Gigi Devlin '24
Sep 30, 2022
When Quentin McDowell assumed his role as Interim Head of School last year, one of his duties included purchasing a piece from the senior art show for the Head of School Collection. He chose two: “TEENAGE 10+8” by Shin Miyamichi ‘22 and a piece by Joyce Cui ‘22.
It is tradition that the Head of School will purchase only one, but in his own words, he “couldn’t help himself.”
When deciding which pieces to select, McDowell said he wanted to choose not only pieces that were aesthetically appealing but also pieces whose artists had made significant contributions to the arts department at Mercersburg.
“Art is different for anyone who looks at it, so the artist is an important consideration,” said McDowell who interviewed Cui and had been following her art and her career during her years at Mercersburg. Miyamichi’s piece earned a gold medal and American vision’s medal in the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards.
In particular, Miyamichi’s piece spoke to McDowell because he believes it reflects where we are as a society, and the style reminded him of his brother’s art. For Cui’s piece, he was really drawn by the composition of the piece and how it was made.
McDowell noted the purpose of having a Head of School purchase prize. “We ask our students to put a lot of themselves in what they create. It only seems fitting that we would want to retain some of that for the school for future generations to see and be inspired. It’s wonderful to have art by famous artists, but as a school, our art collections should really be student-focused.”
When McDowell worked in admission, his office showcased an art piece by a student who attended the school before McDowell even arrived. He said can’t even count how many families have asked about the piece. This is one of his favorite aspects of holding the collection – being able to walk around the buildings on campus and see the various pieces.
In his tenure, he hopes that he can curate a collection that is a reflection of how he views himself and the school, making sure the two stay aligned. “I hope that we could look at Shin’s painting and be able to see that it is so reflective of where we are in this moment in time with COVID and mental health and be able to look at the life of a teenager as something poetic.”
“Art reflects where we are as a community, [and] that needs to be preserved,” said McDowell. When people look back over time, they will see art that not only represents the artist but the school, the times, and the thin blue line.