Fall Arts 2021 Newsletter: Building Landmarks

Malina Mootoo ’25 at the Williamstown Holiday Walk

The Buxton calendar has a predictable rhythm, with satisfying, familiar landmarks along the way. We just finished Fall Arts, now we’re moving into Secret Sangster and our winter holiday celebrations. After a break we’ll come back for Winter Study Electives and then the All School Trip. And yet, here’s the contradiction: none of those “landmarks” are ever quite the same each year. Each year we make them anew; each year they feel different.

Which is to say, there’s not really a pre-existing milestone, “Fall Arts,” that we simply come upon each year. Students and art teachers build it every year, in the studios and the theaters, with their cameras and their clay and their canvases. And what they built this fall was incredible. There was so much amazing, creative, soul-filling art for us to share with each other in community.

So, then, maybe it’s not actually that we’re getting to landmarks called Secret Sangster or All School Trip, but instead preparing to build them. Yes, that’s more accurate. We’re coming up on the parts of the year where we know milestones ought to be—we saw them in previous years, we experienced them with older students and past teachers. Imagine our surprise when we finally get to that part of the year, and there is no milestone there at all! We need to make it, we realize. It’s not there unless we make it.

How could it be otherwise in progressive education, in community building? Antonio Machado said it far better, many years ago, echoed again and again by Myles Horton and Paolo Freire: “There is no road,” he told us. “We make the road by traveling.”

We make the road by traveling. There’s no path until we carve it out, and we need to carve it out every single year. We can’t rely on the bushwhacking of previous generations. (Or to put it more specifically and cryptically for Buxton, we can’t rely on the SPS of previous Work Programs.)

So then I need to revise my first paragraph. We just finished Fall Arts, and are now approaching the part of the year where we come upon a note, left to us by previous years’ travelers. “Time for Secret Sangster.” They left the note by the side of the road, on top of a pile of fabrics, glitter glue, fresh-baked cookies, and silly performances. They left us the materials to build a landmark, to build a road by traveling.

Peter, Head of School

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