Lyme Academy brings its class for high-schoolers to the Lyman Allyn
The only sound is of pencils scratching on drawing paper as students sketch the model posing in front of the class. The teenagers gaze at the model and then at their paper as they studiously draw the head cocked this way or an arm held that way. Teacher Teresa Bonillo walks among the easels and observes, occasionally offering the students advice — suggesting to one student, for instance, that she tighten her wrist.
These high-school students are working as part of a pre-college life-drawing class being offered by Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, a college of the University of New Haven.
The difference, though, is that the session isn’t taking place on the academy’s Old Lyme campus but rather in New London, at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum.
Lyme Academy tries to provide high school students, especially those in underserved communities, with foundational training in the fine arts by bringing them to its Old Lyme campus, says Marguerite d’Aprile Quigley, who is director of Lyme Academy’s Center for Arts Programing.
“Although we’ve tried to do this for quite a while, what we’re struggling with more and more is we’re unable to reach the students that need it the most largely because of transportation needs,” d’Aprile Quigley says.
Last summer, Lyme Academy launched its Pre-College Academy, and four students from New London public schools wanted to participate. Lyme Academy gave them all full scholarships — but the teens couldn’t get transportation from New London to Old Lyme and so couldn’t attend.
That led to a conversation between Lyme Academy and Lyman Allyn officials. (D’Aprile Quigley is married to D. Samuel Quigley, director of the Lyman Allyn.)
The focus was on how the two facilities might work together to bring some of the Lyme programming into New London. Lyman Allyn, which provides a summer camp for students through eighth grade, said the programs could use its facilities during the academic year.
D’Aprile Quigley says, “They are thrilled because it brings high school students into the museum. We’re thrilled because we can now reach students for whom transportation was a barrier.”
Another note on the transportation issue: An anonymous woman contacted d’Aprile Quigley to say she would pay for a taxi if any of the participating New London students couldn’t get from the high school to the museum or from the museum back home.
“It’s one of those feel-good things,” d’Aprile Quigley says, adding that it’s wonderful for kids “to know there are people in the greater community who want to help.”
The Thursday night class at Lyman Allyn is filled, having reached its 12-person maximum. The students come from seven towns: East Lyme, Old Lyme, Montville, New London, East Haddam, Colchester and Clinton. Leading the sessions is Bonillo, a Lyme Academy alum who grew up in New London and now teaches art at Stonington High School.
Eric Gilmore, a New London High School senior, says he was interested in last summer’s Lyme Academy Pre-College Academy with the idea “that it could help me get into college and that it would provide (me with) more artistic background and understanding.”
When he learned he couldn’t attend because of a lack of transportation, he spent time instead working on what he could on his own, including his portfolio. Then, he says, “when my teacher told me about (the fall sessions in New London), she was like, ‘Okay, this is a sure thing,’ I was like, ‘Really? Yay. Okay.’”
Kimberly Green, a New London High School sophomore who’d like to work in animation, says of the class at Lyman Allyn, “It’s been really fun. I’m learning a lot of things.”
The class involves life drawing, and d’Aprile Quigley says, “Why this is critical is that no high school, whether it’s public or private, brings real models into the classroom. Yet, when a high school student is putting together their portfolio and applying to college, especially to an art school, if they have examples of life drawing in their portfolio, it’s a clear indicator to a college admissions officer that they’re serious because they’re engaging in instruction outside of the classroom. So it kind of gives that student a leg up — here’s a real serious student, they’re taking either private instruction or going someplace outside of the classroom to learn how to do life drawing, observational drawing.”
Consequently, she says, this program helps level the playing field for all students.
Class tuition is $185, which includes drawing materials and supplies. Four students received full scholarships.
Lyme Academy is looking to offer a spring session of pre-college classes in both Old Lyme and New London. Registration would open Feb. 1, and classes would start March 15. (In addition, Lyme Academy offers open figure drawing classes every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at its Old Lyme campus; it’s open to anyone in the community and is free to students with I.D.)
The benefits of this pre-college program extend beyond students who plan to become artists.
“Whether a student goes on to go to an art school or to get a BFA, just that exposure to the arts helps open up all kinds of creative and innovative thinking, and that kind of thinking is paramount in every industry,” d’Aprile Quigley says. “Whether it’s in the arts or whether it’s in business, we need creative, innovative thinkers.”