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Around the Bend

Around the Bend - July 2022


Dear Oxbow friends and community members,

I hope this message finds you in the midst of summer revelry – on a family adventure or catching up with an old friend at a corner cafe. In Napa, the 2022 Oxbow Summer Art Institute is fully underway with students embarking on their Final Project. When students aren’t making art in the studios, they are lounging in the hammocks, eating blackberries from the thicket along the riverbank, volleying a shuttlecock over the badminton net, harvesting honey from the bee-boxes, splashing in a waterfall at Point Reyes, or on a meandering stroll in search of the sunset. There’s something to be said about a shared social experience on a long summer day. It is more than enough.

I recently greeted an Oxbow alumna (OS34) who spontaneously stopped by campus during a trip to the Bay Area from New York City. As we caught up, I could feel deep nostalgic emotions surface as her eyes scanned the campus for the first time in years. She relished, “Coming to Oxbow was the best decision I have made in my life and my closest friends today are the ones that I met during my semester. I wouldn’t be where I am in my life had I not attended Oxbow.” Shortly after that visit, I thumbed through the most recent issue of Art Education, The Journal of the National Art Education Association, pausing on one written about innovative technologies in support of developing self-identity. I was struck by how much the research echoed the conversation I had just held with my former student.

The author, Nara Kim, refers to social identity theory, noting that the theory examines “‘a portion of an individual’s self-concept that is derived from perceived membership in a relevant…social interaction’ (Hermanussen et al., 2019, pp. 2132-2133).” Kim goes on to argue that “the growth of a new identity structure requires learners to freely relate life events and life possibilities to themselves and shape descriptive meaning.” While Kim’s work is largely focused on young children, the same principles can be applied to adolescents (and, arguably, to adults as well). Adolescence is such a critically important developmental stage in life as teens begin to develop a heightened self-awareness, not only in terms of their own identity formation but in consideration of how that unique identity is relevant within the context of the community at large.

Having access to a safe space like the one cultivated at Oxbow provides the supportive social fabric that fosters self-confidence and gives shape to one’s identity. When fellow educators, administrators, or parents ask, “What is it about Oxbow that sets it apart from another school?” I explain that it’s not so much about the day-to-day arts programming, it’s about the trusting community that is built from living together in a tightly knit community. It’s about heart – it’s about seeing students…listening to them…pushing them…and holding space for growth. The social interactions at Oxbow are relevant and meaningful; these interactions prepare students for future success and bolsters personal well-being at a time in life where it’s easy to get lost in irrelevant noise.

As we bring the summer program to a close this week, I am confident that the memories developed this summer will continue to last for a lifetime. And, for that, I am grateful to have met this student cohort and worked alongside a committed faculty and staff. I look forward to welcoming families and friends on campus for the celebratory closing ceremony this weekend!

Warm regards,

Jennifer Jordan

Head of School

Artwork above by Jasper D, Spring 2022

A School Like No Other