Various programs offered with plans to expand
By Jack Criss
The Bolivar Bullet
Bayou Academy Headmaster, Curt McCain, and Art Department Chairperson, Rivers Gainspoletti, could not be happier about the school’s fairly new Fines Arts program and its accomplishments and achievements since being instituted a mere two years ago. The school is also set to break ground any day now on a whole new Fine Arts building devoted to the new department.
“When we first hired Rivers a couple of years ago, she had a vision for the school and our arts department,” said McCain. “Around that same time, Bayou Academy started its band program, so we’ve moved incredibly fast and in a very positive direction in a short period of time. In the band, for instance, we started two years ago with 29 students. Today, we’ve doubled that number to 40 and have both a beginner’s and intermediate program.” McCain also mentioned that a new Culinary Arts class will soon be added to the fine arts curriculum.
Total class offerings in the art department including the newly-added Jr. High Art along with the pre-existing High School Art and Elementary Art. “And this year we also added Drama to our arts curriculum,” said McCain. “To celebrate all of these new programs, we had a campus-wide art day not long ago where we displayed student’s works throughout the school, the band played during the afternoon and the Drama team also put on a production. It was a great event.”
Gainspoletti, who is also a History teacher, said that the “arts” in the Fine Arts department includes mixed media, charcoal work, ceramics, graphic design, photography and sculpture, along with traditional painting and sketching.
“Our students are required to have one credit of Fine Arts, so these are elective courses,” said McCain. “But students are certainly allowed to take more of what interests them specifically. And what’s wonderful about today’s young scholars is that it’s considered ‘cool’ now to be an artist or to be in a band–that old perception, or competition, of ‘jock’ versus ‘artist’ is not so prevalent anymore. In fact, some of our student athletes are also heavily involved in our arts program, and vice versa. I myself was a student athlete who learned to play the trombone in school,” added McCain, “and that’s more of a common theme with today’s kids.”
“I grew up in a school with no arts in the curriculum at all,” noted Gainspoletti. “So, for me to be over this program and see it blossom as it has, is a true honor. And also, not all students are the most academically-gifted: they might be talented in other areas, such as the arts. So now we’re offering those types of students a chance to possibly become chefs, musicians or art teachers themselves through our programs,” she said. “We’re helping to instill all of the qualities and learning that make up a complete student.”
The Drama class recently put on a (student-revised) performance of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” at Cleveland’s Delta Arts Alliance building downtown which was open to the public, said McCain, and the school band played at last year’s Christmas parade. “So, we’ve done some performances outside of school and plan on doing more in the near future,” said McCain. “We’ve also had art work by our students displayed at various shows and competitions and a few have even won awards for their submissions.”
Gainspoletti said the Shakespeare presentation was especially interesting. “The kids totally rewrote it as a 2023 version,” she said. “with the play being set in Cleveland and New Orleans. They worked long and hard on it and did a great job!”
So, while budget cuts are putting many school arts programs in jeopardy–if not outright extinction–all across the country, Bayou Academy is bucking that trend and helping its students in the process. “That, and the fact that Cleveland is really now known as a mecca for arts, an arts community, with all that the town has to offer,” said McCain. “We’re excited here to be training a group of young, up and coming artists in our school and are so pleased with the support received from our parents and the general community.”
Teachers in the Arts Department include Ann Marie Myers, Elementary Music and Bayou Blues; Stephen Hugley, Band; Morgan Andrews, Drama and Elementary Art; Meghann Yee, Junior High Art; and Rivers Gainspoletti, High School Art and Ceramics. The Culinary Arts class will be added in the upcoming 2023-24 school year.