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Southwestern Academy Celebrates 8th Annual ArtsFest

The students at Southwestern Academy displayed different artistic talents at this year's ArtsFest.

’s San Marino campus held its 8th annual Arts Fest on March 31 to share visual, written and performance art from Southwestern Academy students at the San Marino and Arizona campuses.

Colorful paintings, photographs, skateboard designs and fashion designs graced part of the campus while some students read poetry or performed songs like No Woman No Cry and My Girl as students, faculty and alumni cheered them on in the outdoor amphitheater.

“It’s not just the visual and performing arts department,” said John Kohn, Southwestern Academy’s Visual and Performing Arts Chair. “This year the Spanish class is participating with a Day of the Dead display. The English department is participating because we are including their poetry reading. We consider a lot of the things that we do art.”

Skateboard design was one of the most prevalent art forms displayed at this year’s ArtsFest.

“Students study a particular artist, copy one of their paintings and translate that into their own design onto the skateboard,” said Kohn.

Some artists that students garnered inspiration from for their skateboard designs were Edvard Munch, who created the famous piece “The Scream”, Frida Kahlo, and Rene Magritte.

Each student is required to take at least one year of visual and performing arts, Kohn said.

“If they have a particular interest in an area they can pursue that also because we have very small class sizes,” said Kohn. “If a student is interested in fashion, just because we don’t offer it doesn’t mean they can’t do it. We have a lot of flexibility with our curriculum.”

Almost all of Southwestern Academy’s students—about 130—attended ArtsFest. Since the academy is mostly a boarding school, Kohn noted students pretty much didn’t have a choice since the event was held in their backyard.  

“I like that the teachers participate too,” said Erica Arosco Cruz, an Altadena resident who has two middle school-aged children that are Southwestern Academy day students. “They’re going to perform Hotel California and a couple of the students are doing drums and one of the teachers will be doing vocals.”

Cruz’s sixth grade son was one of the ArtsFest emcees this year.    

Students from more than 25 countries attend Southwestern Academy and Kohn said the variety of cultures exposes students to different types of art.

“We had a Chinese student that wanted to do traditional Chinese brush painting.” Kohn said. “A lot of the American kids haven’t seen someone try to do that so it’s good to introduce kids to a style that maybe they haven’t seen before.”

Student Jim Kim, 17, is from Korea and said he enjoyed the different songs from other countries at ArtsFest. Kim is in his fifth year at Southwestern Academy and has performed songs at previous ArtsFests.  

“Many people from the outside campus can join the Arts Fest and everyone can have experience with the music, arts and everything,” said Kim. “It’s about the diversity. That’s what I like the most.”

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