“There was a real blue jay mama outside of the studio giving flight lessons to her young. I couldn’t even get my head out the door, that’s how protective she was. A few of us watched the little bird hop, unable to fly while the mom flew in a circle. Eventually, it did make it to a neighboring rooftop. Before the bird could fly away, we asked ourselves if we should interfere and help the bird off the pavement, or just let things be and hopefully, they figure it out. We decided to let nature take its course, which was the right call.” described Mariana Depetris, Upper School Visual Arts Faculty and Visiting Artists’ Program Coordinator.

“Mount Vernon creates belonging by having a common goal, and by upholding the same principles in our community, by instilling core values to strengthen individuals”, expressed Ms. Depetris. While she and her class were trying to figure out how to take care of this fragile bird, they were simultaneously working towards a common goal and creating belonging.

Through this experience, an art installation has emerged in the most traveled hallway in the Upper School. “Belonging” is a painting that depicts Ms. Depetris’ baby bird story in front of two students holding a “belonging” banner. Jamal Arif, Class of 2023, and Priscilla Andrin, Class of 2026 were the models, but they also served as representatives for the entire Upper School student body. Jamal is a Senior and Priscilla is a Freshman who participates in sports, clubs, and other interests in and outside of School like many other students.

The sticky notes around the painting are student-written thoughts about belonging. “We all wrote a few notes in Advisory and our teachers stuck some of them up around the painting. Students are also welcome to stick more on the window if another thought comes to mind.” Madison Kaul, Class of 2023 explained. Some notes that have spoken to many of our students are…

Students were able to watch and contribute as the painting evolved. It was a visual representation of how belonging is a work in progress and how everyone is responsible for lending a hand.

This painting is part of Mount Vernon’s intentional focus on well-being and resilience. On October 3, The School welcomed John Trautwein to share his story of love. Head of School Kristy Lundstrom shared, “The mural created by teacher-artist, Mariana Depetris is an example of students and faculty coming together to spotlight connection. We know from research that when children feel a sense of belonging and safety, they are more ready to learn, grow, and positively impact those around them. This is how we at Mount Vernon approach all interaction and connection.”

We invite the entire community to come by and see this art installation in the Upper School. It will be up through Tuesday, November 15.