From Black History Month celebrations, to a visit from Councilman Chi Osse '16 and more, the Friends campus is buzzing with activity! To view more photos of campus events, visit the School's website, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin.
Grants Create Opportunities for Growth
Every year the Richard Eldridge Lifetime Learners Fund supports continuing educational opportunities for faculty and staff. This endowed fund was established in honor of Richard, who was Principal from 1989 to 2002. It advances his deeply held belief that everyone who works at Friends is both a teacher and learner. Three members of staff received grants during the 2021-22 academic year. Head of School Bo Lauder comments, “We are especially thrilled to support our staff, who in expanding their own horizons, expand those of the School.”
Adrienne Almeida, Director of Middle School and Upper School Library Services, used her grant to attend Loophole of Retreat, a gathering of more than 700 Black women artists and scholars convened by acclaimed sculptor Simone Leigh and curator Rashida Bumbray as part of the Venice Biennale. Over three days, this remarkable group of women, representing the African Diaspora, celebrated their shared intellectual labors and creativity. Adrienne comments, “This was a life-changing opportunity for everyone who attended. A day has not gone by that I haven’t reflected on this experience. As an anti-racist feminist educator, I am grateful to be a part of a larger community of writers, researchers, and creatives who are doing liberation work.”
Director of Extended Programs, Laura McGinley, enrolled in an art writing course at Sotheby’s Institute of Art. The six-week on-line course was a perfect match for Laura, who sees writing about visual arts as a way to engage her curiosity, hone observation skills, ask questions, and then translate that experience into a compelling piece of writing. She comments, “The opportunity to submit work via this program offered me the space to incorporate humor, creativity, and unfinished ideas into something that resulted in positive and validating feedback. It was fun and fulfilling to bring other aspects of myself to something that has tangible benefits for the professional parts of myself. This was an inspiring experience that I carry with me.”
Claudine Zamor, Senior Associate Director of Admissions and Enrollment Management, traveled to Maine to attend a program at the Erdmann Institute (see link), which is committed to advancing knowledge, skill, leadership, and collegiality among senior and mid-career independent school admission professionals nationwide. They seek to broaden the conventional understanding of enrollment leadership through meaningful conversations and workshops that center on problem solving, strategic planning, and innovative practices. Claudine comments, “This was so collaborative. It was helpful to hear what other schools were doing in different areas of the country. I valued this experience tremendously, and know that I can reach out to my fellow attendees at any time.”
Open Book: Bo Lauder and Artist Marcus Leslie Singleton Host Art Discussion
Marcus Leslie Singleton is a Brooklyn-based artist whose work explores the joy, intimacy and hardships of Black America. Singleton’s practice offers critiques of contemporary social and political issues, using art as an “nonverbal communication” to portray the lived experiences of the Black community, weaving together their hopefulness and soul with his playful brushstrokes. He has exhibited his work at galleries and art fairs in New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle.
In honor of Black History Month, Bo, in collaboration with CPEJ and the Black Culture Club, hosted a lunchtime art discussion with Singleton. The artist began the session with a review of "Love Letter To The Dogon ll", a pair of limited edition prints that reside in the Upper School Commons. While printmaking is an aberration for Singleton, he wanted to make his work available “to people who weren’t necessarily in the art world” and may not be in the market for or able to afford one-of-a-kind works. These pieces are a colorful narrative on the indigenous peoples native to the central plateau region of Mali in West Africa. The prints were made available in four colorways, each purposefully chosen to enhance his subjects’ skin tones and calling attention to the religious symbolism and scientific elements in his work. Singleton also tends to use “words in paintings to expose a deeper layer. It’s painting with a reference to writing.” To learn more about Marcus’ work and his visit to Friends, click here.
Artists Show Support of Friends
For years, first as a parent and now as a parent of alumni, Purdy Eaton P ’25, ’28 has donated works of art to the annual Contemporary Art Auction, which is part of the annual Benefit. Her work is coveted by many, and this year’s submission, Sleuth, an oil painting of a bear, is no exception. Purdy, who now lives in rural Connecticut, comments, “We all grew up loving our childhood stuffed bears, yet in nature we often fear them and regard them as a nuisance. This bear engages the viewer, reminding us we need to co-exist with the natural world. We all drink the same water, breathe the same air.” The School is also grateful to Parents of Alumni Patrik Graham ’31, Suzanne Anker P ’87, and Liam Gillick P ’20 for contributing their work to the Auction.
Proceeds from the Auction will go to Artists for Artists, an endowed fund for financial aid for the children of artists. The fund, which stands at $189,000, was established at the 2022 Benefit and will support the long tradition of artists who choose Friends for their children. Their presence contributes to the open, inclusive and equitable environment for which the School strives. The 2023 Friends Seminary Benefit- Shine Your Light takes place on March 9.
City Council Member Addresses Upper School
On Friday, January 27, Friends welcomed Chi Ossé ’16 to speak to Upper and Lower School students in a series of events. Chi is the Council Member for New York City’s 36th District, representing Bedford-Stuyvesant and North Crown Heights. He entered politics as an organizer and prominent figure in the Black Lives Matter movement. At 23 years old, Chi was elected in 2021 as the youngest member of this Council and its only member hailing from Gen-Z. Josh Goren, Upper School English teacher, highlighted some of Chi’s biggest achievements in his first year in office. Chi has been taking on the rat population, protecting renters’ rights and helping longtime homeowners against gentrification, ensuring every bar in the city has Narcan (a drug overdose medication) on hand, and using participatory budgeting to distribute City money to local people doing local work. Josh also shared his top five favorite memories of Chi during his upper school years (all involving Chi being very vocal!).
The Council Member began with a reflection on his days at Friends. “Being one of a few Black students here wasn’t always easy,” he explained, recounting some of the “racial blindspots” he encountered and how Meeting for Worship gave him a voice to approach them. “I credit Friends Seminary for so much of who I am,” he revealed, explaining that despite “being shoved into early adulthood” by the death of his father and the boiling racial tension in America, he is still growing up. But he’s taking his neighbors in Brooklyn with him for the ride, helping to re-energize his party and continue fighting for transit equity for seniors and the disabled and fair pay in public schools. He concluded his presentation by taking questions from students on everything from fighting imposter syndrome to the importance of intersectionality at the School.
Friends Holds Seventh Annual Maker Day
On Saturday, February 11, more than 200 students, parents and staff members participated in the Seventh Annual Maker Day at Friends Seminary. From engineering robot birds and coding with Upper Schoolers to testing uniquely designed protective egg-craft in the popular Egg Drop Challenge, the Friends community once again came together for a fun-filled morning of building, creating and designing. View more photos here.
BlaCC Love: Building Community Across Gender
In honor of Black History Month and Valentine’s Day, Director of Diversity, Equity and Belonging, Kirsti Peters, and Stefon Richardson, US History Teacher, led a lunchtime discussion called BlaCC Love: Building Community Across Gender. Students, faculty and staff discussed what it means to love ourselves and each other. Students and adults shared the importance of being proud of their identities as Black people, as well as the importance of building community with each other. There was food, great discussion and a lot of laughter!
Divisional Programming Emphasizes the Power of Storytelling in Modern Iran
The Center for Peace, Equity and Justice (CPEJ), in collaboration with faculty, staff, student leaders from the Muslim Culture Club and Feminism at Friends and special quests, held insightful, multi-faceted discussions on Iran in preparation for Peace Week. US History teacher, Peter Kalajian, began the session with a deep dive into Iranian politics and history, detailing resources and laying vital groundwork to contextualize current events. He explained the westernization of Iran to the progression and radicalization of today under the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s spiritual leader and its highest authority. He also analyzed how women in Iran are allowed to present themselves in public in accordance with government standards in the wake of the suspicious death of 22-year-old Iranian woman Mahsa Amini allegedly at the hands of the Guidance Patrol, Iran’s religious morality police. In discussing the current demonstrations “context does matter,” Peter insisted. Mostafa, a Columbia graduate student, studying Public Policy and International Affairs, joined the session as a guest speaker to share his first hand experience during the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq, the harsh economic impact of sanctions on everyday life and the limitation of freedom. “Values like freedom and choice are not just Western values—they are universal values,” he explained. While Amini’s death served as a catalyst that spawned greater protests against the regime, further exacerbating the gap between Iranian youth and the establishment, it is not a novel endeavor. “Iranians are always pursuing freedom,” Mostafa reveals.
Elena Hartoonian, US Math teacher, also gave students a personal glimpse into her upbringing in Iran and search for a new home, identity, and what inspired her to become more politically aware. Sisi Kamal, CFO/COO, ended the presentation by drawing parallels between American and Iranian youth, showing a series of videos that prompted students to consider their own privilege, and encouraged the community to hold the people of Iran in the Light. Despite calling the United States home since the start of the Iranian Revolution, Sisi confesses, “My heart is in Iran.”
Additionally, Muslim Culture Club leaders, Alizay ’24 and Zaina ’25, and CPEJ held a book discussion on the memoir, The Wind in my Hair by Masih Alinejad, Peace Week’s keynote speaker. The biography chronicles Alinejad’s experiences, from being arrested as a teenager to being exiled from Iran. The student leaders questioned the impact of the Iranian Revolution, the power and challenges associated with social media, and the author’s perspective on the role of Iranian women. Upper Schoolers also discussed the ongoing struggles of the vocal human rights activist, who was recently the target of a murder-for-hire plot in the U.S. One student reflected on the “vilification of Muslim men in America,” and the dangerous propaganda and stereotypes that dominated society following 9/11.
These discussions leading up to Peace Week have helped uplift the stories of women and girls leading for peace, human rights and dignity and allowed for more thoughtful and empathetic responses to stories that don’t always make the news.
Day of Concern
The annual Upper School Day of Concern is a day for the US community collectively to examine a single social justice issue. On Wednesday, January 25, all regular US classes were suspended, and the theme An Exploration of Gender on the Path to Equity was considered. The Center for Peace Equity and Justice (CPEJ) organized a panel discussion, workshops and affinity spaces to examine how the constructs of gender shapes a person’s experiences, opportunities, goals and aspirations. Kara Kutner, Director of CPEJ, said, “This is one step toward building new understanding, perspectives and knowledge, so that we can begin to rethink gender in ways that leads to greater equity, stronger community and a more peaceful world.” The day began with a student-directed panel discussion of faculty and outside guests, including Janah Boccia, Anna Dolce Vita and Masha Zabara facilitated workshops that followed. Jenn Croson, who was not part of the panel, led a particularly interesting workshop: Toward a Radical Redefinition of Beauty, grounded in the Pattern and Decoration movement. At the conclusion of the day, Head of Upper School Blair Parker commented, “It was a day filled with important conversations about gender and gender dynamics that need to continue.”
Andrea Aimi’s Lower School artists in 1Jk and 1MJ recently painted self portraits. Students spent the first semester exploring art projects that focused on both feelings and identity. The last project from this unit was a large scale self-portrait that had many layers of painting technique and color theory. They learned brush use and how colors can bounce off each other with the use of tonal ranges. They worked abstractly with shape and line before painting from observation. Their preliminary sketches were based on gently feeling their facial features and using pencil to describe the texture of very smooth and very fuzzy. They were also asked to be honest in how they felt as they painted, no need for smiley faces if the feelings are different in the art-making process. Students learned that art should be from the heart. They also looked at artists from history such as Picasso, Alice Neel, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. A current artist who was studied was Henry Taylor, who is based in LA and shows at Hauser and Wirth. Students were asked to look at his tonal use of paint and expressions.
Now Hear This!
On Friday, February 3, Judith Seidel led the ninth annual Lower School animation community period. This year’s theme was "Sound in Animation". From narration and dialogue, to music that the audience and the characters hear, to music that only the audience hears, to foley sound, students learned about how sound is critical to the way animation makes us think and feel. Judith showed the first animation with sound, Steamboat Willie. The two indie shorts Judith then focused on were Perfect Houseguest and Eagle Blue. She also found inspiration in Jean Batiste’s work on the music for Disney and Pixar’s Soul. Fourth graders Reid, Natsai and Auden, and music teacher Maddy also treated the audience to their original sounds for Perfect Houseguest in real time.
New Head of Middle School Introduces Curriculum Newsletter
The recently appointed Middle School Head Michelle Cristella has introduced a new monthly curriculum newsletter to give parents a preview of classroom experiences with open-ended questions related to students’ studies. The hope is to spark conversations around the dinner table or on the walk to school. Michelle explains, “There are fewer culminating events in MS compared with Lower School. Developmentally, kids are not as keen to have parents at school, but we know that parents want to have engaging and thoughtful conversations with their middle schoolers. We hope this newsletter helps to bridge this gap.” Michelle also hopes her letter will provide another way for families to get to know her and build deeper relationships, a core aspect of her work. Michelle’s transition to Friends has been smooth. She applauds the absence of grades in MS, which prioritizes process over product. She comments, “It’s wonderful to be working at a place whose values align so closely with my own. Although I am not [a] Quaker, I fully embrace community, stewardship and service.”
Former Art Teacher featured in Crisis of Image at Museum of Contemporary Art in Arlington, Virginia Museum
Triton Mobley, former art teacher at Friends, has work exhibited as part of an exhibition "Crisis of Image" at Museum of Contemporary Art Arlington, in Arlington, Virginia. Triton’s art looks into the racial disparities and built-in bias against brown skin tones encoded into new media technologies.
Owl Sports Update: David Lieber Retires from Coaching after 33 Years
Boys Varsity Basketball Head Coach David Lieber was honored on February 7 during a post-game ceremony following his team’s 61-57 victory over Loyola. After 33 years, David is retiring as head coach following this basketball season (but he will continue to serve as the School’s Co-Athletic Director). The game was particularly meaningful to David because it served as a bookend to a remarkable career, which includes more than 400 wins, two state championships, and an induction into the Basketball Coaches Associations of New York Hall of Fame. In 1990, David coached his very first game at Friends against Loyola, who was then (and still is) coached by Fred Agnostakis, and lost. Before the start of the game, David met Fred at mid-court and received a plaque honoring his legacy. Following an exciting game, David’s fellow coaches, current and former players, and family honored and celebrated him. Congratulations, David!
For the most up-to-date sports news and MS coverage, follow Friends Athletics at www.instagram.com/friendsathletics for weekly team and senior features!