Connecting and Collaborating
Parent Groups Build Relationships and Promote Ravenscroft’s Excellence
By Janice Lewine | Back to Table of Contents
Fine Arts Association: Fueling Students’ Creativity
Ravenscroft students have many opportunities to shine artistically — in galleries, on stage and in the classroom. Working behind the scenes to support these artists, musicians and thespians is the Fine Arts Association, which connects the Ravenscroft family with the Triangle arts community through fundraising, public relations and volunteer support.
Providing a first-rate education and showcasing students’ talents are the hallmarks of a superb fine arts department. David McChesney, Director of Fine Arts since 2004, said the FAA volunteers “do everything from helping with props and costumes and assisting backstage to proofing the Fine Arts Booklet, planning the Fine Arts Awards and Senior Recognition Picnic, and helping display art exhibits in the Pugh Family Lobby. We simply could not do what we do without their dedication.”
The cast of the ambitious production of “Chicago” in 2019 got a boost from FAA efforts such as flower sales and a PR campaign.
Jill Muti, Ravenscroft’s first Fine Arts director from 1986 to 2004, remembers how, as the program grew, parents stepped up to support it. “Once we built the Fine Arts Center in 1993 and we had a much more sophisticated structure of what we were offering in the arts, it became very clear that we had some wonderful opportunities to involve our parents in meaningful ways,” she said.
That year, she formed the Fine Arts Guild, which helped organize choir and band performances, a dance program with City Ballet in Raleigh and countless drama and musical productions. Parents with a passion for music performed in the Faculty/Student Orchestra and on domestic and international tours.
In 1997 Muti launched the Madrigal Dinner, a Renaissance-themed spectacle that features an authentic four-course meal and the school’s musicians, singers and actors performing in period costumes. As one of Ravenscroft’s most enduring fine arts events, the festive production depends on volunteers who plan the menu, make props, sew costumes, sell tickets and decorate the young peoples’ theatre in Elizabethan style.
FAA volunteers assist the theater department with costumes and props for shows such as “Marat/Sade” (2015) and a steampunk staging of “Richard III” (2017).
Alumni parent and former Fine Arts administrative assistant Judith Yarbrough worked closely with the guild from 1993 to 2005. Among the guild’s contributions in that time, she recalled, was designing original costumes for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”; organizing a concert series featuring guest artists from the Chamber Orchestra and the Borromeo String Quartet; and helping create the Visiting Artist Portfolio Series with Upper and Middle School teachers in 1996. “Whatever needed to be done, I was involved in it in some way,” she added with a laugh.
A decade ago, the group changed its name to the Fine Arts Association, and it continues to be as vibrant as ever. In addition to promoting band, strings and choir performances, the association has helped with staging recent theater productions including “Beauty and the Beast,” “Chicago” and “Emilie: La Marquise du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight.” The group also plans dinners for the cast and crew in the hectic weeks leading up to a theater performance and promotes every student production to the fullest. As FAA President Angela Keifer said, “We support the teachers and the students so that everyone is appreciated.”
This student-made video promotes 2018’s “A Grand Night for Singing,” just one of the many fine arts performances made possible by the volunteer support of FAA.
Refusing to sit out the COVID-19 pandemic, the FAA continues to provide hands-on support, albeit remotely, to teachers preparing for concerts that will be prerecorded or livestreamed this fall. The association is also helping to organize an exhibition by textile artist Caitlin Cary in the Pugh Family Lobby and working its behind-the-scenes magic for the theater department’s production of “Disney’s Frozen Jr.” in early 2021.
“We need the arts now more than ever,” said Elisabeth McChesney, the department’s administrative assistant, who also serves as the FAA’s treasurer and liaison to department faculty and staff. “We’re so grateful to have these parents working with us despite the current challenges.”
Bonita Young and Kelly Margraf enjoy an FAA volunteer and staff appreciation luncheon in 2017.
Above, Fine Arts Association volunteers assist with a wide range of hands-on duties, including preparing student work for exhibition, such as this 2019 event.
Want to get involved with a parent group? Check the school’s master calendar for Zoom meeting dates and links, and read the dedicated “Parent Involvement” section of the Ravenscroft Weekly for information and updates.
Faculty and staff discuss the impact of parent groups on our school and community.
Ravenscroft Magazine, Summer 2019