Stevenson students trade textbooks for makeup brushes, drums as part of fine arts fest
Traditional coursework took a back seat to jewelry making, floral design and dozens of other art forms Tuesday at Lincolnshire's Stevenson High School as part of the Odyssey fine arts festival.
Held every two years, Odyssey replaces the students' regular schedule with programs led by people who work in the arts. This year's Odyssey schedule includes 560 hands-on classes and 52 performances by 250 visiting artists.
Professional drum instructor Tony Taneji Garrett led a class about African drumming. With each student assigned a drum, he taught them how to properly play the instruments while talking about their cultural and historic importance.
"The drum was the very first instrument, after the human voice," he told one group.
Other topics on Tuesday's schedule included game development, documentary filmmaking, cartooning, Afro-Cuban dance and the circus arts.
Wednesday's schedule includes sessions about screenwriting, stand-up comedy, stage combat, origami, watercolor painting, Irish dance and magic.
All of Stevenson's 4,300 students participate in Odyssey, regardless of artistic interest or aptitude.
"It is our hope students discover the arts and gain experiences that spark new interests, hobbies, direction for course selection or future career paths," Stevenson Fine Arts Director Jonathan Grice said.
Grice believes experiencing the arts is essential for high school students.
"When individuals participate in the arts as creators, performers and audience members, we believe it enhances their physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being," he said. "Odyssey is just one small way for us to provide hands-on (activities) and performances for students to experience, develop and grow."
This year's performers and instructors include Stevenson alumni as well as current Stevenson employees and students.
Kristoffer Neumann, a 1996 Stevenson graduate who works as a special effects makeup and theatrical makeup artist, led a program about his craft Tuesday. He taught students how to make realistic-looking scars on their skin.
"If you have not yet, throw some blood on there," Neumann advised near the end of a morning session.
Not surprisingly, the teens had a blast in that class.
"It's pretty fun," freshman Caitlyn Altenberg said. "I could trick a lot of people."
But Altenberg saw a practical side to the makeup tutorial, too.
"I've always wanted to be part of a crew in a (theater) show, so this could be another option if they need any makeup help," she said.