A showcase of arts department news

Arts Spotlight Now Lives on the Williston Website

Thanks for being a loyal reader of our Arts Spotlight blog. As we’ve enhanced our website, we’ve changed how we display these stories. From now on, to find posts about life at Williston, please click here, bookmark the page, and check back frequently.

Another way to stay up to date on Williston news stories is to follow us on social media (FacebookTwitter, and Instagram). We also post content to YouTube and Flickr.

Jessie Young Brings a Drawer’s Eye to Digital Art

Self portrait by Jessie Young

Digital artist Jessie Young learned as an adult she had a condition called “face blindness,” meaning her brain processes faces differently than typical brains and, as a result, she has a hard time recognizing people. “When I learned this it felt like discovering that everyone around me had X-Men powers,” she said.

In response to this revelation, she started studying faces, really looking at them. This led to doodling faces, which led to drawing faces. She now is about halfway to her goal of creating 100 vector drawings of faces, a challenge she invented for herself, in part to show her art students at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School that she can walk the walk—that she works hard for her craft, as she expects them to do. Young also teaches at Putney School during the summer. She spoke about how her drawing muscles are getting stronger because of her mission to create 100 drawings to Adobe Create Magazine. She uses Adobe Draw on her iPad and Adobe Illustrator on her Macbook Pro. “No filters, no tracing,” she said, “just marks on a surface, and from time to time I hit ‘undo.'” Continue reading

Working Artist Awards Recognize Devotion to Craft

Dancer and actor Triniti Slaughter ’18 in the dance studio

To recognize the many Williston students who put exceptional effort into their artistic pursuits, we bestow Williston Working Artist Awards. The following six students (and one faculty member) were given awards in singing, visual arts, theater, and dance during an assembly on November 1.

Tori Zingarelli ’18, who sings in the Widdigers, Teller Chorus, and the WildChords a cappella group, is building her musicianship skills in AP music theory, and will be making music through Williston Scholars in the winter. She performs as a soloist every chance she gets in concerts and assemblies, and before games sings the national anthem. She dedicates so much of her time to her music and strives to make her performances consistently exceptional. She plans to focus on voice and music in college. Continue reading

‘Luminous Planes’ Define Susannah Auferoth’s Paintings at the Grubbs Gallery

Shimmer by Susannah Auferoth; photo by David Hillberby Photography

Kicking off the 2017-18 exhibit schedule at the Grubbs Gallery will be Holyoke-based painter Susannah Auferoth. Auferoth uses oil paint and often resin and/or wax on wide stretches of paper or board, resulting in compositions that resemble flat horizons. Color palates differentiate each piece, as do the grades of hue in each stratum, and the subtle markings on each plane. Continue reading

Stage Manager Risa Tapanes Cues Up Williston Working Artist Award


A play cannot exist without a stage manager, especially a play with lights, props, entrances, exits, movement, story, and flow. The person who received the Williston Working Artist Award on May 10 is someone who remains invisible during performances, but without her, Williston literally could not have put on a show, theater director Emily Ditkovski said as she presented the award.

As stage manager of the spring production of Peter and the Starcatcher, Risa Tapanes ’18 was responsible for knowing every component of the production, including every actor’s blocking (movement on stage) and when each prop should come and go.

“When I am lost, I turn to Risa and she always has the answer,” Ditkovski said. “You probably don’t know that during each performance Risa sits high above the stage calling the show from the booth—telling our light board operator to change light cues (in Peter and the Starcatcher there were over 150). Risa isn’t just calling ‘Cue 3, standby. Cue 3, Go.’ She is living and breathing the performance with the actors, telling the story through these cues.”

Risa puts countless hours into her work inside and out of rehearsal making sure she knows the show backwards and forwards. “She is a leader,” Ditkovski added, “someone our cast and crew can always count on, and is one of the reasons our 1,000-plus audience members felt the magic of Peter and the Starcatcher.”

Peter and the Starcatcher: Truly Child’s Play

Peter Pan was initially created as author J.M. Barrie’s tribute to the five Llewelyn Davies boys, who Barrie had known from infancy and became his adopted sons after their parents’ death. The story we have all grown to know and love evolved out of Barrie’s dramatic play with the three middle boys, Peter, Michael, and John, and is a celebration of all things childhood. Peter Pan debuted on the stage in 1904. While the play was an immediate hit in London, Barrie could not stop editing and evolving the story even after it had opened (a rarity in the theater where shows are typically set by opening night). The process Barrie underwent to write Peter Pan mimicked how children adapt and change stories as they play.

Three of the LLewelyn Davies boys playing castaways– the make believe game that inspired J.M. Barrie to write PETER PAN.

Continue reading

Peter and the Starcatcher: A Group Poem

This poem was created by Harrison Winrow with help from the company of PETER AND THE STARCATCHER and read by the full cast  at assembly on March 25th. Created with and inspired by words from the show, we hoped it would give our school a taste of the story. By popular demand we include it here. You can also read it in our program when you come see PETER AND THE STARCATCHER. Either way,  enjoy. Continue reading

Williston Working Artists Receive Awards

Williston conferred the Williston Working Artist Award on two students at an assembly on April 5. Triniti Slaughter ’18 and Yana Pyryalina ’18 received the awards, which recognize exemplary effort and mastery of an art form.

Triniti Slaughter '18
Triniti Slaughter ’18

Emily Ditkovski, visual and performing arts teacher and director of the Williston Theatre, spoke about Triniti’s devotion to dance and acting. “With lines and blocking memorized, the cast of Peter and the Starcatcher are busy putting together all of the pieces of the show. With moving set pieces and actors swimming and flying across the stage, we have our work cut out for us. It is certainly not easy.” She continued: “The Williston Working Artist award in the theater goes to a cast member who has embraced this challenge fully. Never missing a beat (literally and figuratively) and always there for her fellow starcatchers, Triniti demonstrates the camaraderie, creativity, and focus an actor needs. Continue reading

Williston’s ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ Traces a Heroic Journey

starcatcher-webPeter and the Starcatcher unfolds the origin story of Peter Pan, and in doing so, invites theater-goers to join a heroic journey. The Williston Northampton School’s theater program presents the play April 27 to 29, and May 4 to 6 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available here and go on sale on April 1. They cost $10 general admission and $7 for students and seniors.

The young adult book on which this play is based was co-written by humorist Dave Barry, and the play offers contemporary jokes and is told in a tongue-in-cheek style, said Williston Theater Director Emily Ditkovski. The Broadway production of Peter and the Starcatcher was nominated for a Tony award for best play in 2016.

According to Ditkovski, the play explores the often-dark path to find one’s best self. “There is no straight trajectory. The messiness of the journey is really important,” she said. “But that best self is there. It’s findable.” Continue reading

Justin Kim Paintings Challenge Tradition

Painting by Justin Kim
Painting by Justin Kim

Justin Kim’s work, on view at Williston’s Grubbs Gallery through April 28, combines the grand tradition of figure painting with a contemporary sensibility, exploring themes including archetype, pastiche, authenticity, and the relationship between technology and the artist’s hand. In addition to landscapes and figures, Kim works on miniature collages, combining forms and figures from traditional painting. His work generates tension between artifice and reality while challenging traditional painting structures.

Painting by Justin Kim
Painting by Justin Kim

Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Kim received a B.A. from Yale University and an M.F.A. from the American University in Washington, D.C. He interned with the artist David Hockney, and has taught at Yale, Dartmouth College, Smith College, and Deep Springs College in California. The recipient of several residencies and awards, he has exhibited both regionally and nationally.