Festival of the Arts returns in-person after two years online


Photo courtesy Leah Linsin

The Whitman community celebrated the school’s first in-person Festival of the Arts event in nearly two years on April 27-28. The festival showcased students’ artwork, and featured performances from the school’s music groups and drama program.

By Greta Berglund

The Whitman community celebrated the school’s first in-person Festival of the Arts event since May 2019 on April 27-28. The festival showcased students’ artwork, and featured performances from Whitman’s music groups and drama program. 

The event commenced on Wednesday evening with performances from three a cappella groups and a rendition of the “Kangding Love Song” by the Freshman Ensemble in the auditorium lobby. Later, the school’s bands, orchestras and choirs took the auditorium stage, and the cast of Whitman Drama’s upcoming spring play Failure: A Love Story acted out a scene from the production.

On Thursday evening, students, parents, and community members browsed student art displays and listened to additional a capella performances in the Commons. Students from Whitman’s studio art, digital art, ceramics, photography and other art classes presented their work. The school’s Chamber and Advanced Treble Choirs, Chamber Orchestra and Wind and Jazz Ensembles also played in the auditorium.

For Whitman’s artist community, Festival of the Arts is a unique opportunity to celebrate students’ creativity and showcase the school’s arts programs, said Orchestra teacher Heather Borsum.

“The music, the visual arts, and the drama programs are super strong,” Borsum said. “Having a huge event really shows everybody how much is going on at Whitman and what the kids are creating.”

In 2020 and 2021, the festival took place virtually and displayed pre-recorded musical acts and student portfolios on a website specially-created for the festival.

However, the festival’s virtual format made it more difficult to foster the strong sense of community among artists and spectators that the in-person exhibitions provided, leaving some painters like sophomore Gwendolyn Wiley frustrated.

“Art is how I escaped from stress, and I was so sad that I wasn’t going to be able to share my creativity with people,” Wiley said. “I couldn’t interact with other artists in person and talk to them about their work.”

While students traditionally sell their artwork at the festival, MCPS prohibited sales of student work this year.

However, the festival still offers students a valuable opportunity to perform and to display their art in a realistic setting, said photography teacher Michael Seymour, who helped organize this years’ event.

“We wanted to give our students the chance to show artwork like a professional artist,” Seymour said. “The idea is to have an authentic exhibiting experience in an actual art show.”

For trumpet player Ariel Kim, a freshman, the festival was a unique experience to see and learn from talented musicians.

“It was really fun watching other people’s performances,” said Kim, who performed with Whitman’s Concert Band. “It was also fun performing in front of an audience. It was kind of nerve wracking, but a really good experience overall.”

Whitman’s Festival of the Arts celebrated its 59th anniversary this year, and it continues to help students like Wiley and other artists receive greater recognition for their artwork, she said.

“I think just showing up to support the [arts] community is very important to artists,” Wiley said. “It’s really important for the artist to be able to get their artwork out for the public to see.”