Upper School painting and drawing students made meaningful connections while undertaking an art project that allowed them to delve into the personalities of members of the SAGE Dining Services team.
Lauren Cunningham, Upper School studio art, art history, and Malone Schools Online Network teacher, conceived the project this past May. The end of the academic year was approaching, and she realized that lunch would no longer be provided for her. “As much as I look forward to summer vacation, I also dread the summer months because I am forced to make plans for lunch every day,” Cunningham said. “I really value the meal I get in the FDP during the week. It’s a perk of my job and one of the many reasons I love working at FWCD.”
She recalled growing up in Atlanta and attending The Westminster Schools, an independent school not unlike Fort Worth Country Day. “The faculty trained us to say thank you to the cafeteria staff every day as we went through the serving line,” she said. “I don’t see the same daily expression of gratitude at FWCD, and I wanted to help students recognize the incredible service SAGE provides.”
Cunningham reached out to Brett Schauermann, SAGE food service director, to propose a collaboration between painting/drawing students and the SAGE staff. She conveyed the scope of the project: “Painting/drawing students will create charcoal portraits of the SAGE staff,” Cunningham wrote in an email. “My goal for this project would be to bring recognition to the SAGE staff and make my students--and the larger School community--aware of their hard work.”
Schauermann was thrilled for his team to be part of the project. Cunningham also reached out to students’ parents, letting them know about the inspiration for the project and what it entailed. “My hope is to display the finished drawings in the dining hall, so that the entire school cannot only celebrate the talents of the painting/drawing students, but also see the faces of the individuals who work behind the scenes to prepare our lunches and feed the entire School community each day,” Cunningham explained in an email to parents.
Students hit the ground running on this project right as school started. Each student was required to shadow his/her SAGE model, conduct a brief interview and then photograph the model in his/her element.
Grace Goldman ’18 worked with Schauermann on this project. Following her interview/photo session with Schauermann, she asked Cunningham if she could go back to the Fischer Dining Pavilion to take more photos of Schauermann in his element. “Grace told me that in her interview with Brett, he shared with her that his favorite part of the day is interacting with students,” Cunningham shared. “At the time of the interview, he was in the kitchen. Grace wanted the opportunity to photograph him with students.” With this interaction, Cunningham knew the project was making an impact.
Schauermann was honored, as was his entire team, to be part of this project. “I felt like a celebrity when Grace was in the FDP taking photos of me,” he said.
Harriette Hull ’18 interviewed John Benjamin on his very first day on the job in the FDP. “He got really animated and was posing with his tray of food,” she said. “His expressiveness made him fun to draw.”
In total, 17 students immersed themselves in this project and drew 13 SAGE team members. “The project was eye-opening,” Cunningham said. “For many students, it was their first time seeing the School’s kitchen. One student did not know the School had a kitchen, and some students were unaware that so much of the food SAGE cooks for us is prepared in-house and fresh.”
“Friendships also grew out of this project,” Cunningham added. “My students now know many of the SAGE staff by name, and they [SAGE] know my students. I reminded my students that the project was about more than just you [the student] and your art.”
Before starting the drawing process, Cunningham taught students techniques for working with charcoal, which is a very unstable medium and difficult to master. Each student drew a gray scale and sphere as well as key facial features, specifically eyes and noses, to prepare for the portrait.
The final portraits were unveiled at a reception that took place on Tuesday morning in the Goff Room of the FDP. Students, SAGE team members, parents, faculty, staff and administrators came to view the artworks and celebrate the project. Many students and SAGE models posed together in front of their portraits.
“What an extraordinary way to connect the community, showcase the SAGE team’s hard work and highlight our talented artists,” said Bill Arnold ’86, head of Upper School.
For Cunningham, the project was an even bigger success than she imagined. “I am so proud of the students,” she shared. “They truly learned about the human side of art through this project.”
The following artists and SAGE team members were paired for the project
Ana Martinez, Cook (Salad): Camille Staid ’19, Joanne Wu ’17, Julia Petsche ’20
John Conley, Lead Cook: Hannah Barron ’19
John Benjamin, Cook: Harriette Hull ’18
Essie Murray, Utility: Isaac Griffin ’19
Courtney Garcia, Falcon Feeder Cashier: Reagan Smith ’17
Cristina Garcia, Cook (Deli): Vanessa Silva ’20
Sofia Duran, Catering Lead: Abby Shaffer ’19, Bianca Finzi ’19
Ally Najera, Utility: Peri Huling ’19
Diana Castro, Falcon Feeder Cashier: Campbell Robinson ’19, Mia Kovachev ’20
LaDonna Holloman, Utility: Payton Childress ’19
Garrett Smith, Cook: Bird Luker ’19
Brett Schauermann, Food Service Director: Grace Goldman ’18
, Assistant Food Service Director: Abby Hoffacker
View the SAGE Staff Portraits video
to meet the artists and their models.