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Anyone who has crossed Dwight’s transom at 18 West 89th Street knows that the gateway to our school is comprised of double hand-forged iron doors that are not only quite heavy but also beautiful to behold. These architectural icons of our campus, named the “School of Spirits” doors, were designed intentionally to be difficult to open.

Each door weighs 1,000 pounds. They were crafted by James Garvey, a Dwight parent (Sara ’95, Constance ’98, and Noah ’99), who is one of the leading metalsmith artists in the world. He wanted students to realize that they need to make an effort to learn, to overcome inertia to enter and excel; and that once inside Dwight’s learning community, they would feel safe.

The ironwork is complex and labor-intensive — and reflects Dwight’s 143-year legacy of merging tradition with innovation. The doors were created using ancient forging methods that originated before the Middle Ages combined with techniques developed in modern times.

Donated to Dwight in 1994 by the artist, our “School of Spirits” doors are again in the spotlight through a current re-crafting project by Mr. Garvey. I am reminded that the ornamental doors mirror the narrative of every child that enters Dwight’s portal. It is the story of overcoming small setbacks as a necessary ingredient to achieve anything of significance. Great teachers, just as the artist who created the “School of Spirits” doors, help to forge students with iron wills and open hearts. Historic and heroic teachers are memorialized in the doors, as they assist children to ascend to become ethical leaders. The doors represent the hopes and dreams we have for our children.

To learn more about Mr. Garvey’s work and the original concept for our “School of Spirits” doors, visit
Art is omnipresent at Dwight. Student artwork adorns the hallways and gallery spaces of our campus ― and shares pride of place alongside Dwight’s museum-quality collection of over 200 paintings, sculptures, etchings, thangkas, and more.

Against this amazingly vibrant backdrop, and from classroom to classroom, students learn about and create art within the context of the IB curriculum, while letting their imaginations roam free. With guidance from mentors, such as Timothy House Art Teacher Amanda Thompson, students unleash their inner Michelangelo or Picasso! A graduate of the London University and Rhode Island School of Design, Ms. Thompson shared her thoughts about teaching and how the artistic spark of genius is found in all her students, when we sat down to discuss all things art.

When did you first become interested in art? What or who inspired you?
My mum is an artist. She went to art school in Brighton in the 70s. I grew up around her and her artist friends in Brighton and London, and we spent a lot of time looking at and talking about art. I first became personally interested in creating art in London in the 80s. Many of my friends were in the music and fashion industries, and I started by creating large-scale paintings and collages in clubs and shops in Soho. It was all about transforming the space.

Is there one art form that you are most passionate about?
Tell us about your personal work. I am particularly enthralled by large-scale, interactive installations. Bill Viola, Olafur Eliasson, and Anish Kapoor are some of my favorite artists.

As for my personal work, I was trained as a painter, but I mainly make three-dimensional abstract work. My last solo show was in a 3,000-square-foot gallery in Williamsburg, where I showed a multimedia installation, using cast glass, resin, carved wood, and video. My goal is to continue to create installations ― to create spaces ― which take the viewer into another world.

How do you ignite the artistic spark of genius within your students?
The spark is in all of them. I am just the facilitator; my job is to make sure I don’t stand in their way. Having said that, each student has a different spark, so I believe, as their art teacher, it is my responsibility to introduce him or her to as many different art forms as possible. For example, we have units that focus on graphic design, others on sculpture or painting, and even one on engineering.

Can one teach "creativity”?
Yes, I believe you can. I think it’s important for students to be active in the decision-making process. If they are authentically invested in what they are learning or what they are making, they will become very creative. A large part of art class is spent asking questions, brainstorming ideas and solutions to problems, collaborating, and communicating ideas in new and innovative ways. Some of my best classes have started with a pile of materials and a problem to solve, with the creativity blossoming infinitely.

How is art taught differently in the IB curriculum?
I believe that the fundamental difference is in how the art curriculum is integrated with the rest of the curriculum. It is concept-based and skills are taught through the content, rather than in isolation. In this way, everything we do is relevant and interesting to students, and often generated by them. This keeps students motivated and allows them to take ownership of their own learning. I had a first-grader ask me to teach him how to draw a house in 3-D the other day, as he was in the middle of a unit on homes. I ended up teaching the whole class how to draw with a one-point perspective in the next class ― and we had a blast!

What makes Dwight's art program stand out from the crowd?
I think it’s pretty incredible to be a part of New Yor
Dwight Advanced Digital Media I students visited the The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York to view the Thomas Struth Photographs exhibit. As they start a "Visual Recording in Art and Design" unit, with a focus on street photography, students are analyzing New York City street scenes Struth captured on film.

For more about the exhibit, click here.
Fifth graders hosted a "Genius Hour" open house for their parents to see all the exciting and innovative personal projects they have been creating this trimester during their weekly "spark of genius hour." As their passions came to light, students explored meaningful ways to raise money for good causes, while learning a great deal through the process!

Inspired by Genius Hour, a movement providing students a choice of what they learn, during a set period of time during school, this hour empowers students and encourages creativity in the classroom.
Founded in 1872 and located in New York City, Dwight is a leading private international school. The first school in the Americas to offer all four International Baccalaureate programs

for students in preschool through grade 12, Dwight is dedicated to igniting the spark of genius in every child.
Dwight School   291 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-3002   Phone: 212.724.6360