Photo in the art studio of students painting while a drumming class performs. Staff and other students stand around the edge of the photo.

Somerville High School educators reached across departments to work together to create a wonderful, vibrant event for students that highlighted cultural heritage, music, and the arts. It started with a simple invitation from SHS art teacher Lindsey Richard to Marcus Santos’s World Percussion class. She asked him to visit her Studio Art Class on the morning of November 14th to perform for her students. 

Studio Art students have been learning about abstract expressionists who identify as synesthetes. Abstract Expressionism is a style of painting that often shows gestural brush strokes and movement. Synesthetes are people who see colors or shapes when they hear music or language. Several Abstract Expressionists identified as synesthetes. Ms. Richard wanted to create an environment that invited her student painters to use the music they heard as inspiration for their paintings in the style of the Abstract Expressionists.

Photo of Student artists painting at their easels as they listen to a student drumming performance

On the morning of the collaboration, the art studio was filled with student artists painting in front of their easels, student musicians playing vibrant music, and a team of student photographers moving through the studio to cover the event. Photography teacher Stan Marmysh had brought his class to take photos. 

At one point, the World Percussion class took a break to talk about their music. Mr. Santos spoke in English and a photography student volunteered to simultaneously interpret into Spanish. Many of the Studio Art and World Percussion students are multilingual learners who have not yet reached fluency in English. After the quick discussion, the drummers accompanied a student who performed Bhangra as a way of sharing part of her family’s South Asian cultural heritage.

At the end of the class, student musicians were invited to view their peers’ beautiful artwork. Mr. Santos reported that one of his “really serious students” had a wide smile on his face after the event. Both he and Ms. Richard have committed to organizing future collaborations.

Photo of smiling student in front of her easel with other students looking at her artwork and smiling

When educators and administrators envisioned what they wanted from the renovated high school building, a strong emphasis was placed on cross-department collaboration. What Ms. Richard and Mr. Santos organized is one of many such informal events happening in the building every week. It’s an example of a momentum toward more cross-curricular work across more disciplines and departments in order to more fully engage all students of Somerville High School.


R. Ronen, Coordinator of District Communications


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