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Baldwin girls – and women – come together for the arts

The Baldwin School's first Arts Day is a product of a reinvigorated art program and its interim art director Pooh Gephart.

Pooh Gephart wears many hats at the Baldwin School, but since last spring, Gephart began donning a new cap: interim arts director.

Though Baldwin's curriculum included art-strong programs, Head of School Sally Powell told Gephart the arts needed a little boost at Baldwin. The Athletic Center opened in October 2009, and Powell said it was time to refocus Baldwin's energies.

Gephart assembled an arts task force of Baldwin's art faculty, administrators, parents, students and one outsider to get another perspective. Together, they created a 25-page document outlining how to enhance the program at Baldwin.

"We have always done some amazing things in the arts, but it's not something we'd been focusing as much as would've liked on," Gephart said. "We needed to make it better."

The school is in the process of renovating an existing space into a performing arts center, hiring its first full-fledged art director and monitoring the ideas of the new arts league. The school added the arts league as another collective of student voices, which in the past has primarily been covered by the student government senate, a service league and the athletic association.

"With the school's global focus, we want to continue to expand the world for these girls through art," Gephart said. "We have a large number of Baldwin women who have gone into the art world to become professional jewelry makers, filmmakers or into costume and set design. Those are spin-offs of some of their work here."

As a result of BRAVA, a parent art committee, and the school's arts push, Gephart organized a day for upper school students to dabble in various fields of art. All day today, students participated in interactive workshops exploring cooking, jewelry-making, dancing and acting.

Part of the success behind Baldwin's first Arts Day held on March 16 stemmed from past students who now work in the art field.

Libby Gephart, who graduated in 2007, now works for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp's hospital outreach program. A nonprofit founded by the late actor Paul Newman, Hole in the Wall Gang Camp uses art to brighten the lives of children with terminal illnesses. She traveled back to Bryn Mawr from Boston to present at Arts Day, as did alumnae Jennifer McGlinn, a pastry chef, and Militza Stojancic, a hatmaker.

Libby Gephart took theatre and ceramics at Baldwin and admitted she wasn't the best artist.

"I was actually pretty terrible," she said to a room of Baldwin students. "It was the least expected thing I would take from my time [at Baldwin]."

Now Libby Gephart applies offbeat art projects to hospital wings. One of the children she's working with right now is fascinated by what types of creations melting crayons can make.

"It's all about finding how to make art fun for each kind," she said.

Other local organizations donated their time and materials to Arts Day, such as the Pennsylvania Ballet, the Academy of Vocal Arts and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

"We had people referred to us by parents, and when I asked them to come, not a single person turned me down," Gephart said. "It's been absolutely amazing to me."

Opening the day at a two-hour assembly, filmmaker Danielle Lurie showed three of her short films and took questions from a wide-awake 8:30 a.m. crowd of students. Based in New York, Lurie has no connection to Baldwin.

Lurie's short films range from "In the Morning," an award-winning piece that she screened before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus on Honor Killings, to the pre-love story "Tiny Miny Magic," a film about a woman and her mailman exchanging gifts through the woman's mailbox.

As Arts Day wore on, Lurie's words stuck with freshman Hannah Tipperman.

"I like what she said about how she views the world as a movie," Tipperman said later as she finished a ring in a jewelry-making workshop. "It's a different way to think about things."