The Ogden City Arts Advisory Committee is a group of local artists and residents that focuses on all things art happening in the city. The group’s members work as liaisons between artists and Ogden City to ensure art remains a vital part of the city. Kase Johnstun is a member of the committee.
There’s a school at the top or Lake Street in Ogden. Some may know this. Some may not.
This fall, the school got new windows. The old ones had been there since the walls were erected, the concrete was poured and the ground was dug out in the early 1950s. They’d become tinted, not to be cool or to block out the sun or to shade the students from the glare of midday, but because they were old, stained by time.
In the library, gifted chairs wobble and kick out when students sit on them. There’s rumors of new chairs coming — rumors.
Administration and faculty are excited about the changes. The new windows. The sturdy chairs and tables. The charging stations that will pop up from the new carpet. Really excited.
If the hallways and walls could talk, that old cliché of personified structures, they would say, “We just don’t get new things that often.” The school, a private Catholic School, like a tiny orphan in the land of giants — schools with fancy pools and slick hardwood basketball courts and pristinely trimmed grass that is striped white on expansive football fields — sits quiet on the edge of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. Its gym, built as a temporary structure with aluminum siding in the mid 1950s, has been stuccoed on the outside, cosmetic makeup on pock-marked face.
But this school, my alma mater, is special. There’s a book to be written about how special it is sometime. There are 10 books to be written about how special this school is, how its tight-knit community is the lifeblood and savior to so many in Northern Utah. A long talk about its academic excellence is, again, another very, very long article.
There are many misconceptions about private schools, especially small ones with less than 200 students.
The school isn’t rich (and it receives no state or county or city money). Those luxurious private schools exist on the west and east coasts, but not in Northern Utah, where the rich donor money goes to other places, to other churches and to other students. The students’ families aren’t rich. The school’s share of wealthy families makes up a no larger part of the city’s demographic than the wealthy families in other schools in the area.
And the facilities aren’t new. We’ve discussed this, haven’t we?
But a few years back, a donor built a black-box theater on the north end of campus over a parking lot that was never populated by cars.
Plays, put on three to four times a year, turn the theater into city streets and houses and Shakespearean landscapes, the performances moved from the 8-foot-ceilinged basement lunch room that housed the drama department for 60 years. The school, again, has lucked out with an amazing drama teacher in Jennifer Hughes.
But even after a short time, the black box has even begun to show wear. It happens, right?
That wear, however, exists because the tiny school on the top of the hill, if it could think (and if you’ll, again, excuse the easy, trope-like personification of a school’s brick structure), knows it doesn’t get new things that often, so the black box theater has become home to not only plays, but also dances and stomps — I’m told there’s a difference — and fundraisers and parent-teacher conferences and open houses and booster events and … everything else the school needs.
Three years ago, the black box became home to the Aquinas Institute, an ongoing program started by highly educated and driven women, mostly parents of students, that provides a venue and a voice for artists/writers/filmmakers whose work meets at the intersection of art and social justice. They do this in their free time to help contribute to a larger artistic and social justice purpose.
At 7 p.m. Oct. 26, the Aquinas Institute will host Abraham Smith, a poet and associate professor at Weber State University, at St. Joseph Catholic High School’s Black Box Theater, 1790 Lake St. Within the tall black walls and beneath the hanging lights, Smith will recite poetry, conduct a writing exercise for all, and field questions about where poetry intersects with social justice.
He will join an already solid list of presenters who have been kind enough to grace the Aquinas Institute’s stage. He will stand in a place that, to a very old school, is in only in its dawn.
There’s a school at the top of Lake Street in Ogden. Some may know this. Some may not. Hopefully, some will know it a little more now.
Please join us.