Thriving in the Arts

Freddie Felten checks out the display of art work from his kindergarten classmates.

thriving arts and theater program was celebrated at Our Lady of Malibu School Thursday evening during the 2018 OLM Student Art Show & Theatre, which showcased the talents of many artistic students. Nearly all 115 children enrolled at OLM participated in what’s become a yearly event to display their accomplished art work and then perform a play al fresco on the campus sports court. 

This year, OLM’s middle school students tackled Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” complete with a swashbuckling sword fight that enchanted the many parents and supporters in attendance.

The school’s “fun family celebration of the arts” is always held in the springtime to take advantage of the mild weather and late sunsets so participants can enjoy the outdoors. Although the weather was a bit nippy on Thursday, the setting was gorgeous as the 50 or so middle school Shakespearean actors preceded the play with a candlelight procession approaching the outdoor stage. 

Under the direction of eighth grade teacher and OLM school alumna, Savannah Armour, hirsute characters played by youngsters sporting glued-on beards and mustaches—while dressed in period costumes—brought the classic story of star-crossed young lovers to life, to the delight of the crowd there to support them. Playing Romeo was seventh grader Cassius Griesemer to eighth grader Eliza Byrnes’ Juliet. The young actors kept close to the original dialogue while also adding a bit of modernity with touches of modern elements and music.

The evening was meant to celebrate creativity, arts and family. 

“Tonight is to showcase the art and the kids and what they’ve done,” OLM parent Bonnie Flores said.

All the grades—from kindergarten to eighth—contributed to an art gallery display of their craftsmanship and paintings under the tutelage of the school’s outgoing art teacher, Patrice Wachs. 

When Wachs started at the school seven years ago, the art rooms were not equipped with sinks, and therefore not ready to accommodate the messes that can come with colors and paints. At first, she used a carport, which was eventually transformed into an art studio with the generous help of the school’s parents. It took five years, but the space is now a dedicated art center where students can learn painting, drawing, watercolor, ceramics and photography.

Wachs said, “I’m passionate about art because I’ve done it all my life. This is a Catholic school, so coming from that point of view, God gave everybody a creative sense that you can do anything. So that’s how I approach my teaching. It comes from within.”

Most of the pieces on display showed proficiency in talent and Wachs agreed, calling them “amazing.” 

“I know these kids are capable of so much. I make them go there. They have an opportunity to express themselves here,” Wachs said, mentioning that she often finds kids in the art room during school recess and lunch. 

Wachs will soon be moving to Northern California; when asked about the move, she said, “I will miss everything. I love all the students and I love all the teachers. I had a lot of freedom here to do an art program.”

The students and parents say they will miss Wachs too. 

Celebrity parent Charlie Sheen commented: “The art program is fantastic. The progress that so many of these children have made, especially my two daughters, without question there’s an absolute blossoming of an awareness that you can see through the art. There’s a maturity and social awareness.” 

Sheen added his children are “forever grateful” for Wachs’ contributions.

Two of the school’s younger artists, Yongjae Kwon and Holden Backus, have been in the art program for three years. Kwon, an 8-year-old third grader, said he enjoys painting, pottery and his art teacher. Eight-year-old Holden Backus, another third grader, called Wachs’ art program “modern” and after three years of studying painting, Backus called his style “modern” as well.

“She brings out the absolute best artists in all four of my children in different ways,” added parent Greer Brath, speaking of Wachs. “We’ll miss her.”