By Jim Sullivan
---- — A group of dedicated and talented young artists are making Newburyport High School a little more colorful and vibrant place to study and learn these days, as part of a new initiative geared towards celebrating the arts.
More than 30 of Newburyport High School students have been busy painting murals throughout the high school, to greet visitors to the main office and library -- and that’s only one of the many tasks completed by the Newburyport High School chapter of the National Art Honor Society
Similar to the National Honor Society, the organization celebrates a student’s accomplishments, scholarship -- and artistic abilities. Advised by NHS art teachers Aileen Maconi, Mary Rakoski and Kim Salathe, the school’s chapter is only in its second year of existence and has grown from 20 members last year to this year’s total of 32.
The Art Society members must keep a B average in honors or advanced placement classes for the entire school year, maintain 2.0 cumulative average in all other subjects and meet strict criteria regarding attendance, academic achievement, citizenship and community service.
“It is absolutely amazing,” Salathe said. “It’s an honor to work with them and help them accomplish the things that they are passionate about.”
Also on the list of accomplishments for the NAHS this year has been to create and donate art for a silent auction to benefit the Leukemia Society, and running two galleries inside the high school to exhibit both student and professional works. The students have also worked with the Newburyport Art Association to build stronger connections between the students and artists in the city.
“We want this Honor Society to be open and available for any student at Newburyport High School,” said Salathe. “However, we’re looking for passion, quality, and that’s what we really have a hit on this year. It’s only our second year into it, and already what we are discovering is the incredible quality and the character of the students, their artistic abilities and their desire to make themselves a part of this community in a way that is meaningful.”
The society’s officers include president Lea Taylor, vice president Jacob Fisher, treasurer Diana Russo, historian Amy Morse, and liaison for the Newburyport Art Association Anna Blumenscheid. Fisher, a sophomore, said that the growth in this year’s NAHS could be seen at last Thursday’s induction ceremony.
“It was exciting to see the difference between last year’s induction ceremony and this year’s ceremony,” Fisher said. “Just the hype of it all. That was cool.”
Fisher worked on one of the high school’s library murals over the summer with the idea of drawing students’ eyes to the organization.
“That was my favorite,” Fisher said of the library’s mural. “The theme was graffiti and we didn’t have to be that precise. It was somewhat abstract and it was cool working with different graffiti.”
Taylor, a senior, will be studying environmental studies at Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire next year, but she has always felt a pull towards the arts. She joined the Society to help spread the word to her fellow students, she added.
“No one was showing up to any of (the school’s art) galleries and it was sad,” Taylor said. “I kind of wanted to raise more awareness of the art program. I wanted to contribute in that way.”
Another outgoing senior, Morse — who will be studying a double minor in fashion and photography while majoring in journalism at Marist College this fall— said her time with the NAHS taught her that she needs to diversify.
“I think, in today’s society, academics isn’t enough,” says Morse. “You need to be creative and open-minded. Because we’re in the age of electronics, things are changing and people want new ideas. So, being smart really isn’t enough anymore. You really need to be creative, as well.”
With the seniors about to graduate, the society’s younger members are gearing up for more fun, and responsibilities, next year. They hope to increase their artist workshop offerings at the high school as well as create a junior chapter of the NAHS at the Nock Middle School.
“Our students had more passion (this year),” Salathe said. “We were a lot more organized and we have the experience from last year that helped guide us.”
“It’s been very exciting this year,” Fisher added. “We were really able to focus on the goals that we had last year and dig deep into what NAHS is all about. It was just really cool seeing us grow.”