An ode to the Fine Arts Department


Illustration by Aubrey Palaganas

Esther Lim, co-a&e editor

Among the many water fountains peppered throughout South, I’ve always had a go-to: the Fine Arts Department fountain. It’s a different model than the others in the building. It has a boxy, awkward design with a grayish plastic laminate cover and a shiny golden button to turn on the water, but don’t let its humble exterior fool you. The water is icy cold every single time, has the perfect water pressure and the water is crisper than any sip you’ll get in an overpriced bottle  sold at the vending machines or in the cafeteria.

I’ll be the first to admit it; a water fountain is a strange thing for a senior to reminisce about (much less write a column on) while looking back on their four years of high school, but it means a bit more to me than that crisp sip.

If you’ve spent any time in the Fine Arts Department, you’ve probably taken a cool, refreshing drink at that oasis of a water fountain. And then, well, you probably carried on with your busy extracurricular schedule without much thought. The next day, the next class, the next rehearsal, the next practice, the next run-through: it meshes together to become a blur, and at the end of a long day, you just feel tired. And the mountain of untouched homework assignments never helped.

So why did any of us return the next day at all? Why did we lug around our cumbersome instruments from one rehearsal and then the next and then another? How did we run around every corner of the school to capture the spirit of our school in the lens of a camera? How did we spend long rehearsal nights perfecting lighting cues and heaving entire sets across a darkened stage?

These are valid questions, no doubt. I’ve asked myself this every year since freshman year. Admittedly, I asked myself this question more on those nights where the homework and the tests seemed to tower over my sleep-deprived head. And as a senior, I think I’ve finally come up with an answer.

We devote our hours in the department for the same reason I returned to that water fountain every single time to refill my water bottle, wave hello to Mrs. Travers (and in previous years, Mr. Maranto, too) or catch my breath after running the mile in P.E. It’s our oasis. Because the truth is, nothing else—not even that pile of homework—matters when you’re in the Fine Arts Department. Time passes and you don’t notice, you craft families you couldn’t do without and you flourish your passion without barriers—in other words, you make art.

Given how much the class of 2021 missed out on in their senior experience, I feel a bit silly feeling sad about a water fountain. But thinking of that water fountain makes me feel a bit somber and especially nostalgic. That water fountain will be there even after I’ve graduated. It’ll keep its ground in that little nook in the department hallway as it has for the last four years of my life, welcoming tired students through those double doors.

I’ll never again be able to experience the water fountain as it was in the small, special moments I had in the Fine Arts Department. It was always a resting place, a place where nothing else mattered but the cold water on my tired lips and the distant sound of someone singing, practicing or laughing inside the practice rooms. In the same way, I’ll never be able to experience the fine arts in the same way I have as a high schooler. Make no mistake, I’ll stick with playing my French horn even in college, but no matter what ensembles I join, playing just won’t feel the same as the late evening rehearsals, the hours-long dress rehearsals, the cozy practice rooms. There will never be the same water fountain, and there will never be the same Fine Arts Department.

That fountain represents all that I have loved about the Fine Arts Department since freshman year. Wherever we come from, whether it be a heavy heart full of anxiety, a fear for the future or just a particularly long school day of academics, the department is waiting. And so is that ice cold, crisp sip from that water fountain.