At the Academy of Notre Dame de Namur in Villanova, the fine and performing arts are an integral component of the academic experience, with comprehensive and exceptional arts education offered for students in all grades. 550 students in grades six through twelve attend the all-girls’ Catholic academy.
Dr. Judith A. Dwyer, president and chief executive officer at Notre Dame, says the Academy is committed to the belief that a true liberal arts education should integrate various disciplines and explore the interconnectedness of all knowledge.
“The importance of integrating the fine and performing arts is a longstanding tradition at the Academy,” says Dwyer. “Literature, science, economics, politics, religion, geography, history — all impact the arts and find reflection through the arts, with the ability to appreciate, engage in and express oneself artistically as an integral part of authentic human development.”
“Embracing a more thematic, interdisciplinary approach to learning, Notre Dame faculty select an annual theme to integrate the curriculum, with ‘Transcending Borders and Enhancing Environments’ serving as the 2019-2020 selection. Within that theme, the fine and performing arts will play a central role,” explained Dwyer.
Classes in the arts — visual, choral, instrumental and dance — are required courses for all middle school students, an important value-added experience, notes Dwyer.
“We ensure that all middle school students have adequate time and space to explore the arts and experience a wonderful array of artistic expression,” she says. “It helps our students discover their own talents and establishes a critical foundation within these extremely important formative years of middle school.”
Notre Dame high school students continue this integration of the arts, especially as they explore the interconnectedness of the arts with other disciplines — English, world languages, social sciences, religion and STEM. More advanced high school students take AP Studio Art and AP Art History.
Notre Dame also offers an “Arts Scholar” program for its most advanced students, who develop their own art portfolio, instrumental or dance program, engage in research guided by a faculty mentor and explore the broader national and international community as part of their “capstone” project. This program includes the ability to compete for placement in classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts through the prestigious James J. and Frances M. Maguire Scholarship for Artistic Excellence.
Several recent graduates of Notre Dame now matriculate at such institutions as the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, the Savannah College of Art and Design, and the Rhode Island School of Design.
Lively student performances are also a central part of the academic year, with “Mamma Mia!,” “Frozen, Jr.” and “Pride and Prejudice” scheduled for 2019-2020. In addition, students explore “the city as a classroom,” as there are annual trips to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Opera Philadelphia’s “Sounds of Learning” education program at the Academy of Music. Notre Dame is also an active community partner with the Bryn Mawr Film Institute.
“The fine and performing arts are alive and well at Notre Dame,” concludes Dwyer. “The arts encourage us to transcend any given moment as we explore the power of talent. They inspire our teaching and learning, lift our spirits, and help us to celebrate the beauty and complexity of life.”
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