While walking through the Hockaday halls, one seldom hears Germanic opera in one room, a passionate monologue in a second and a mock dance audition in another. This was commonplace, however, at the first Afternoon for the College Bound Artist.
On Sept. 7, approximately 70 students and parents from Hockaday and St. Mark’s spent the afternoon learning about the many ways to study fine arts in college.
Theater director Emily Gray said she had imagined putting on such an event since she arrived at Hockaday four years ago. Gray wanted to use her connections in the acting business, including actors and directors who also teach at colleges.
“I thought giving high school students access to those people and their information would be great,” Gray said.
When Gray reached out to the other fine arts teachers, they loved the large scale of the event and began to reach out to artists, directors, dancers and other professionals across Dallas. The teachers received an overwhelming number of responses from people interested in speaking on a panel or helping in breakout workshops. Senior Associate Director of College Counseling Micah Lyles and the college counseling team worked to coordinate the logistics of the program and collaborated with the teachers to plan the discussion topics.
“It was definitely a group effort,” Lyles said. “We worked very closely with the visual and performing arts faculty.”
On the day of the event, attendees began their afternoon in the auditorium for a panel interview moderated by Gray. Panelists addressed questions from what to do with a fine arts degree to how someone knows they are an artist. Senior AP Studio Art student Simone Hunter’s favorite part of the day was the panel because she got to hear the panelists’ diverse perspectives. Hunter said she loved the story a panelist shared about telling their parents they wanted to become an artist and attend art school.
“It was funny because it was like if you’re pursuing art, you’re going to be a starving artist; you’re going to be broke all the time,” Hunter said. “There is a community that’s like ‘we’re okay with that.’”
After the panel discussion, students attended breakout sessions about topics ranging from portfolio reviews and lessons on how to execute a monologue for college, to choosing songs and preparing dances musical theater auditions. Hunter went to the portfolio review first and then learned how to write an artist statement.
“It was cool to see different perspectives other than the Hockaday community and [what] my parents tell me about my art,” Hunter said.
Both Gray and Lyles viewed the event as very informative for students and parents. One student mentioned to Lyles that she learned about opportunities in the arts that she never even knew existed until an in-depth conversation with one of the panelists. The girls in the dance workshop also tried something new because the session was a dance audition for musical theater rather than the typical auditions the girls attend.
“My favorite part of the day was that these students really were placed in some situations of discomfort as they were doing things they had never done before, but in activities they have done forever,” Lyles said. “It was really fascinating to see how that tension was created and to see what they gained from it.”
Parents learned about the opportunities that studying performing and visual arts in college creates and
that their children can make a living as artists. A woman from Big Thought, a nonprofit that works to close the opportunity gap through art, also talked with parents about what to look for in a college art program. College representatives or recent graduates from fine arts programs answered questions for parents while the students attended the workshops.
Lyles said the college counseling department gained lots of knowledge about the nuances of applying to fine arts programs. The college counselors heard directly from the people evaluating portfolios and leading the auditions, which helped them to learn more about what these colleges were looking for in applicants.
“As we are working individually with students who are going through that process, it just informs that process with us so much more,” Lyles said.
The fine arts faculty and college counseling team said they hope to expand the reach of the program for next year, inviting schools like Greenhill, Parish and the Episcopal School of Dallas to participate in the afternoon. Gray said she also would like to bring in panelists from outside the Dallas area, including some of the large colleges in Oklahoma and other states. She encouraged any Hockaday students even remotely interested in the arts to attend next year.
“Come and enjoy the afternoon,” Gray said. “It’s a free afternoon of workshops that you can’t get anywhere else.”
Story By Kate Woodhouse
Photo by Simone Hunter