Arts Alive returns to form at WCHS

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For years, Andy Zygmunt walked along the sidewalks of Westerville Central High School the day after the school’s annual Arts Alive Festival, marveling over the chalk art designs created by hundreds of students.

Zygmunt hoped to join the festivities as a freshman but organizers shifted to a virtual event after the state shuttered schools because of the pandemic. The event continued to be scaled-back for the next two years. 

On Monday, Zygmunt — now a senior — set up an easel, canvas and paints to create a landscape scene in the style of Bob Ross, joining artists along WCHS’ sidewalks to create artwork for the entire school community to see. 

For the Class of 2023, this year marks their first time experiencing Arts Alive as it was intended: a day dedicated to creating, displaying and appreciating the artistic talents across the school. 

The hallway gallery displayed more than 400 works of art by students. The media center hosted a spoken word stage where students and staff performed poetry, songs in American Sign Language and karaoke. One student sang a Cab Calloway tune in acapella. 

Choir, orchestra and jazz band members held outdoor performances along with some students playing a solo show. The chalk walk, which serves as the festival’s marquee event, featured 170 artists who won a spot to create 73 murals along the sidewalk surrounding the school. Alcott second-grade and fifth-grade students joined the festivities by creating 12 murals with a high school mentor.

Senior Jack Swaney won the event’s annual T-shirt design contest while seniors AJ Anderson and Brooke Middleton and junior Makaila Moore won the sticker design contest. 

After hosting versions of the Arts Alive Festival for the past three years, the school’s art teachers — Jennifer Kiko, Derrick Ehlen, Ali Deck and Jo Yarano — are excited to resume a tradition that started in 2006. English teacher Kelly Kratofil organized and ran the spoken word stage all day, providing a different venue for this live performance art as well. 

“What I’m seeing is that they have an appreciation for their peers,” Kiko said. “They are uplifting each other, saying ‘That’s amazing’ or ‘Hey man, I really like that’ … We wanted to create a vibe that we’re all together, this is our Central family and this is our big outdoor family picnic.”  

“This is to celebrate and spotlight the students that have a passion for the arts. Art is usually an individual activity — but today it is collaborative, celebrated and appreciated by all.”

Zygmunt, who served as one of the 41 student workers supporting the event, has been taking in all the festivities. 

“I’m just having fun with it and being a part of it. I really love that where all of the students in the school get to showcase their interest — whether it’s art, live-performing art, fine arts, chalk art — or even the students who are not particularly artsy but they are doing a chalk square. It’s something of interest, it’s something that shows all the students and who they are through art.”