Brentwood School believes that all members of the school community should be encouraged to grow intellectually. In support of that belief and in honor of former head of school, Michael D. Pratt, the school has established the Michael D. Pratt Intellectual Development Fund. Each year we provide 5-6 school employees with grants of up to $2500 to support individual or collaborative work outside of school hours that enables the participant to enrich his or her work at Brentwood School. Below are a few of our recent recipients of Intellectual Development Fund grants.

Edy Pickens Levin | Visual Art, Lower

My summer study grant was used to explore Aerial Arts as an art form that enhances my creativity both in and outside of the classroom.  In addition, I continued to develop mindfulness and meditation through the lens of yoga and the chakra system.  I developed a series of new paintings that were informed by kinesthetic learning and the conscious understanding of my body as it moved through space.  

The first step in creating the paintings was making stream of consciousness watercolor sketches.  As I freely applied concentrated water media, vibrant hues emerged in shapes and lines that were evocative of what I felt in my body and were the summation of the processing of my emotions.  As I became less attached to the need for realistic imagery, the shift in my artwork immediately began to manifest as abstraction.  

In this series, color relates to the vibrations of different chakras.  Rich reds, such as pure cadmium or deep crimson, emerge to relay the root chakra of connection.  Vivid indigo blends with turquoise to reference the intuitive qualities of the third eye chakra and opening of throat chakra.  Patterns from nature also come forth, such as the snake skin’s repeating, interlocking, almond shape or the hexagonal shapes in the turtle’s scutes and honeycomb cells of beehives.  These shapes symbolize the Animal Medicine called forth to make the transcendent journey that paralleled my Aerial Arts experience. I continue to trust the work of the abstract, stream of consciousness paintings.  The imagery always has the right “medicine” for the spiraling of my journey.  

I am currently navigating phase two of the process, which is more methodical and meticulous.  I photograph the abstract watercolor sketches and open them in Adobe Photoshop, extracting compelling shapes and applying radial symmetry to compose mandalas.  I often develop written affirmations that reinforce the meditative qualities of the artwork.

View Edy's Aerial Video Here:  https://youtu.be/yzXa91PrhuU
View Edy's Aerial Inspired Paintings Here:  http://www.edypickenslevin.com/mandalas

Alex Donis | Visual Art, Upper School

My summer study grant was used towards a four-week artist residency at the Scuola Internacional di Grafica in Venice Italy as well as to see the Venice Biennale, which is one of the largest contemporary art gathering on the planet.

The theme for the 56th Venice Biennale this year was All the Worlds Futures and the two main exhibit venues are known as the Arsenal which is the old ship building factory from the 1400s. The biennale also features hundreds of parallel art exhibits scattered throughout the islands of Venice.

Coming up with ideas as an artist is a very messy business. Ideas are rarely born fully formed, and they often take years to gestate. Back in 1993, I created a video called GRACE featuring falling figure skaters. I see this sport as a metaphor for the creative process—that in order to arrive at a great artistic moment, you must fail and sometimes fall. My proposal to the Scuola was to create a variety of prints including Solar Plate Photo Etchings which is a new technique that I hope to share with my AP students once we get our very own little Eagle Press up and running.

View more images from Alex's trip.

Hilda Leung | Mandarin Chinese, Lower & Middle Schools

This spring, I went to Guangxi Autonomous Region in China. In Mandarin class, I realize that I give a lot of air time to the major cities (Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai) because I know them well. I seldom talk about rural, agricultural China because I hadn't visited, and as a result my students know little about the world outside the big cities. With the help of the Pratt Grant, I hired a local guide to show us the countryside. Now, I can bring a different perspective of China back to my classroom. Highlights of the trip included biking through rice paddies, eating freshly foraged bamboo shoots and wild vegetables, taking selfies with cows, visiting a rice wine maker, picking tea leaves, and bamboo rafting.

View more photos from Hilda's Prezi.

Debora Acciarito | Spanish, Lower & Middle Schools

This summer I spent 5 weeks in Nicaragua where I had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout the country. During that time I took 40 hours of intensive one-on-one Spanish-language courses covering Nicaraguan current events and history, spent a week living with a local family, hiked multiple volcanos, zip-lined through the jungle, and participated in cultural events and activities. Additionally, I was able to speak in depth with local Nicaraguans about many environmental issues Nicaragua is dealing with, like water conservation, land rights, crop rotation, endangered species, and the proposed Nicaraguan canal. Through connections I made with the language school, I was able to put together a proposal for a summer trip I will take with 15 of my middle school students in June 2016.

Watch the trailer. / View Debora's presentation.