Community Read's Real-Life Lesson

Community Read's Real-Life Lesson

When Chapin Dobbins '23 helped introduce our 2022 All-School Read, The Midnight Library, she told the Brooks community that reading it "made me feel better, as a person who makes mistakes and decisions that don't feel right sometimes."

The 2020 novel, about a character experiencing other lives that she could have lived if she'd made different choices, "is about how every decision you make, can mean something to everyone," she added.

In Chapel on September 15, visiting artist Julia S. Powell (shown above) told students and employees gathered in Chapel how her life had turned around when the then-lawyer decided to follow her passion and become a painter. Powell's "Swimming Holes and Summer Fields: A Love Letter" exhibit of landscape paintings is on display in The Robert Lehman Art Center gallery on campus through October 3.

Watch her talk here:

View Powell's exhibit

"Julia's story supports the concept of a life pivot, and as we all know our students, faculty and families have all had to pivot in some way over the past few years," said Chair of Arts Department and Director of Robert Lehman Gallery Babs Wheelden P'22 (below on right with Powell).

The arts department led the selection for this community read, which was decided upon by a committee of students and employees. Their hope, Associate Head of School for Academic Affairs Susanna Waters wrote to the school back in June, is that The Midnight Library's theme "that one is never completely stuck" will guide each reader "to have hope, gratitude and contentment towards [their] own life."

After speaking in Chapel about her turnaround from dreams deferred to living her passion as a painter, Powell offered an art-specific technique talk during her artist's reception in the Robert Lehman Art Center gallery on September 16.

"Julia and her work are 100-percent relevant and relatable to the Brooks Community and where we are today in processing current events and our need to be fluidly adaptive," said Wheelden.

But even without the themes that tie her work to the All-Community Read's concepts, Powell's art is an inspiration. Art classes have already begun to create their own pieces jumping off of her landscapes and techniques.

"Julia's exhibition on 'Swimming Holes and Summer Fields: A Love Letter' is a gift to all to stop, to let go, to enjoy a moment in the sun or a vista on the horizon," said Wheelden. "It is such a joyful, hopeful collection. There has been so much impactful art inspired by dissent and disruption. This exhibition, and Julia's whole approach to painting, is optimistic, realistic and inspiring."

As with the All-Community Read, Powell's impact is already resonating here on Great Pond Road. "The art students who have met her, seen the work and heard her story are commenting on how much they feel connected to her," added Wheelden. "They're talking about how real she is, how inspiring she is."

View the works online or see them on campus to get inspired yourself! The exhibit is on display through October 3: Visit The Lehman Art Center page for details.

Follow Brooks School on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to see all the activities, projects and happenings in our community each day during the school year.


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