Visual Arts at O’Neal

This week, the Moore County Arts Council celebrates its 25th annual Young People’s Arts Festival. O’Neal has been a strong participant in every single one of them as well as the local festivals that came before it. On record, Anne Milliken’s first place prize in sewing for grades 6-8 in 1974 was the great debut.

“Medusa” by Naomi Johnson

Last year, O’Neal tied with Pinecrest for winning 1st place overall in the high school category. In 2019, O’Neal’s Naomi Johnson won the Judge’s Choice with her drawing “Medusa”.

In the early days, not only did the Falcon artists represent well within the community, there were also annual arts festivals held on the school campus for a week at a time. They featured galleries of student artwork as well as a schedule of performances. Head of School Gallery Artists are named in each division at the end of every school year. The artwork is framed and displayed in specific areas on campus for all to see. An expectation for an independent school, enrichment such as art reveals and nourishes the creativity within. As the world changes, the need for creative, critical thinking is evermore present. Art education in an independent school is rarely if ever threatened in order to maintain a budget. It is often one of the many factors that differentiates private and public-school education.

O’Neal has a significant number of alumni who are architects, art teachers, museum curators, designers of — furniture, graphics, landscapes, lighting, industrial equipment, jewelry, and golf courses. And then there are the brush and palette visual artists.

Whitney Beemer Siegel ’03 wanted to take the fine arts route after graduating from O’Neal, but, as with many families, the plan for college is always more reassuring when there is more certainty at the end. Whitney now has her own family and is the director of strategy at a design firm in Colorado. She also has an online painting studio where she sells her art on the side –

Winning an art award in the fourth grade at O’Neal in addition to other later requests was the foundation of her confidence in being an artist.

“It was that belief in me, and that encouragement of my abilities that set me off on the right path from a very early age. It would be nearly impossible to separate my art confidence and abilities from O’Neal. When the other kids were doing things in art class, Ms. Garrison set me up with an easel and taught me how to paint with oils. And the foundational skills that she taught me in high school are the sole reason I’ve been able to open my art studio. People ask how I get so much depth in my paintings and every time I think about Ms. Garrison telling me how to do super thin layers in different colors instead of using black or other colors…layer to create the effect you want. I learned so much from her and she probably has no idea how much it has influenced my art. It was her idea for me to consider George Washington University because I could pursue business or pre-med or whatever it may be, but I’d be around some of the greatest museums and could influence myself. And she was right – I spent lots of time in museums with an art board sketching and studying how some of the greatest masters created their art. Her influence on not only my painting skills, but also the influence on how to continue to build on them against the wishes and all odds set against a fine art career path, was incredible. Such foresight.” – Whitney Beemer Siegel ’03

Whitney loves her job at the design firm where she gets to use psychology and creativity on brainstorming how best to craft a brand.

“To see the results of that creativity in the world all around me is incredible. And I couldn’t probably do this without having gone to GWU and also taking business classes so it was worth it in the end. Truly everything I know in creativity and art began with Ms. Garrison.”

From a Park Scholar at NCSU’s College of Design to a student at Parsons Paris School of Design, O’Neal continues to feed colleges and universities across the nation and abroad with graduates pursuing majors with a focus on the visual arts.

Take a look at the last few years for Young People’s Arts Festival Results:

2018 2019  2020 

Falcons Fly to 50

O’Neal is excited to share its history with readers as it quickly nears its 50th year in educating and cultivating youth in becoming successful, effective contributors to communities large and small. The official celebration starts school year 2021/2022. This weekly blog will focus on different aspects of the School as it grew through the years. With every entry, there is just as much more information to gather than what is already written. Readers who have been a part of the O’Neal community are encouraged to reach out and share their O’Neal memories. It is with great hope that the efforts of many in contributing information and photography can be published into a book for reflection and reference as the School continues to prosper for the next 50 years.

Please send your memoirs and photos to:
The O’Neal School
c/o Kathy Taylor, Director of Communications
P.O. Box 290
Southern Pines, NC 28388

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