Visual Voices

Refresh page when toggling 'compose' mode on and off to edit.

Recommended Image Size: 1440px wide by 600px tall
(this text will not display with 'compose' mode off or on live site)

Visual Arts

The visual arts are woven into the very fabric of our students’ lives. On our walls, you’ll see beautiful classical and contemporary works alongside amazing student creations.

impressionistic-type painting of a child's face

Karyna Howell ’17

abstract black, white, and pink artwork

Sidney Hare ’18

skull ceramic piece

Greg Olszanskyj ’19

painting of a woman

Jacqueline Graham ’17


Elena Zipp ’19

Peter Pan-like figure on top of a tie-dyed background

Knox Heslop ’17

artwork of colorful hand reaching into blackness

Lauren Bikhazi ’18

geometric line art of volcano erupting

Knox Heslop ’17

abstract art of people swimming in space

Karyna Howell ’17

Artwork: colorful layers of thick paper cut into triangles

Wes Johnston ’17

construction paper artwork carefully shaped into a waterfall scene

Leah Button ’18

Artwork of person in bathtub

Olivia Gao ’17

watercolor of a waterfall

Kate Button ’17

Student Art Shines in Our Larimer Center Gallery

In 2016, middle and upper school art teacher Rob Mellor advocated for and created—with help from our facilities team—a pristine, well-lit space to showcase student work just outside the Larimer Center for the Performing Arts. Above are select gallery works from years past.

By Division

Beginning schoolers learn the joy of self-expression through art. Each year, our faculty and early childhood art specialist focus on a basic element of art—color, line, texture, form, value, or shape—and the creativity begins. For example, when three-year-olds illustrate the lines of a forsythia bush, they learn that two points anchor each line and that lines can be horizontal, vertical, or crosshatched.

Lower school students explore a variety of art materials and techniques under the creative instruction of artist Kathryn Czarnecki. Guided by The National Visual Arts Standards, the art curriculum incorporates interdisciplinary and multicultural projects, art appreciation, and art history. Students enjoy art experiences indoors and outdoors. Students also participate in exhibiting their artwork and have opportunities to view art exhibits from local Utah museums and galleries. 

Through projects, middle schoolers strengthen their understanding of the elements of art and principles of design. Curriculum provides opportunities for exploration, experimentation, skill development, and expression. Our teachers also develop students' understanding and valuing of art, bolstering their artistic literacy.

Intro and intermediate Upper School classes, led by contemporary artist and teacher Rob Mellor, explore drawing, painting, printmaking, assemblage, sculpture, design, and color theory. Advanced classes provide students with a rich, rewarding experience and a better understanding of strenuous studio practice and consistent production.

Kathryn Czarnecki
Lower School Art Teacherget to know kat

Rob Mellor
Middle School and Upper School Art Teacherget to know rob

Molly Lewis
Middle School and Upper School Ceramics Teacherget to know Molly

Anne Wolfer
Middle and Upper School Art Teacher, Yearbook Advisorget to know Anne

Upper-Level Specialties


Middle and upper schoolers may study the wheel- and hand-building techniques of ceramics—classes that, in addition to sculpting, cover global cultures, clay artists, properties of clay and glaze, the firing process, and studio equipment.

Digital Arts

Our digital-native students start to learn design and presentation software in the Lower School. In the middle and upper schools, they may further explore digital art via electives. Students can study photography, digital illustration, and design in a hands-on manner by creating the middle and upper school yearbooks, and Tesserae, the Upper School literary magazine. In the creative spirit of the magazine, Tesserae students—led by teacher Joel Long—are known for art-directing quirky staff portraits each year.

Visual Arts Stories in Fine Print Magazine

Rowland Hall Tesserae creative magazine editors Gabriella Miranda and Nadia Scharfstein, 2023–2024.

At the end of every school year, students in the Upper School are given two books that highlight the past year. 

One, their yearbook, is full of pictures of their classmates and recordings of the events of that year. The other, Tesserae, is the school’s national award-winning literary magazine, filled with artistic impressions of life at Rowland Hall. It features poetry, prose, art, and photographs, all produced by students, giving a creative slant to everything that happened in the past 12 months. 

“It’s an emblem of art and expression for the Rowland Hall community,” said senior Gabriella Miranda. “It feels like a very celebratory work. Everyone gets excited when it comes out.” 

It encapsulates the voices of that particular generation of writers.—Joel Long, English, creative writing, and literary magazine teacher

Poet Joel Long teaches the creative writing class that creates the publication every year. The class is made up of a staff of student writers and editors, many of whom have been enrolled for all four of their years in the Upper School. In his tenure, Joel has watched 19 editions of Tesserae go to print and says each one has been unique. 

“It encapsulates the voices of that particular generation of writers,” he said. “It tells the stories that they are dealing with, what sorts of things matter to them at that moment.”

The publication of Tesserae is a major event for the creative writing students, but it is not their only project of the year. They spend the majority of their time working on and refining their own creative writing processes and pieces, and they begin by examining the works of other writers. 

“We read a ton of poetry and get exposed to different poets,” said junior Erika Prasthofer. “Poetry is a way to stop and reflect and understand what a moment meant to us. It’s shaped my high school experience and the way I tell stories and think about the world.” 

Joel also brings in guest speakers who work as writers. He wants the students not only to learn from them about the craft of writing but also the hard work that goes into it. “They answer questions about the writing process, about how they wrote their poems and novels,” he said. “And they show the students they are just humans. They are people who sit down in their chairs with a cup of coffee to write and work away at it.” 

Each student gleans lessons from these experiences that help shape how they create their own art. They discover habits that might hold them back and learn how to finesse a piece to take it from ordinary to extraordinary. “My writing process has evolved because I often used to try to plan what I was going to write before starting,” said Erika. “With time, I have discovered that while a structural border for writing can be important, that border can’t always be a distinct shape because the piece may otherwise feel forced and unnatural.”

And students are encouraged to discover their own voices by examining different types of writing, including poetry, nonfiction prose, and short works of fiction. As they move through the process, each person finds a unique way to express themselves and discovers the reasons why they prefer certain types of communication. 

“We’re really able and encouraged to write in the way we want,” said Gabriella. “I’ve been able to write about any topic that’s important to me and that I found resonance with.” 

“I really like freeform slam poetry,” added ninth grader Aoife Canning. “I find that being able to perform poetry for others is a way in which you can get them involved in it.”

To further develop his young writers, Joel encourages students to share their poetry with various audiences throughout the year, not only by reading aloud but also by submitting to various contests and publications across the country. This year, thanks to her writing, Gabriella was chosen as one of five National Student Poets and traveled to Washington, DC, to meet with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden. In addition, Aoife, Erika, and senior Nadia Scharfstein were all honored at Poetry Ourselves and Poetry Out Loud events sponsored by the Utah Division of Arts & Museums and the National Endowment for the Arts. Nadia was also showcased in the young writer’s edition of the Roanoke Review

The most rewarding part is the outcome and the ability to read your writing and feel proud of your work.—Nadia Scharfstein, class of 2024

“I am so proud of the students and their outside successes,” Joel said. “They set the bar high, worked really, really hard, and earned it.” 

While the accolades are nice, the students say the work is its own reward. “The most rewarding part is the outcome and the ability to read your writing and feel proud of your work,” said Nadia. “It’s a way for me to express myself through my words. It brings a lot of joy to me.” 

This joy is also felt by showcasing their works, and the works of other students, each year in Tesserae. The entire staff takes the process very seriously, from submission selection to editing individual pieces to the final layout. Every step is done with careful consideration, and the goal is to live up to the responsibility of creating an artifact that accurately represents the artistic pursuits of this year’s student body. 

“Every year I look forward to working on Tesserae. I like being able to contribute to that and be a part of bringing it all together,” said Nadia. “It represents all the creativity that is going on in our school.”

Banner: Editors Gabriella Miranda and Nadia Scharfstein with the 2023–2024 edition of Tesserae.


Original artwork by Rowland Hall student Isabel Hill.

This spring, Rowland Hall junior Isabel Hill was awarded three Honorable Mentions in the 2021 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards (West Writing Region-at-Large) for the short story “Now You See Me” and two pieces of original artwork: the painting The Goat in a Suit and a handmade necklace. This work has been shared below with Isabel’s permission.

Now You See Me

By Isabel Hill, Class of 2022

Maybe things changed when I first cut my hair. Or maybe things changed when I refused to grow it out again. My parents loved my hair; I think that might have been one of the reasons I thought It had to go before I did. Mom and Dad never like the thought of me leaving home. We weren’t exceptionally close, but it was kind of a protective love that they gave me. They gave me their opinion, and they gave me what was best for me, and yet I cut away every line they roped around me. My hair seemed like one of those ties. It was long and flowing and beautiful, an altar to my parents' depiction of perfection. 

I think I scared myself when I looked in the mirror after setting down the silver-bladed scissors. The dark halo around my head had been reduced to something jagged and sharp, like messy broken glass. I just stood there, longer than I knew how to count, holding fistfuls of severed wavy locks, and holding my breath even tighter.

I learned my first magic trick with a deck of cards. I learned how to make things disappear and reappear, but I didn’t stop at cards. I taught myself when to disappear. To disappear from friends, from teachers, and sometimes my parents. But no matter how long I had disappeared for, I always came back. Not with a flourish, or a puff of mysterious smoke, but in silence, as if I had never left to begin with. But staring at this stranger in my own mirror was scary. I couldn’t make my hair reappear. It was really gone. I didn’t think I would miss it, and I was right. It was my parents who were furious. 

When I left home I stopped wearing skirts and dresses and switched over to dress shirts and ties. I sometimes annoyed myself when I insisted on wearing a tie. It felt too tight, too close, but it looked good on me. It looked refined and precise, just how I wanted to feel. I didn’t think my parents would approve, but the thought became numbed, like a dull headache that one can learn to live with.

My new friends seemed to like my wardrobe choice, and I built my demeanor around that knowledge. I stood straight, with my shoulders squared, and spoke kindly but firmly. Confident and calm, like a gentleman should be. So self assured, yet not self absorbed. The one thing past my appearance that everyone seemed to adore was my magic. 

I could perform acts with smooth fluidity. People could get as close as they wanted, they would never figure out how I did it. They wanted to know my secret and learn my spells, and I would always tell them the truth with a little wink. I told them that It's not magic, it’s misdirection.

They liked it when I deceived them, so I kept practicing magic. It became my signature, the thing that people would whisper about me with awe. I liked doing it, and seeing people’s faces melt with wonder at the thought that maybe, just maybe, magic really was possible. I continued to practice new tricks. If there was something I couldn’t figure out at first I knew I would master it eventually. It was only a matter of time. My performance was as important as the trick itself, but I soon came to realize that it wasn’t just my shows that I was performing in.

"The Goat in a Suit," original artwork by Rowland Hall junior Isabel Hill

The Goat in a Suit, acrylic paint on paper.

When I stood with my new friends it was like standing on a stage, only my audience was surrounding me. I would easily enchant them with my witty and friendly act. But it wasn’t magic, it was misdirection. Whenever I was in a group I was surrounded by companions, but a piece of me always felt hollow. I could thrive in the spotlight, the center of attention, but that was all an act of magic. I had taught myself how to disappear and how to go unnoticed, I didn’t know what to do with myself if I tried to show what was behind my expression instead of what was behind a spectator’s ear. 

My expressions hid an emotion, a kind of feeling that I couldn’t touch under my fingertips. I felt it crawling under my skin from time to time, but I couldn’t grab a hold of it and crush it. It was infuriating, and I didn’t know what to do about it. I wanted to cut away my confused pieces like the shriveled leaves in my mother's garden that the plants didn't need anymore. I tried to reshape who I thought I was, pruning myself into a beautiful rose. But no matter how many leaves I trimmed the thorns would always grow back.

I kept performing. It was only a matter of time before I met Adrien. The one with a soft smile and sharp eyesight, the one who was always too perceptive for my own good. Or maybe it was for my own good. He was very kind to many people, and I seemed to be one of them. Adrien’s eyesight was sharp enough to cut through a person’s skin and see what they were underneath. He could see people opened up like the petals of a flower. 

I was scared to open myself up, as if doing so would break myself as well, like a flimsy little piggy bank. He didn’t need permission though. He wasn’t invading, he was just too attentive. Adrien could tell the difference between my thoughtful silence and my upset silence and I had no idea how he did it. He seemed to take a special fascination with me and I found it almost alarming.

It took me a while to figure out that Adrien’s fascination was more of a friendship. I already had friends of course, it was something I prided myself with, but this felt different, more honest. And Adrien, he was like glass. He was transparent, but somehow he was not fragile. He could get angry, and act cold, and sometimes his accomplishments would go to his head and he would talk too much. 

He was more transparent than me at least. I found it charming. Sometimes I would see him fraying like a rope when it was pulled too tightly. But he never broke. He never shattered. I’m not sure many other people could see when he was fraying. I was attentive to detail, it was how I became such a good magician. 

I liked to baffle him with my magic. I still enjoyed doing it, and even more so when I believed I was fooling someone who seemed to see things so clearly. He never figured out the secret behind my magic, or if he did he didn’t find it important to mention.

Once he asked me to go perform magic at one of his parties, and I said no. Once he asked me to join him and his friends at a café one afternoon, and I said no. But once he asked me to go walking in a local park, and once, I said yes.

I was scared for days. I’m not sure what intimidated me so much about being alone with someone, maybe it was the knowledge that there would be no one else to help pick up the conversation. It was daunting, and the thought lurked behind me like a shadow.

A necklace created by Rowland Hall student Isabel Hill.

The necklace that Isabel created used stone, glass, and metal beads.

It followed me as a dark and transparent figure tugging at my heels. It pulled at me, but it couldn’t pull me back from the time Adrien had set. No amount of misdirection could change the advance of time. Yet when the time came, I performed again. Only this performance seemed different. I was only hiding my nervousness, for my sake of course, and eventually the theater mask fell away. 

It started to happen before I went to meet my friend, when I had chosen my outfit after fretting over it like a child. I looked at the person in the mirror, and I saw myself. I had a nice and relaxing posture, and I spoke softly; I no longer needed the confidence that dripped from my tongue as it had before. My short, dark hair haloed around my face, the tips curling upwards like the tendrils of a tiny sun. I wore a blue vest with little stripes, and a white blouse cuffed up to my elbows. I thought I looked beautiful. I didn’t wear a tie that day.

I met Adrien outside the park. The shadow was back, gripping at my ankles, yet somehow managing to take hold of my throat and close it up in the process. I managed to bluff my way all the way past the first fountain until we could manage to walk without needing to fill the cacophony of noise with our own voices.

He picked a flower at his feet and handed it to me to admire. It was a little purple clover. Its leaves were being nibbled away by some small insect, but it was just so pretty sitting there between my finger and thumb. Adrien smiled and said he thought it looked nice against my vest. He was right, it really did seem perfect. I kept the flower.

We only talked about neutral matters, or at least, I did. Adrien told me about what he had been up to, and what his parents were doing. We kept drifting back towards school, and the weather, and the national news. Once he asked me about my magic, and a smile crept towards my face. That was something I understood.

Later that day we promised ourselves we would meet again, probably at the same place, and perhaps on a similar time around a weekend. It was later that day when I realized something else about him. Adrien was like a mirror. He would take peoples images and reflect them back at you, but somehow you would only see the best frames. 

Maybe by watching him closely enough I would understand that trick, how he could see through our skins and see something pretty amongst the coiling veins and tendons. I would figure out the secret behind that trick someday. It was only a matter of time.

Student Voices

Collage of Tesserae and Gazette websites on laptops.

As the pandemic plunged Rowland Hall into remote learning in spring, and as it continues to keep some students learning from home, upper schoolers in our newspaper and literary magazine classes have nimbly reimagined their printed products. Both publications have now found homes online, at least temporarily.

Read the 2020 Tesserae student literary magazine Read the Gazette student newspaper

Ben Fowler ’20 and senior Garrett Glasgow shared editor-in-chief duties to get Tesserae online—an effort that started in April and concluded this month. While the Tesserae team hopes to keep the website updated with future issues, Garrett said they’re definitely planning to bring back print for 2021:

“Due to COVID-19’s impact on the ability to create a print copy of this year's edition of Tesserae, the staff decided to shift to a digital copy of the magazine. With help from Rowland Hall's marketing team, the staff created a website with the usual collection of poems, prose, artwork, and photos created by students. In addition to the typical artforms seen in prior magazines, the digital nature of this year's edition also enabled us to include short videos. While we hope to create a print copy of the 2021 issue, the 2020 issue is widely accessible and filled with content by talented Rowland Hall students. We hope everyone takes an opportunity to look through this year's edition.”

Over at the Rowland Hall Gazette, senior and editor in chief Sophie Dau and her team look forward to posting new pieces every week or two:

“We decided to go digital this year because of the limited amount of students on campus, and we hope to incorporate outside content with more flexible publishing. We will update the website much more frequently, so keep an eye out for opinion pieces, teacher and student profiles, school news, current events, and more!”

Thanks to Ben, Garrett, Sophie, and their classmates—along with teachers Joel Long and Dr. Laura Johnson—for getting these digital publications up and running for community members near and far to enjoy. Our students’ creativity persists, even if the presses are paused.

Top: Tesserae and Gazette website collage featuring background artwork by Tesserae contributing artist Alex Armknecht ’20.

Student Publications

students performing on stage
Middle and upper school actors, dancers, musicians, and visual artists derived their own absurd, whimsical, haunting, and comedic version of Alice in Wonderland, performed April 11–13 in the Larimer Center for the Performing Arts.

The innovative show featured large-scale murals, traveling props, a costume menagerie, every style of dance, and integrated orchestral, vocal, and jazz music.


You Belong at Rowland Hall