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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
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Around the Bend

Around the Bend - May 2022


Dear Oxbow Friends,

It has been a few months since the Spring 2022 semester started, but it only feels like a few days have passed. (Sense of time at Oxbow can be a trickster.) Students are busy putting the finishing touches on their final projects in preparation for the upcoming Final Show on Saturday, May 14th. There is great excitement in the air! The Oxbow faculty, staff, and trustees are eager to greet families this weekend in celebration of each student’s success.

While the finished work will inspire the viewer, what a guest at the Final Show doesn’t see is the organized chaos that transpires behind the scenes – sprawling mind maps, research, writing drafts and pitching proposals, experimenting with new materials, faculty patiently guiding students through obstacles, the last minute crunch, the well-earned break, the choreographed installation, the carefully composed artist statement, and the dress rehearsal for the oral presentation. To give you a better understanding of the “work behind the work” from the student perspective, I sat down with a current student, Yuni, to discuss her creative inquiry and art-making process.

In the introduction to your research paper about the passage of time, you write: “My understanding of time is that we move through life as individuals and the time that we are currently living in marks the preceding and following periods as a past and future, respectively. However, I believe that different understandings of time influence the ways that people live or view their lives. Those who do not believe in the existence of a predetermined future may be more inclined to believe in free will. Those who view the past, present, and future as ontologically equal may be more easily inclined to have a broader perspective and more often see the big picture.” How did you decide on your topic? What inspired you?
As a child, I discarded each day with ease and rarely acknowledged the past or how it might affect my present. Today, however, I find myself thinking only about the past and try to understand myself through the lens of my past experiences. I decided on my topic because I was reflecting on my time at Oxbow and I was trying to come to terms with the fact that I would have an opportunity to grow in other places like I have at Oxbow. I am curious about how I can accomplish the same amount of work that I have been able to do here. I want to keep up that sense of accomplishment at home. I worry about whether or not I will continue to use my time well. It was hard for me when I first arrived at Oxbow because I saw all of these resources available to me, but there was a set amount of time in which I could use them. I felt pressured to work every day and I would get worried if I hadn’t accomplished something to demonstrate the passage of time. I have now realized that even without a tangible end product, I can still make significant progress, even if it is internal.
Your research encompasses many different theories about the notion of time. You studied everything from Reductionism and Platonism, Presentism and Eternalism, and Islamic and Buddhist philosophies. Where did your research path lead you in your own understanding of time?
At the beginning of my research inquiry, I perceived time as being in the present moment. I cannot change the past or the future, but I will always be in the present. Having read a lot of divergent viewpoints, I now have a much better understanding of how others perceive time as well as my own philosophy. My past and my future affect me in many ways, but “I” can be independent of that. The Buddhist understanding of time has had the most impact on me and I have intentionally been trying to stay away from looking at time numerically. Despite modern society’s emphasis on the future, I can slow down and appreciate the present moment. By noticing the small things around me, I can slow down how I experience time.
You were also inspired by Yayoi Kusama’s infinity rooms. Can you talk more about her work and its impact on you?
Her work is about continuity and repetition. The repetition makes the viewer notice patterns and, as a result, the space feels bigger. Initially, when I saw a glimpse of the door to one of her installations from the outside, my expectations weren’t very high, but once I stepped inside everything seemed so vast. That feeling of knowing I was literally inhabiting a small space, but experiencing so much expansiveness simultaneously was very interesting to me.
Describe your artwork/installation.
Similar to Kusama, I am making a sensory-based room that will feature light, mirrors, and sound. I am making many small bells out of tarleton and I will install lights inside of them. The room will be enclosed with mirrors on the walls and the lighted bells will shimmer against the mirrors to reflect light back onto the walls and around the space. There will be a sound component that will include the sound of ringing bells and wind-chimes. The overlapping sounds will induce a sense of peace.
How have you approached your project over the past few weeks?
I came up with the idea for my artwork first and planned backwards. When the final project was first introduced, I knew I wanted to design a “mirror room” and, based on my research about time, I then decided upon the elements I would put inside. Right now, I am cutting out circles of tarleton and shaping them into bells. The main challenge I have faced with this project was feasibility, for I didn’t know if I could pull off creating a whole room/environment. I want the work to feel very personal and I wasn’t sure I could do that on a big scale.
What has been one of your “a-ha” moments while you have been working on your artwork?
The biggest learning moment occurred when I was deciding how to visually translate the abstract theme of time into a physical space. Early on, I spent many nights engaged in reflective writing as a way to distill my ideas about time. Bells and wind-chimes kept standing out to me. My grandparents have a big bell collection and ever since I was a young girl I loved visiting them and ringing the bells. My immediate family has a lot of wind-chimes at home. When I think about home, I can hear those wind-chimes. These sounds represent two different types of home and my childhood upbringing; the nostalgic memories have inspired the decision to bring bells into the work. The mirrors depict the endlessness of the future. I like the idea of the past and future coming together in one room.
What questions are you asking the viewer to consider in this work?
“How much does the past affect you?” “How much do you honor the person you once were?” “Are you going to take your past self and take advantage of future opportunities?” If there is one thing I want people to take away from my work, it’s that you can slow time down. I want to emphasize that the more one invites play and contemplation into daily life, it will make the days feel longer. That’s been the most comforting thing to me as I prepare to leave Oxbow.
What have you learned about yourself as a creative thinker and artist over the past semester?
I have learned that someone doesn’t need technical skill to make something that holds a strong message or meaning. Early in the semester, I was impacted by the sculpture/painting multidisciplinary projects because a lot of the materials we used were found objects. I learned that everyday objects can come together to make different meanings for both the artist and the viewer. I have learned exciting ways to make sculptures and installations convey what I want them to.
Where are you headed next as an artist?
I am not sure, but I definitely want to collaborate with others. Being surrounded by my peers here has taught me the value of collaborating and seeing how others’ strengths connect with mine. I want to take advantage of what can happen when two or three people work together on a project.

To view the final work made by Oxbow students, please visit the gallery on our website here. The Spring 2022 work will be posted during the summer months.

Warm regards,

Jennifer Jordan
Head of School

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Around the Bend

Around the Bend - November 2021


Dear Oxbow Friends,

We hope this message finds you in good health and spirits. We are excited to share with you some updates since our last issue of OxTales!

REOPENING. After a year of being closed due to the pandemic, we reopened our campus this past June to a vibrant group of young artists. This was the first cohort to experience our new summer programming, the Oxbow Summer Art Institute, an immersive arts residency for high-school students. Students spent each day making art from sunrise to sunset -- they experimented with new mediums and delved deeply into the creative process while also bringing much joy into the studios. To see the final artwork produced by our summer students, please visit our virtual gallery on the website here. Although they have returned home, the arts residency proved to be a resounding success and brought in new streams of revenue to secure the future of Oxbow. We look forward to seeing what the summer of 2022 brings!

NEW VIDEOS. During the summer months, we invited two students to collaborate with the Oxbow marketing team in our efforts to shoot new promotional videos for the school, “The Oxbow Journey.” The purpose of these short videos is to capture the introspective narrative gleaned from each student’s first person perspective, allowing the viewer to gain a better understanding of the transformation that occurs as a result of the Oxbow experience. The first video features Ethan and can be viewed here. Ethan is from Chicago and shares that his time spent at the Summer Art Institute truly transformed how he views art and how he views himself in the world. He notes, “I was able to meet people who gave me a new chance. I was able to come out of my shell.” When thinking about the power of the community, Ethan states, “People here have learned how to take inspiration from everything surrounding them.” The second video features Portia and can be viewed here. Portia attends boarding school in Pottstown, PA and she notes, “Before coming to Oxbow, I had a really clear image of who I thought I was, what I thought education had to look like, what art had to look like.”

FALL SEMESTER. It’s no surprise that our current Fall cohort is also undergoing change as this week launches the Final Project, the seminal capstone project in which students engage in mindful critical and creative inquiry around a topic of their own choosing. During the last weeks of the semester, students take on the role of an artist working in their own studio. Students receive personalized support from the faculty to successfully execute their projects. As a result of this unique collaboration, students depart the program with a newly discovered agency and a deep-seated curiosity that leads to a journey of lifelong learning. The Final Show is scheduled for Saturday, December 11th and the student research and artwork will be posted to our virtual gallery shortly thereafter. We look forward to celebrating with them next month. In the meantime, please follow their journey on the Oxbow Instagram! There, you will see many images of their work along with co-programming experiences (camping trips into nature, Halloween celebrations, making food with the chefs on the weekends, gallery openings, elective classes, and more).

SCHOLARLY ARTICLE. Not too long after students left mid-semester during the Spring of 2020, two Oxbow faculty members co-authored an article entitled, “Reflections on Distance Learning and Quarantine in Spring 2020: The Oxbow School’s Pandemic Story”. The article was published in this month’s edition of Art Education, the official journal of the National Art Education Association. A copy of the story can be found on our website here. Teaching remotely brought new awareness to the importance of an arts education, especially during a time when the creative process was a much needed outlet for young people forced into quarantine for an unknown period of time. Not surprisingly, the Oxbow faculty and students rose to the occasion to produce meaningful work as featured in Art Education.

THANK YOU. It is fitting that Thanksgiving is around the corner, for we want to thank you for being an important part of our greater school community. Your support and stewardship of the school is instrumental and there are many ways in which you can help sustain Oxbow’s future. The most direct way is to support our Annual Scholarship Fund. If you would like to make a major gift to the school, nominate us for a foundation grant, or set up planned giving, please contact the development office ( Your donation has a direct impact on our ability to continue to be a school of access, equity, and excellence.

The faculty and staff at Oxbow wish you a heartfelt Thanksgiving holiday filled with love from family and friends. In closing, we would like to share this poem with you and this podcast, “Thanksgiving Poems,” from Poetry Off the Shelf brought to you by the Poetry Foundation. Enjoy!

Warm regards,

Jennifer Jordan
Head of School

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Around the Bend

Around the Bend - November 2019


Dear Oxbow community,

As we spend this week expressing gratitude for friends and family, I would like to extend my gratitude to you for being part of the larger Oxbow story. It is our personal connection and shared commitment to an equitable arts education that enables us to invite young scholars and artists from across the country. When students participate in a semester at Oxbow, they are welcomed into a community of like-minded artists and undergo a life altering transformation that sets them on the path to be proactive citizens in the world. It is truly inspiring to be witness to the work our students do and, more important, to participate in a story that is bigger than me. You are also an important voice in this narrative.

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Around the Bend

Around the Bend - October 2019



“How can I be a more authentic person? What does it mean to be a steward for the environment? How can an arts practice promote social justice?” As I walk through the classes today, these questions float in the air, infusing the community with vibrant, energized possibilities. Oxbow students are shifting their inward selves externally, marking a pivotal turning point in the semester in which students begin to articulate what they stand for in life and, more important, how they are going to give shape to those values as active, responsible citizens in the world.

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Around the Bend

Around-the-Bend - September 2019


As we welcome 39 vibrant students from across the country, I am struck by the excitement that comes with the start of the school year. Having been in education for my entire life, my sense of time is inextricably tied to the school calendar. Call me nostalgic, but I long for the opening of the school year.

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Around the Bend

Around the Bend - June 2019


Dear Oxbow Friends,

Following the remarkable leadership provided by Stephen Thomas for twenty years, it is my humble pleasure to bring another academic year to a successful close. Stephen has been a close friend and mentor for me throughout my tenure at Oxbow and I am indebted to him and the founders, the Mondavis and Ann Hatch, for bringing the vision for an arts-centric community into reality for motivated adolescents across the country. In honor of Stephen’s dedication to Oxbow, the “Stephen Thomas Scholarship Fund” was launched last year to support future students who wouldn't otherwise be able to attend. I am proud to announce that this scholarship fund is thriving today with record numbers of students receiving scholarship money.

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Around the Bend

Save the Date - May 13 Benefit Concert with Boz Scaggs!


Dear Oxbow Friends,

It's been a couple of months since you have heard from me; lots has been going on, including welcoming OS36 in January. They are now well into the Fortune Cookie project, and are delighted some sunshine has finally arrived after all the crazy rain this winter. Students thoroughly enjoyed Visiting Artist Hung Liu and Jeff Kelley’s recent residency where she worked closely with students on large-format paintings of tiny objects, and Jeff delivered a series of college-level slide lectures on contemporary art history. As some of you will remember, Hung was our very first resident artist, working in a building on the fairgrounds since the studios were not even built!

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Around the Bend

3rd Annual Riverside Picnic & Concert


To everyone who joined us for the 3rd Annual Riverside Picnic and Concert on Saturday, June 11 to RAISE THEIR PADDLES in support of The Oxbow School, THANK YOU! The event was once again a wonderful gathering of friends on Oxbow’s stunning campus to enjoy great food and wine, fun live bluegrass music, and we raised over $75,000 in support of deserving Oxbow students. Thanks to the generosity of the community who shares our commitment to student diversity, we are able to provide financial aid and create a school of access for students from a diverse array of backgrounds and experiences.

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A School Like No Other