An extract from the Shoreline Arts Alliance’s press release detailing the awards at their Future Choices 2018 Juried Student Art Competition and Exhibition, which covers 24 towns in the shoreline region of Southeastern Connecticut, reads as follows:
Awards for Best in Show and First Place in Print, as well as a scholarship to Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, were presented to Emily Archer of Lyme-Old Lyme High School. William Allik of Lyme-Old Lyme High School was the recipient of an award sponsored by Future Choices founder, Earl Grenville Killeen. A new award in memory of Ruth Baxter-Tagliatella … was presented to Claudia Mergy from Lyme-Old Lyme High School.
Moving on to the results of the 2018 Connecticut Scholastic Art Awards, consider this:
In painting, Senior Claudia Mergy of Lyme-Old Lyme High School received two Gold Keys for individual works and a Gold Key for her portfolio. Senior Emily Archer of Lyme-Old Lyme High School won a Gold Key in the printmaking category, Junior Mya Johnson of Lyme-Old Lyme High School was awarded a Silver Key in Ceramics, and Junior Kathryn Atkinson of Lyme-Old Lyme High School earned Honorable Mention in Drawing. Gold Key works will go on to be juried at the national level.
The preponderance of awards to students from Lyme-Old Lyme High School (LOLHS) in these two prestigious art contests is striking, especially in light of the size of the school, which has only 462 students. Moreover, the number of awards won by students from LOLHS this year was by no means an exception. Year after year, students from the school bring home major awards from these two contests and in fact, last year LOLHS won the Shoreline Art Alliance’s Judy Streeter Outstanding School Award for the fourth consecutive year.
Eric Dillner, Executive Director and CEO of the Shoreline Arts Alliance, comments, “Lyme-Old Lyme High School consistently has a strong showing [in the Future Choices competition] submitting memorable works and garnering many awards. This year, students from Lyme-Old Lyme were the recipients of two of our most prestigious awards.”
Why then is the art program at LOLHS so successful?
Adam Raiti, who teaches digital and three-dimensional art at LOLHS, suggests there are a number of reasons. First and foremost, he believes that the fact, “Lyme-Old Lyme Schools hire teachers who are artists” represents a major difference over many other high school art programs. Apart from being a teacher, Raiti, who is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), is an extremely successful freelance illustrator and designer.
Similarly, LOLHS Art Department Head William Allik, a Wesleyan University graduate, is a highly respected artist, whose work has been featured in numerous exhibitions around the country. Raiti explains, “We can both bring our real world experiences to the table,” noting that sometimes he sets tasks for his students drawn from work commissioned by his business clients.
Both teachers are classically-trained artists, but Allik, in keeping with the trends of those times, focused on abstract painting during his undergraduate years. After graduation, he continued his art career on the West coast of the US and, in his words, soon “figured out I didn’t want to be an abstract painter.” He returned to the East and was admitted to the élite New York Academy, where his studies included anatomy and cast-drawing.
There, Allik learned what were then perceived as the old-fashioned and outdated skills of the Renaissance Great Masters, which he describes as having been “flushed out in the 70s” with the meteoric rise of modern art. He developed a passion for realism and representational art, which were not then in vogue, but ultimately have stood the test of time, and enabled him to teach his students – in the simplest of terms —“to draw well.”
Allik points out that all the top art schools in the country are now looking again for the “traditional skills” and the fact that every year LOLHS graduates are being admitted to schools like RISD, Pratt Institute, Savannah School of Art and Design (SCAD), Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), and Parsons, is testament to his focus on teaching students “to learn to speak the language of drawing.”
Allik still insists his students take mechanical drawing working by hand with a T-square and triangle on a drafting board, rather than, as would happen in most high schools, using a computer. He emphasizes that, “being able to draw well is a very versatile talent,” citing the professions of architecture, interior and industrial design, and engineering as examples in which, “drawing is the language millions use in their daily lives.”
Apart from the tremendous length, depth and breadth of experience of the faculty, Raiti notes another reason the Art Department thrives at Lyme-Old Lyme is the “phenomenal support from the administration and the community.” He comments that the department is “treated with respect” in a community with a history rooted in the arts, asking rhetorically, “Where else can you be [at high school] within walking distance of an accredited art college [Lyme Academy], the oldest art association in the country [Lyme Art Association] and a nationally-acclaimed art gallery [Florence Griswold Museum]?
Rick Lacey, who graduated from LOLHS in 2007, went on to receive a BFA from Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, and is now an instructor at the college, has nothing but praise for both Allik (Lacey graduated before Raiti joined the high school) and the program at his high school. Now an acclaimed artist himself, Lacey says, “The program at the high school is truly unique in the state and perhaps even the country. Will [Allik] shows that the teaching of classical drawing methods is still extremely important … he finds ways for students to begin to understand the concepts of perspective, proportion, and composition ... he really has had many years of great success at all levels.”
Lacey recalls that when Allik joined the high school, “There were only six of us in the whole program,” but now Allik has “Full classes all day long,” noting enthusiastically, “He is really on to something and the students pick up on that.” Lacey describes Allik as, “… an incredible teacher that can work with any student,” adding on a personal note while simultaneously giving a resounding endorsement of the art program at LOLHS, “I’m so proud I went there.”
Lyme-Old Lyme Schools welcome students from all communities. If you have any questions about Lyme-Old Lyme Schools or would like to know more about the tuition program for students not residing in Lyme or Old Lyme, please contact Superintendent Ian Neviaser at 860-434-7238, ext. 3603.