Faculty excited about Arts Center remodel


Lena Hwang '23

In the Hill’s new, state-of-the-art dance studio, teacher Jessie Ryan (in front wearing gray) teaches students new choreography.

Showtunes blare from the theater classroom while music playing in the dance room thumps along to the sound of dance teacher, Ms. Jessie Ryan, counting dancers in. Students in the ceramics classroom lean over pottery, carefully carving elaborate details on their recently sculpted mugs. Across the corridor, the art classroom is filled with gentle chatter while students sketch ideas for their next big projects.  

After the completion of phase two of construction on the Mozilo Arts Center (the first phase was completed in 2017), the Hill now has six new teaching spaces and is buzzing with creativity and collaboration. Though the center technically reopened in the spring of 2021, with students trickling in over the last few months of the 2020-2021 school year, starting the new 2021-2022 school year at full capacity has been a completely different experience.

“It’s really nice to see everyone in one space, dancing together,” Ms. Ryan said. 

The new dance room features a harlequin floor, studio lighting and wall-length mirrors. 

Ms. Christine Orihuela, the art teacher, loves the view and the collaborative tables in her new space. In addition, the cubbies for students are really helpful. 

“They allow me to keep everything organized. Every student gets a cubby to keep her work in,”  Ms. Orihuela said.  

Mrs. Heather Kent, ceramics teacher and VAPA department chair, enjoys having a room for the kilns attached to the classroom.  

“It’s great for teaching at the same time as running an active studio,” Mrs. Kent said. 

Another feature of the new arts center is that it is a space for collaboration, as all the members of the VAPA department are now together in the same building.  

“Hearing what’s happening in other classes sparks ideas,” Ms. Ryan said.  

Mrs. Kent agrees. To her, the new building has created the opportunity for partnership, especially with Ms. Orihuela now that their classrooms are directly across from each other.

“Just those passing conversations are really helpful to get my brain fired up about something,” Ms. Orihuela said.  

While collaboration happens between the arts and ceramics departments, it also happens between the theater and dance departments, sparking lots of community spirit. 

“Already this year, some of our dancers are gonna be involved in the theater show in November. We’re already starting to collaborate now,” Ms. Ryan said.