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Visual and performing arts formed the scenic backdrop to Friends Academy’s “Night of Cultural Arts,” which debuted on Friday, March 15. Annually, this is a night that combines a dinner to raise funds for the Friends Academy Diversity Fund (this year hosted by the Upper School Diversity Committee and the Interfaith Club) with the student-produced playwriting, acting, monologues, and dancing of Original Works. This year, families were also invited to the AP Art Studio Exhibition and “Weaving Connections,” a special all-community quilt exhibit that is currently hanging in the Kumar Wang Library.


The AP Studio Art Exhibit featured the work of 11 students, including Logan Alvarez, Clementine Constantino, Olivia Ippolito, Mia Kamensky, Sarabeth Levin, Gabriella Minuto, Ashley Reyes, Elle Russell, Sarah Sukoff, Minnie Yu, and Angela Zhu, who worked across a variety of mediums. Dozens of pieces hung from the walls of the Dolan Center’s upper-floor Art Gallery. During the exhibition, artists were on hand to explain their process and inspiration to viewers and observers.


Over 40 Upper School students performed in the 90-minute Original Works, which featured ninth-grade monologues, short one-scene plays, solo dances, and expansive ensemble choreography. Three members of the new Upper School Improv Club – Eric Ding, Taylor Fernandez, and Kody Mitchell – peppered the evening with homemade jokes, on-the-spot ad lib, and an original song that emanated from audience suggestions.




Junior Lilli Lee was the inspiration behind “Weaving Connections,” which featured seven quilts, including a mammoth Friends Academy community quilt that was created from the handiwork of one of FA’s first group Community Groups activities. 

Donated for exhibition by FA colleagues, the quilts represented stories of family, tradition, and heritage. “I hope it makes people wonder why we are doing this and what’s so important about quilts,” began Lilli, “and perhaps help to strengthen our interpersonal relationships.” Of the seven quilts, two originated in Upper School Math teacher Tamara Clark’s family; two from Director of College Counseling Edward Dugger’s family; one from College Readiness Advisor Amy Morgan; and a final donation from Director of Strategic Communications Andrea Miller. 


“This is a great example of youth becoming protagonists and connecting the community and Lilli did a fantastic job,” shared Mr. Dugger with the audience who had gathered. “When I first walked into this space, I had never seen my grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s quilts hung… they had just been laid on a bed. Hanging them here has really connected me to this sense of history. And I also thank Library Director Karly Hoenzsch for organizing this space,” he said.

The impetus for Lilli’s inspiration originated with her school-sponsored internship at Preservation LI and came full circle when she invited their curator, Lauren Brincat, to come and present as the keynote speaker at the quilt exhibition. “I was an intern last summer and learning about all the quilts that were on display. Every time I stepped inside their museum, I got a wave of inspiration and wanted to bring this experience to others,” recalled Lilli.

View Lilli's digital presentation of each quilt, their contributor, and their family story


In her remarks, Ms. Brincat shared the Long Island history of quilting, which originally was an industry mostly inhabited by professional men following long apprenticeships. “Long Island has the earliest examples of quilts in which names and dates were woven into the coverlets,” she said.

Preservation LI owns over 4,000 objects from Long Island past and present, including candlesticks, teapots, maps, paintings, quilts, and more. “For me, it’s all about the fact that objects tell stories,” mused Ms. Brincat. “Part of my job is to mine and unpack these historic everyday objects for information about the society that created them and to discover the connection between the present and the past,” she added. “Even though quilts are functional, they were, and are, made to be beautiful, imbued with a significance beyond a coverlet – stories about communities are quite literally stitched into them.”

Quakers also had a presence in the quilting industry and for Lilli, this drew a clear connection to the FA’s Quaker Testimonies. “I feel like this exhibit connects with Peace; I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and say they’ve felt a wave of emotion overcome them,” shared Lilli, who recognized the power of generational gifts and the family heritage of passing down history.


The Quaker Testimony of Community was ever-present for Lilli as she worked to bring this exhibit to fruition and she credits the support of many. “Along the way, Mrs. Hoenzsch taught me lessons about curating,” paused Lilli. “You have to focus on just one thing and take the time to think about one object or one quilt at a time. It’s just like life… focus on one thing at a time and instead of overwhelming yourself, you can ask for help and in the end make new connections.”

Photos by Alvin Caal/Friends Academy

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