MPA Students Selected For Art Invitational 

Please join the art department in congratulating the following artists, who had work selected for inclusion in the Shattuck St. Mary’s 18th Annual Art Invitational.

Their work will be part of a juried exhibition at Shattuck St. Mary’s School.  The exhibition opens October 26 and runs through November 14.

  • Leo Eakin: Drawing, 3rd Place Award
  • Aixa Kellermann: Drawing
  • Teagan Swanson: Art and Design
  • Thura Zaw: Drawing
  • Yuhan Zou: Drawing

Explore The PreK-12 MPA Preview Sessions

MPA Preview November 5The MPA Preview on November 5 is a signature PreK-12 event designed to introduce you to the faculty, students, and families who make MPA the exceptional learning community that it is. You’ll hear from a variety of perspectives, be engaged in conversation with academic leaders, experience mini-lessons taught by expert teachers, and leave with a much better understanding of the MPA way.

Explore the mini-lesson sessions at each division level that will be taught at the Preview on November 5, 2023! Read More

Welcome to MPA, James Lekatz!

What position will you be holding at MPA?
Middle and Upper School Theater Teacher

From what school/organization are you coming?
International School of Minnesota

Tell us about your education and past experience.
I graduated in 2007 with a Theatre Arts degree from Augsburg University. Right after undergrad, I moved to London, England and completed my studies at the London International School of Performing Arts. Upon my return to Minneapolis, I worked as an Education and Access Associate at Stages Theatre Company, as well as music directed and composed many productions while on staff. I was Artistic Associate of Performing Arts at Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts where I collaborated to produce new works of musical theater with artists with and without disabilities. During Covid, I switch careers and moved fully into education. I taught music at Alice Smith Elementary and was the Head of Performing Arts at the International School of Minnesota.

What did you find appealing about MPA?
The atmosphere at MPA is so welcoming and kind, who wouldn’t want to be a part of it? As schools start more and more to take away arts classes, I found it exiting to see that MPA has the arts fully woven into the curriculum. Not just theater, but all arts have a place for students. Read More

MPA Dreamers: Parents Of Lifers

Quote from Kelsi Picture yourself in the position of a parent of a PreK or kindergartener, perhaps anxiously, but jovially, beginning your school search. If you are looking at a school like Mounds Park Academy, you want your child to grow into a free spirit, a risk taker, a right maker, a dreamer, and a doer. You want an independent thinker. You want your child to be known. You want your child to love school. Your role, as the parent in the school search process, will determine the foundational years of your child’s education. It seems that for parents of the Class of 2023 Lifers, the memory remains clear as day.

Parents of MPA Lifers, the students whose entire K-12 or PreK-12 journey has taken place here at MPA, made a choice for their students and continued to choose MPA every year for all 13 years of their education. Right before they graduated from MPA, we interviewed the Class of 2023 Lifers in a group reflection on their MPA journeys. Their responses and recollections, punctuated with gratitude, nostalgia, and undeniably helpful feedback, led us to further expand on the conversation. We decided we needed to hear from the Lifer parents, as well.

An MPA education emphasizes the value of purposeful academic rigor in a hands-on, experiential, college-prep environment with the goal of instilling a lifelong love for learning. So we asked:

How has MPA accomplished this for your children, helping them find personal and academic success?

Christine (Anthony ’23): Anthony’s a quiet kid, more on the introverted side. And I think one of the things, from preparing personally, is being somewhere this many years and really knowing people and having those longitudinal relationships with teachers, classmates, and other staff at school. It has really been beneficial for him as far as building confidence and being comfortable–coming out of his shell a little bit. The first time he came here, he was 10 days old, so by the time he came as a student, he was super comfortable and felt like it was somewhere that he was familiar with. I definitely think that’s made a difference for him.

John (Freya ’23): When it comes to Freya, one thing that I think has been beneficial for her academic success is the small size of the school and the exceptional students that she’s with. And some of those kids being so exceptional and doing such exceptional work has forced her to become a better student.

Natalie (Henry S. ’23): I couldn’t agree more. One thing I’ve been really pleased about and so proud of is the diversity that Henry’s experienced here. It’s something he was looking for in his college search, which I was just so profoundly impacted by. He’d say, “mom, that’s just not what I’m used to, and I’m looking for a school with more diversity.” That is MPA. I love that. Read More

Welcome To MPA, Ursula Hargens!

What position will you be holding at MPA?
Upper School Ceramics Teacher

From what school/organization are you coming?
I have been an artist and educator for over twenty years, teaching at colleges, universities, and community art centers. I also led an advanced ceramic certificate program that I co-founded with Northern Clay Center in 2014.

Tell us about your education and past experience.
I earned an MFA in ceramics from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University and an MA in Art and Art Education from Columbia University Teachers College. I also spent a transformational year in Nova Scotia, studying with the renowned teacher Walter Ostrom. As a teaching artist, I divide my time between creating work for sales and commissions and teaching ceramics in a wide variety of settings. My artistic output is broad, and I make large-scale tile installations as well as wheel-thrown, functional pots for the kitchen.

What did you find appealing about MPA?
MPA is unique in its visible commitment to the arts. I am excited to be stepping into Ms. Buck’s clogs and inheriting such a strong and vibrant ceramics program. I also look forward to working alongside teachers who are deeply invested in building a positive community and focused on creating challenging and meaningful experiences for students.

What lasting impact do you plan to have on MPA?
I want to help students strengthen their understanding of materials, experiment and take risks, gain confidence in the process of making, and see projects through to completion. I feel this is an essential part of a well-balanced education and is increasingly important in a digital world. This kind of creative problem-solving will serve students regardless of where they end up in their careers. I am also interested in building connections with other content areas. For example, ceramics naturally ties into chemistry, art history, material science, and literature, and I look forward to exploring some of these links in the classroom.

What’s your big dream?
In every aspect of my life—whether teaching, making, or personal time—I want to bring value to the community, work in collaboration with others, learn something new, and enjoy the process.

What are you (and your family, if you so choose) passionate about?
My family and I like spending time in the outdoors, hiking, canoeing, and Nordic skiing. I also love gardening and am often watering and moving plants in my yard!

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know?
I have been a vegetarian for 36 years. My baked tofu was a hotly traded commodity at school lunchtime for both of my kids.

Welcome To MPA, Amy Gallick!

What position will you be holding at MPA?
Lower School Music Teacher

From what school/organization are you coming?
Hudson School District, Wisconsin

Tell us about your education and past experience.
I have been teaching elementary music (K-5th grades) for twenty-one years. For my undergraduate degree, I attended Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota where I studied both vocal/instrumental music and French education. Later, I went on to receive my master’s degree in Music Education from the University of St. Thomas, with an emphasis in the Kodaly approach as well as certification in Orff-Schulwerk.

What did you find appealing about MPA?
The thing that stands out to me the most about MPA is the strong sense of community. When I first visited the school, everyone was so kind and welcoming. Having grown up just a few miles away in the White Bear Lake area, I was familiar with the school community, and being here truly feels like coming home. I also really appreciate the emphasis on fine arts as a core part of the curriculum, and as an essential part of a child’s whole education.

What lasting impact do you plan to have on MPA?
As a music teacher, I hope to not only instill the joy of music as a lifelong pursuit in my students, but also to inspire creativity, share ideas through collaboration with colleagues, and just generally share my positivity and love of learning with the community.

What’s your big dream?
My big dream is to teach music to children, and I already get to do that every day! Another dream is to have some of my writing published someday.

What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about so many things… writing, learning about other cultures/languages, cooking, playing the piano, and composing/arranging music when I have time. My family and I love to be outdoors, and we enjoy hiking, biking, canoeing, and camping. As a parent of a child with disabilities, I have a passion for inclusion and celebrating individual differences. My dream is that we would all see the good in each other and how each person has something unique to contribute to our world.

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know?
I enjoy long distance running and have completed a half marathon.

Meet The Tanwongsval Family

Tanwongsval FamilyWhat’s the best thing about being part of the MPA community?
A bit of context–our family is an international nomad and our kids have studied in international schools in Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, and China. What we seek in a school is positive diversity (not just cultural but viewpoints), appropriately challenging academics, a small teacher-to-student ratio, a small and tight-knitted community, and warm and welcoming educators and administrators. MPA ticked all the boxes and can easily rival any top international schools we’ve experienced throughout our moves.

What is your favorite MPA tradition or event?
We love the orchestra. Our daughter is not much of a musician, but she enjoys the supportive environment and the opportunity to perform with her friends.

Complete this sentence, “MPA teaches my child…
to be caring, curious, and courageous (3C’s). Read More

Bisa Butler Inspires Applied Painting Students

Upper School Applied Painting Class paints a piano together every year, as part of an in-depth collaborative project in conjunction with the local non-profit, Keys 4/4 Kids.

This—MPA’s 11th collaborative painted piano—references work by fabric artist Bisa Butler.

Butler is known for quilted portraiture of influential people. The composition on the piano combines multiple of Butler’s quilts, showcasing her portraits of Lauryn Hill and Nina Simone. Butler’s husband is a DJ who created a playlist of songs that correspond with her quilts. We enjoyed listening to his playlist in class, along with Lauryn Hill and Nina Simone, too.

During the process, students learned a lineage of artists who work(ed) with fiber or on fiber, including Faith Ringgold, Sam Gilliam, Anne Labovitz, Diane Itter, Kehinde Wiley, William Morris, and Miriam Shapiro. While working collaboratively in shifts on the piano, students also designed their own original paintings that are inspired by fabric, incorporate fabric, or are painted on fabric.

The painted piano, along with the related individual paintings done by the same students, will soon be on display in the main hallway outside of the band room. The piano will eventually be placed somewhere in the metro area for the public to enjoy, as part of the Keys 4/4 Kids Pianos on Parade program.

Sowah Mensah’s MPA Residency

MPA’s music department was fortunate to host Sowah Mensah as an artist in residency from April 10-14. Sowah is a current professor at St. Thomas and Macalester, and is world-renowned as a “master drummer” from Accra, Ghana. As an ethnomusicologist, he teaches in many settings and even directs Sankofa, a Ghanaian Folklore and Dance Ensemble in the Twin Cities. Sowah enjoys an active performance career in addition to teaching. He has toured in China, the United States, Latin America, and has worked with notable forces in the Twin Cities music scene, including Minnesota Symphony Orchestra, Chanticleer, Minnesota Center Chorale, St. Paul Civic Symphony, and more.

Sowah has been collaborating with Mr. Warner all week, and also working with Ms. Wantock’s Upper School percussion ensemble to create amazing music with different percussion instruments of Africa in a unique and collaborative style. The MPA community is invited to observe the final performance on Friday, April 14. This is an enriching opportunity for the school and its students, and it was fascinating to observe him guide the young musicians to facilitate confidence, competence, and expression through playing the different instruments. Sowah’s step-by-step teaching methods broke down the challenging aspects and made it a fun experience to learn and perform in African, whether students were in Upper or Middle School! We’re incredibly grateful that he shared his expertise, culture, and knowledge with MPA and its students! To view the full album of photos from the week, click here.

Beyond The Surface—Meet Prescott Hutton

We are very pleased to share that Prescott Hutton ’23 is presenting “Beyond The Surface: A Photographic Installation” in the Gallery for the entire community to enjoy, May 1-5. It will feature not only his art but the art of four additional Upper School students: Ansel Streier, ninth grade; Emmet Johnston, ninth grade; Graham Jakway, tenth grade; and Andy Taylor, eleventh grade. He has organized this opportunity as part of his Senior Service Project and hopes that it brings perspective and joy to the community. 

In addition, please join him at the Opening Reception on May 1 at 6 PM in the Family Commons to learn more about the project and the artists. This event is most appropriate for ages 8+.

We hope you enjoy learning more about Prescott below! 

What inspired you to create this event for your Senior Service Project?
I have been at MPA for 12 years. During those 12 years, I have seen most of the senior service projects that have occurred at MPA. As I was looking at these projects, I couldn’t help but think about my future contribution. What I didn’t want to do was a project that I did just to get done. I wanted to do something memorable and vital that is personal to me and motivates others around me. The inspiration for this project came after thinking about what makes me happy as an individual. Last year I had the privilege to be a teaching assistant in photo I and photo II, and during that time, I developed a love for teaching others about the arts—specifically photography. In addition to that, I spent more than 30 hours alone preparing the darkroom here on campus for use. So as I was brainstorming for this project, I thought, “Why not combine them both?” That’s when the idea came to teach a select group of students film photography and how to bring ideologies and emotions into photography.

What are your hopes for this event?
My hope for this event is to spread thought-provoking art and to show the community around MPA what’s possible for a student to create and hopefully inspire others to create art of their own and celebrate it. From a personal standpoint, my goal is to leave a memorable impact on the community that has raised me and pushed me to become the person I am today. I also hope that people see how much I care and what is possible if you put effort into something.

What does photography mean to you?
Photography for me means storytelling, especially film photography. This is because with each photo I take with my Hasselblad, there is a story behind how I got that image and why I took that image. From a personal standpoint, it allows me to express ideas or emotions that I have trouble talking about; it also is an outlet for emotions that I can turn into creativity and joy.

How has MPA contributed to your artistic insight or passion?
Ever since I came to MPA in first grade, I have always been pushed creatively. I remember Ms. Rossbach always putting an emphasis on hard work and always trying your hardest even if your art did not look good as the other people in your class. As I got older, this lesson was reinforced in most aspects of my life. When I applied this to photography, it meant taking my time with each photo, understanding the importance behind it, and, most importantly, acknowledging the reason and story of how I got that photo.

How do you describe your art?
I would describe my art as visual representations of emotions and storytelling. I believe that the impact of the photo I take has to have an emotion tied to it. I also want my art to have a story tied to it so that each aspect of the photo can be explained in great detail. Another way to explain it is that the viewers decide the emotion they feel, but I decide the story that influences the emotion.

What do you think makes your work unique?
One of the aspects where I think my artwork is unique is the fact that each one of my fine art portraits I have taken has a sense of raw emotion that is communicated directly to the viewer. Because of the style that I take my photos, there is a direct connection between the use of the camera and the subject’s emotions in the moment. I don’t like studio portraits, and I don’t like pre-determined photoshoots. I love the surprise and adventure of spontaneous portraits. In the event that I’m not taking portraits, I want to include emotion in all my photos and become a provocateur of thought.

Have you had any major artistic influences?
When it comes to influences on my personal style, the biggest inspiration and role model for my work is Platon. His work captures what I believe is the perfect portrait; he manages to look into people’s souls and capture their lifestyles on the camera he uses. He manages to capture photos of the most well-known people on this planet and make them relatable and personal.

Do you have any long-term goals or plans for your art career?
I plan to pursue photography as a minor in college and hopefully continue my business. I would love to venture into documentary photography and travel all over the world.

What kind of support did you receive for this event?
There are multiple people I would like to thank: Mr. Dean because he encouraged me and supported me through the beginning stage of this project and has spent a considerable amount of time helping me. Dr. Hudson, for meeting with me, supporting the project, and putting MPA behind it. Mr. Braafladt for graciously allowing me to use the Makerspace as a home base for this project. And Ms. Flinsch for teaching me all I know about photography and making this possible project possible by inspiring me to pursue photography.