarantee that the future residents of this student center will be unable to appreciate or make full use of the beautiful gallery space, the photography room, the portfolio storage, or the sense of history and legacy of young artists who came before you that permeates the center. I sincerely hope that this decision can be reversed, or at least reconsidered, and I would urge admin to speak to the artists that enjoy the space daily.

  21. Brianna Dickerson says:

    Brianna Dickerson, class of 2010.
    The art center was a safe haven for those who needed to express their stress, anxiety, and the multitude of other teenage emotions for the 4 years I attended. Art is therapeutic and Ms. Jensen gave us the tools necessary and the proper environment to work through them. We were even able to eat our lunch in the center while tutoring one another on other subjects or allowed to catch up on our art projects. The art center may not have had the official title of a wellness center, but it definitely acted as such.

  22. Meaghan says:

    Meaghan Burke class of 2010
    I was never an art student but it clearly made an impact on my friends that were. It would be a shame to convert this specific space into a student center.

  23. Jeffrey Ludwig says:

    Jeffrey Ludwig
    Class of 1996

    I remember being awed by the Art Center the first time I walked in. The professionalism of the facility immediately communicated the rigor of the work taking place there and the investment the school and community was making in its young artists—who could set foot in that building and not be inspired?

    When our Academic Decathlon team made it to state, we stayed late one night at the Art Center using the silk-screening equipment to make personalized t-shirts to wear to the competition. We were so proud to be representing Miramonte at that competition, and prouder still to show off our spirit in our custom-made uniforms. We never would have been able to print and dry flat a team’s worth of t-shirts in a standard-size classroom. The use of the Art Center was iwhat made it happen.

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