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Alia Tahvildaran Named The Herbert and Irma Barness Endowed Chair

Lower School Art Teacher Alia Tahvildaran was named the Herbert and Irma Barness Endowed Chair in the Fine and Performing Arts during the end-of-year faculty/staff breakfast, which was held on Connor Quad on June 10, 2021. (SEE PHOTOS)

The Peter J. Cressman Chair for Excellence in the Teaching of Classical and Modern Language is awarded every three years to a current full-time member of the Lower, Middle or Upper School classics and modern language faculty. The selection is based on outstanding teaching ability in the target language and its culture, as well as the overall value of the faculty member to the Academy.

The Herbert and Irma Barness Endowed Chair in the Fine and Performing Arts is awarded every three years to a full-time member of the Lower, Middle or Upper School arts faculty. The selection is based on outstanding teaching ability, artistic achievement, and overall value of the faculty member to the Academy.  

Head of School Rich Schellhas 1760 presented Anderson with his chair. Lower School Art Department Coordinator/Teacher Jess Killo introduced Tahvildaran:

Alia Tahvildaran

So, I am feeling pretty honored this morning. Not only do I get to talk about a truly magnificent recipient, but I also get to read the words of another outstanding human, our most recent Barness Chair who could not be here today, Sara Ritz.  Here is what Sara wrote:

I want you to imagine for a moment that ideas and words and actions are seeds. That our example, our good works, our sincerity, can help these seeds grow into glorious flowers and plants and other living things that nourish the world around them with beauty and hope.  Now, I want you to imagine that inside all of us, big and small… our mind and heart is a garden. And the person who is the next recipient of the Barness Chair is a gifted gardener.

This person plants seeds right into the chest cavity- into the hearts and minds of everyone she meets. From our youngest seedlings to our most weathered oaks -she sees them, really sees them, meets them where they are, and feeds them so they can grow.

This person brings light and love and a deep well of knowledge to every interaction. If you get to walk on this person’s garden path, as I did by accident just a few weeks ago, you might find her outside planting with some of our youngest gardeners in training. They are making a dye garden. They are learning the power of nature to deliver the possibility of a rainbow of colors. Color and where things come from, and what we might create from that gift. A gift that will stay in your chest, your heart, your mind. I’m not the only one who has witnessed the glory in this artist -gardener’s magnificent garden patch. A slew of nominations came pouring in, reveling in this human being’s extraordinary gifts.

One nominator shared:

This person is passionate about helping her students see the world through an artist’s eye. She breaks down every step of the most basic parts with a steady emphasis on process over product. She joins forces with homeroom teachers and specialists…. Creating backdrops with students for classroom performances and teaching students about horticulture in an art and Science partnership. She taps into collaborative rhythm and movement with Music to compose the schoolwide Dip and Dance celebration of music and art.

A colorful garden indeed…another grateful nominator pointed out:

Pre-pandemic, as well as throughout the pandemic, this person has always been dedicated to her students and teaching them well and engaging with them as she shares her joy of art. She even voluntarily took the time to create extra videos and resources for her students participating in the GA at Home Program.

Hmmmm…clearly the work in a garden is never done and this person tends to her work and expands her garden patch often… Another nominator mused:

This person has been bringing new forms of art to the students with her special brand of enthusiasm. She just loves teaching kids, and they love her. She never sits on her laurels; she is always exploring new ideas and her students create some of the best art around… I am simply a fan of this woman - as an artist and an interesting, wonderful person.

There’s more….

This artist achieves magic with GA's smallest community members. She teaches them to love and accept themselves and one another. She broadens their worlds with units focusing on non-traditional art and the art of many cultures. As a parent, I am thankful for every time my children come home citing art class as the best part of their day. As an art department colleague, I am thankful for the way she inspires me to be a better artist and teacher.

This one line that came in all bolded might be my favorite.  They said:

She makes kids love art, and that is the best endorsement I can think of.

Indeed, we are so glad to be part of your garden. We are nurtured and nourished by you. You feed us, you love us, and we grow.  You get us right in the chest, in the heart, and we are fortunate to have you as the next Barness Chair because you, my dear friend, are a true Artist and this Chair was made for you.

Let’s face it, even your initials spell it out. A.R.T

Please join me in congratulating the next Barness chair of Visual and Performing Arts…Alia Rachel Tahvildaran.