Art mu­seum new school’s home for spell

Work on Thaden cam­pus ne­ces­si­tates ar­range­ment

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - DAVE PEROZEK

BEN­TONVILLE — Crys­tal Bridges Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art reg­u­larly en­ter­tains vis­its from stu­dents on field trips, but a new pri­vate school will oc­cupy the mu­seum full-time for its first month of op­er­a­tion.

The Thaden School, which opens Mon­day with 45 stu­dents in grades seven and nine, will hold classes at the mu­seum while work on its tem­po­rary cam­pus down­town is fin­ished.

Clay­ton Marsh, found­ing head of school, wel­comed stu­dents dur­ing an ori­en­ta­tion meet­ing Fri­day in Func­tion Room B at Crys­tal Bridges.

“I’m a lit­tle bit ner­vous. I’m a lot ner­vous,” Marsh ad­mit­ted to stu­dents about the school’s open­ing. “But I’m even more ex­cited.”

A rainy spring de­layed the school’s plan to open in a tem­po­rary ar­range­ment of por­ta­ble build­ings on South­east C Street, so the school had to ex­plore al­ter­na­tives, Marsh said.

“We be­gan to look at a num­ber of op­tions, one of which was be­gin­ning here at Crys­tal Bridges. The plan­ets aligned per­fectly, and we’re in­cred­i­bly for­tu­nate to be able to start our school here for the first five weeks,” he said.

Two meet­ing rooms on the mu­seum’s bot­tom floor — one of which can be di­vided in two — will serve as the school’s pri­mary class­room space. The school will use other ar­eas within the fa­cil­ity, in­clud­ing out­door space, an art stu­dio and the mu­seum’s li­brary, Marsh said.

“We’ll try to do cer­tain ac­tiv­i­ties more in the morn­ing when it’s quiet,” he said. “We’ll be here well be­fore the mu­seum opens. We’ll be here Tues­days when it’s closed en­tirely. Those will present es­pe­cially ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to bring stu­dents in to have in­struc­tion with the col­lec­tion of paint­ings.”

As for what kind of rent, if any, the school is pay­ing to the mu­seum, Marsh said, “We’re still work­ing out our ar­range­ments.” A mu­seum spokes­woman did not re­turn a phone mes­sage seek­ing com­ment Fri­day.

The Wal­ton Fam­ily Foun­da­tion an­nounced plans in July 2015 to open a pri­vate school for mid­dle and high school stu­dents. Crys­tal Bridges is also a project of the Wal­ton fam­ily and the foun­da­tion.

Of­fi­cials an­nounced in Au­gust 2016 the school’s name and their in­ten­tion to build on the for­mer site of the Ben­ton County Fair­grounds, at the cor­ner of South Main Street and South­east Eighth Street.

Con­struc­tion of the school’s per­ma­nent fa­cil­i­ties is not ex­pected to be done for an­other two years. In the mean­time, the Thaden

School will op­er­ate in a com­bi­na­tion of tem­po­rary and per­ma­nent struc­tures on its cam­pus. Stu­dents and staff will tran­si­tion to the cam­pus on Sept. 18, Marsh said.

Thaden is open­ing with 27 sev­enth-graders and 18 ninth-graders. Of­fi­cials plan to grow the school over the next four years to serve stu­dents in grades six through 12.

At Fri­day’s ori­en­ta­tion, stu­dents got time to so­cial­ize. They re­ceived in­struc­tion on the school’s on­line por­tal where stu­dents and par­ents can ac­cess as­sign­ments, cal­en­dars and hand­books. Each stu­dent also re­ceived a new lap­top, which will be theirs to use through­out the school year.

Mar­cus Chang, di­rec­tor of cam­pus life, talked to the stu­dents about at­tend­ing school at the mu­seum, em­pha­siz­ing they need to be­have in a “calm, re­spect­ful and thought­ful” way.

“We are guests here,” Chang told stu­dents. “Crys­tal Bridges is be­ing su­per gen­er­ous by al­low­ing us to use these class­rooms.”

He urged the stu­dents to be friendly to the mu­seum’s vis­i­tors when they have a chance to en­gage with them.

Chang, en­ter­ing his 27th year in in­de­pen­dent school ed­u­ca­tion, moved to North­west Arkansas for a chance to be part of a new school. He formerly worked at The Bishop’s School, a pri­vate school near San Diego.

Eighty per­cent of the school’s stu­dents live in Ben­ton County; the rest are from Washington County. They come from a va­ri­ety of ed­u­ca­tional back­grounds, in­clud­ing pub­lic, pri­vate and home school, Thaden of­fi­cials said.

Gun­nar Schmidt, 14, of Fayet­teville has been home­schooled his en­tire life. He said he’s a lit­tle ner­vous about start­ing at Thaden but added he was get­ting along with fel­low stu­dents.

Gun­nar ac­knowl­edged there’s some­thing spe­cial about be­ing part of the school’s first year.

“What we do now has a last­ing ef­fect on the school. So ob­vi­ously we want to kind of leave a pos­i­tive mark, but we want to make it unique, too,” he said.

Natali Quinones, a sev­enth-grader at Thaden, pre­vi­ously was en­rolled in the Ben­tonville School District. Natali, 12, said it’s “re­ally cool” to be spend­ing the first month of school at Crys­tal Bridges.

“And maybe when you’re done with school you can go look at the art with your par­ents or your friends. It’s a great op­por­tu­nity for all,” she said.

Ken­dra McMaster, an­other sev­enth-grader also com­ing from the Ben­tonville School District, said she looks for­ward to work­ing in smaller groups than the ones to which she’s ac­cus­tomed in pub­lic schools. She’s also ex­cited about be­ing at the mu­seum.

“I love Crys­tal Bridges and just see­ing the beau­ti­ful art­work, just on my own time with friends, and hear­ing their ideas of the art­work,” said Ken­dra, 12. “It’s fun and ed­u­ca­tional.”

“We are guests here. Crys­tal Bridges is be­ing su­per gen­er­ous by al­low­ing us to use these class­rooms.”

— Mar­cus Chang, di­rec­tor of cam­pus life for Thaden School

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/SPENCER TIREY

Thaden School sev­enth-grader Maeve Hints (from right) talks with other sev­enth-graders, Alora Asuquo and El­iz­a­beth Whalen dur­ing an ori­en­ta­tion Fri­day in a room at Crys­tal Bridges Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art. The Thaden School, a new in­de­pen­dent school open­ing Mon­day, is us­ing Crys­tal Bridges for the first five weeks of the school year as tem­po­rary build­ings are be­ing set up on its reg­u­lar cam­pus in down­town Ben­tonville. The school will open with 45 stu­dents in grades seven and nine.

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