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Marshall School will refresh arts, music spaces

Marshall School art teacher Lucas Anderson works with student Annika Gunnarson in one of the school’s art rooms. The school will renovate its arts and music classrooms and studio space over the summer. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com1 / 2
Marshall School’s Bryce Nixon talks about one of the art areas the school is renovating this summer during a tour Thursday. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com2 / 2

More than 90 percent of Marshall School's 400 or so students participate in arts and music education, and school leaders aim to give them a space that truly fits their creative needs.

Beginning in June, the private school in Duluth, which serves students in grades 4-12, will renovate two wings containing arts and music classrooms and studio space, as well as add a new digital media lab and recording studio.

Renovations will move swiftly, with work expected to finish by summer's end. The project, expected to cost about $250,000, is funded through capital campaign donations. The school is working with Scalzo Architects and Gardner Builders in Duluth.

"We're really committed to broadening the art and music offerings that our students are able to take part in, but we really need the facilities that are ready to accept that kind of engagement," said Bryce Nixon, Marshall's associate head for external relations.

Walking down a dark, windowless hallway toward a middle-school art room, someone would be forgiven for not recognizing that commitment right away, Nixon said.

"It's one of the first hallways you interact with, and right now you'd have no idea that art and music are something that we value."

As part of the renovation, windows into various classrooms will soon line the hallway, allowing a view of how Marshall students engage with their creative interests.

Plans call for walls to be knocked down to allow for more movement and workspace. Larger windows and French doors will be added to art rooms to allow students to interact with nature just beyond school grounds.

Marshall School junior Collin Patton works at a potter’s wheel in a studio Thursday. Photos by Steve Kuchera / News TribuneA visit to the school's ceramics room, once a garage bay, would leave anyone feeling a kinship with sardines. Students carrying their work slipped by one another as they moved in and out of the room Thursday, while others used small portions of work tables or huddled over potter's wheels in the corner. Window light was hard to come by.

"I'm very excited. It's very important for this generation to have tactile touch," said art teacher Lucas Anderson. "I just want (students) to have solid spaces, more tables. They're actually really adept at working in a little, consolidated space, but obviously from an organizational standpoint, we'd like to have more flow, more access, to make it more efficient."

The school is adding a digital media lab to the art space, along with updates to art studio space. Marshall also has a small darkroom, which the school plans to expand.

"I thought that was something we'd be getting rid of," Nixon said. "But that's a medium that's really coming back, so we're going to be expanding and enhancing our darkroom."

The school's second wing to be renovated focuses on music education space, where classrooms will be opened up to allow for more hands-on learning and more interactive types of engagement.

The school's Fregeau Auditorium was renovated about 15 years ago, Nixon said, and it hosts not only school events but community events, including ballet, symphony and theater performances. Marshall aims to do something similar in its music rooms, including space for smaller theater and dance groups.

"Choir and band don't necessarily look like (they) did in 1964 when this building opened," Nixon said. "We're using more instruments, we're doing more movement, there's a lot more experimental combo kinds of groups."

Concrete risers will go away, more natural light will be allowed in and cabinets containing music on paper will be moved out to open up the rooms.

The renovations are part of a five-year strategic plan at Marshall that also saw the renovation of its science and math classroom facilities last summer. The renovations come after a year of gathering input from students and faculty.

With the renovations, students and faculty were asked "what would solve problems for them, what would they like to see happen in these spaces so that we're not just going in and putting some paint and carpet down and tearing up some walls."

Marshall School’s Head of School Kevin Breen.Marshall Head of School Kevin Breen said Thursday that arts instruction was key to modern learning.

"When we talk about '21st-century teaching' — student-directed teaching focused on creativity and problem solving — it's new," he said. "But they've been doing that in fine arts and music for centuries. Art instruction is really good instruction. We see some of our best teaching in these spaces, and they deserve to have the facility to do that work."

To help

Marshall School is wrapping up its 2019 Fund-a-Need capital campaign, which already has funded summer renovations to arts and music classrooms and studio space. For more information or to donate, go to

Adelie Bergstrom

Adelie has been a reporter, editor and graphic designer since 2003, joining the News Tribune in 2012. (Her name rhymes with “Natalie," but she's just "Addie" to most.) Adelie also is an artist, photographer and model. She's a girl of the North with a love for Scandinavia, the Northern Lights, quirky films and anything mid-century. Contact her in the newsroom at (218) 720-4154.

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