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.

Meet Lower School Art Teacher Ellen Scharfenberg

Ellen ScharfenbergHow long have you taught at MPA?
I came to MPA in the fall of 2021. I was looking to move back to the Twin Cities area after having taught elementary art in rural Wisconsin for four years to be close to my family.

What’s the best thing about being a teacher at MPA?
I think the best thing about being a teacher at MPA is the wonderful people that I get to work with. Not only are the faculty and staff at MPA truly amazing teachers and professionals, but some of my closest friends.

Describe your typical day. 
My typical day at MPA begins with prepping art materials for my classes that morning and probably talking to Ms. Mastel across the hallway. I usually teach three Lower School classes in the morning, followed by a great lunch by our Sage staff. I always try to take time to eat and connect with my colleagues. After lunch, I either help with Lower School lunch or recess and teach two more afternoon classes.

Do you have a favorite lesson to teach?
I think that one of my absolute favorite lessons to teach is the second grade fall cabin project. This lesson is a great way for second graders to practice using a one-point perspective and learn about the other elements of art such as space, overlapping, and making objects smaller as they get farther away. Read More

Upper School Artists Receive Scholastic Recognition

The Minnesota Scholastic Art Awards were announced, and the following students had work recognized this year. We’re congratulating Upper School artists for their work being featured this year! Gold Key work will be featured in an exhibition at the Regis Gallery at the University of Minnesota, and the work will advance to compete at the national level. Silver Key and Honorable Mention work will be part of an online exhibition. Congratulations to Maxwell Spencer, Alexx Tolstad, Elise DeBruzzi, Tasos Dimopoulos, Aixa Kellermann, and Ema Santibanez for their excellent artwork!

Elise DeBruzzi (11)—Mixed Media Still Life Honorable Mention Mixed Media
Tasos Dimopoulos (11)—Bones Honorable Mention Drawing
Aixa Kellermann (11)—Berries Silver Key Painting
Ema Santibanez (11)—Colorful Spine Honorable Mention Drawing
Maxwell Spencer (12)—In Stasis 2021 Honorable Mention Painting, Wind Dragon Honorable Mention Painting, Cold Familiarity Gold Key Painting, Beware False Prophets Honorable Mention Printmaking, Cycles of Fire and Ash Silver Key Drawing
Alexx Tolstad (12)—Self Portrait Honorable Mention Drawing, Fall Leaves Honorable Mention Drawing

American Choral State Honor Choir

American Choral State Honor ChoirCongratulations to tenth grader Rowan Mulrooney and ninth graders Truman Wilgocki and Warner Reid who auditioned and were selected to be members of the American Choral Director’s Association 9-10 State Honor Choir!

Rowan will sing in the soprano-alto choir under the direction of Susan Vollbrecht (University of Wyoming) while Warner will perform in the tenor-bass choir with Derrick Fox (University of Nebraska). Truman is in the mixed choir conducted by Merin Guice Gil from Bethel University. The daylong event will culminate with a concert at Ted Mann Concert Hall in Minneapolis. Rowan and Truman are members of the MPA Concert Choir while Warner sings in the MPA Varsity Choir. Keep singing, Panthers!

Middle School Show Tickets On Sale Now

This fall will be our first full return to the Black Box, with the Middle School production, “Space Princess Wars” by Don Zolidis. It is a bit ridiculous, at times chaotic, but always a lot of fun! Ms. J and Ms. Mastel have been working with 61 Middle and Upper School students to bring this show to life. Star Wars + The Princess Bride = Space Princess Wars!

Tickets go on sale tomorrow, Friday November 4, for the following days/times:

Friday, November 18 at 7 PM
Saturday, November 19 at 2 PM
Sunday, November 20 at 2 PM