The Quiet Competition of Latin’s Art Collection


Beatrice Parr

Acrylic self-portrait of Beatrice Parr ’21

There is an undeniable streak of pride in Latin’s creatives. While it’s not always easy to find a school known for its visual arts, Latin has many opportunities for artists and writers to showcase their work beyond the brief span of an art class. Among various clubs and student publications, the most devoted of these outlets would be Latin’s Permanent Collection of Art. Constructed of student art from a diverse range of disciplines, the permanent collection remains a stalwart piece of the school’s iconography. Despite the sheer volume of work, the collection also emphasizes Latin’s push-and-pull between exclusivity and exclusion.

The carefulness with which each work is selected makes the collection stand alone in terms of status—honoring student work as something worth more than wall decor. Upper School Art Department chair Derek Haverland revealed the simple criteria for having an in-class work inducted into Latin’s hallways. “Certain [pieces] epitomize what an assignment can be—at the other end of the spectrum, people that just come up with things entirely on their own that make them pretty amazing,” he said.

While speaking with The Forum, Mr. Haverland removed an ink painting from the wall, revealing an outline of dust where the frame began. “In terms of permanent being permanent, they’re staying at the school.”

Much like the annual Class Day awards, the exclusivity factor of the selection process can be the source of anxiety and competition for many students interested in the visual arts. Sophomore Eva Ramette, currently enrolled in Painting Studio, said, “There’s a lot of people who are super good, but you also have to think about the ones that are up as the best of the best, and you shouldn’t base your work on them,” she said. “They’re also usually from AP classes, which aren’t really the goalpost for freshmen or sophomores.” Eva added that competition is an aspect of taking any art class, but it should incentivize doing one’s best work rather than discouraging the creation of it at all.

The uncertainty of burnout looms over any discipline, despite the not-entirely-wrong stereotype of a beleaguered creative. When speaking on behalf of her artistic process, “The stressors are time and self-comparison,” freshman Allegra Cerda said.

Junior Joanna Nar and freshman Francis Reh during Painting Studio (Christine Holloway)

“I want all the time in the world to work on something and better it, but there’s only so long until it’s due. It’s stressful if I start thinking about past things I’ve done outside of class, and if what I’m doing in class is as good,” she said.

In response, Allegra has a philosophy for combating creative frustration. “I like to try and make art something relaxing for myself,” she said. “It’s a break from school work that’s writing and reading and then writing about what you read and reading about what you wrote. I like those classes, but it’s nice to have a break with something different, something creative.”

Bea Parr ‘21 had her Observational Painting self-portrait inducted during her senior year, the acrylic painting sporting a grounded focus within an imaginative frame. “During my time at Latin, making art gave me a creative outlet and allowed me to think in ways I did not get to think in my other classes. For me, working on my artwork was a time to relax and to forget about other stresses,” she said.

Since her departure, Bea’s work is open to view on the third floor as a tribute to her time as both a student and artist. “Since Latin, my relationship [with] art has stayed the same, in that I really enjoy making art as it provides a bit of an escape from daily life. I am starting to explore other types of art though, including architecture, which is different in that [many other considerations dictate] my design in addition to pure creativity, but I really enjoy time in the architecture studio nonetheless.”

“Being inducted into the permanent art collection definitely made me think more about how other people view my work,” she said. “I usually make art for myself or for whatever assignment I am working on, so I do not think as much about how the population of Latin may view my work, and how they may view my work in years to come. I remember seeing students’ art in the hallways when I was at Latin and being inspired by previous students’ responses to assignments, and I am very honored to have my work hanging among theirs.”