I know from personal experience that when people think of Stuyvesant, they tend to have a very limited view of what our school represents.
Many, if not all, of us can recall telling a friend that we’ve decided to attend Stuyvesant and finding ourselves thrown into a conversation about how it’s a pressure cooker of misery and how we will never be able to balance our social lives with our academics.
However, any Stuyvesant student knows that as focused as we all are on our grades and schoolwork, many have an artistic side too. In fact, our school has a long history of producing remarkable art, writing, music, and theater, from STC and SING!, to our literary magazine, Caliper, and our school newspaper, The Spectator.
I reached out to a few of the students leading new artistic clubs and publications so that I could share with the Stuyvesant community just what these groups have to offer and capture the essence of the artistic side of a school that is famous for being STEM-oriented.
Earlier in this school year, freshman Andrew Ng founded a literary magazine called The Acacia. Though it publishes many types of media, The Acacia focuses on engaging students who love writing. “Acacia is made up of mostly freshmen, so it is easier for everyone to bond and be friends,” freshman Fawziyah Khan said.
Because of its large freshman membership, Acacia may be a model of the future of Stuyvesant. It provides the newest generation of students with their own outlet.
“I got [the] idea to found my pub because I wanted to give students a special medium to express themselves through writing,” Ng explained. “ I personally love writing, and I wanted to give that level of empowerment to everybody else.”
Ng isn’t the only student trying to create artistic spaces to help his peers express themselves. The Stuyvesant Broadcasting Community (SBC) is one of the more ambitious new clubs this year. “It’s mainly intended to broadcast things like news, music, videos/audio we might record. We also display art and write stories,” junior and SBC President Alexandra Wen said. They are pioneering a new medium for students to express themselves. Wen is optimistic about their club’s potential, saying, “I can easily see us doing well, being able to prepare for future projects, and having everything organized.”
Freshman and SBC Vice President Chris Brown, who will be inheriting Wen’s position of president next year, said, “One idea we had was a talk show or interview show where we could invite students or teachers to be featured.”
Chances are you saw the red posters with the word “RIOT!” on them hanging from walls and escalators all over the school building earlier this year. RIOT stands for Rampage of Imagination and Original Theater, and this new theater company has some of Stuyvesant’s best theater writers and creators on board. Sophomore, Co-founder, and Vice President Noelle Gloria said, “RIOT! is a script writing club, so we intend for our members to produce skits or short plays to perform at SOS, and, when RIOT! grows bigger and more established, we even hope to hold our own showcase.”
The relaxed and creative atmosphere of the club is part of what makes it so special. Freshman Matthew Carlson says, “There isn’t such a thing as a typical RIOT! Meeting.”
Yet it still has big goals for its members, and each meeting has a purpose that its members are always motivated to execute together.
The creative spirit of RIOT! defies every stereotype and false expectation surrounding Stuyvesant. A student theater company opposes that common belief that all the students are dedicated only to math and science. “In improv, you really have to think on your feet, which is something that many don’t associate with STEM subjects. Also, the creativity is definitely something that defies the STEM stereotype. It’s a good thing in improv to take a creative approach to the prompt, your character, or the scene in general,” Carlson said.
Sophomores Elena Sapelyuk and Klaire Geller also created Stuyvesant Fine Arts, a chapter of the National Art Honors Society. It is run much like Stuyvesant’s Red Cross, with hour requirements for certification.
“I realized that there wasn’t really a place for people at Stuy[vesant] to create art. Our school is so focused on STEM subjects and academics, many people who are artistically inclined feel guilty for taking time out of their schedule to express themselves,” Sapelyuk said. “I wanted to create a space where everyone can create as well as collaborate and give back to the community. [We] paint a flower or laugh while collaborating on a project.”
The purpose of this club is a combination of creating visual art itself and volunteering. Each club meeting has a theme or a lesson. They even travel to the Brookdale Senior Center on a monthly basis to provide watercolor classes, and they hope to work on large mural projects around the school building.
“The elders really show their joy being with us. They make us feel comfortable with our environment. Through the few volunteering experiences, I have made friends with a 101-year-old and an Asian-American elder,” said sophomore Kate Shen in an e-mail interview. “The 101-year-old show[ed] so much happiness when she completed her first painting, saying she is going to show her son her accomplishment. The Asian-American elder started to talk to me about her children and her life stories.”
Freshman Sara Stebbin and the members of her new club “Stuycatto” approach art through the medium of song.
“Music composition is something I love and am passionate about, but I never really had a group of friends who shared that interest,” Stebbins said.
While the music created by the members ranges from classical to contemporary, Stuycatto is as much a uniting force for teenage musicians as Stuyvesant is for ambitious students who are pursuing various types of careers. “The Stuyccato community is a friendly one, so sharing music is always encouraged,” junior Jason Lee said. “I enjoy the positive feedback and criticism that I’m given because it pushes me to improve my music. Honestly, when I want to share anything, I can always turn to the people in Stuyccato.”
The formation of clubs like these within our community reflect an evolving environment at Stuyvesant. Young artists are making a place for themselves and their creation, and forging a path for all students to pursue a more well-rounded education. These people are intelligent and hard-working, while also being creative. It just goes to show: Stuyvesant is not only a place for STEM-centric students.