Faculty Profile: Award-Winning Artist Cheryl Moore Creates a Space for Inspiration
May 14th, 2019
Cheryl Moore decided to enter the Kent Art Association juried show in the pastel category for the first time in about 10 years...and she won. This accomplishment is impressive in itself, but add in the fact that when she entered a decade ago she also earned the prize, and it is clear Mrs. Moore has a rare talent. Often introducing herself to parents and visitors in her witty manner, she says, “Hi, I’m Cheryl Moore, and I’m the art department.” This always garners a laugh, but it is simply true; Mrs. Moore has been the backbone of a dynamic, quietly transformational program here since she joined South Kent School in 2008.
The art space, located in the center of campus, is one carefully organized by the artist herself. Her passion for visual arts emanates from the calming, creative environment. “It is a relaxed space where they can talk to each other, and they’re funny,” Moore explains with a smile. She adds, “I want them to do their absolute best, but I want it to be the time of day when they decompress. It’s kind of a sanctuary. In other words, they come in, they have their own desk, they don’t have homework. They can get it all done in a class. Most have pushed the arts aside to follow a puck, or a soccer ball, or something else.” But here, in the art room, South Kent boys often get to do something they have never done.
Beyond just enjoying the experience, however, there is the occasional moment of real discovery that Moore finds particularly rewarding. Pointing to a beautiful piece on the wall, she begins to tell one of her favorite stories. “A student came here for basketball. He did a beautiful pastel of a lighthouse on Block Island – a place where he had spent a lot of time as a child. His mom sent a photo of it to everyone she knew, and suddenly, he started getting commissions,” she remembers. The student was amazed by his success and decided to stick around on the Hillside even after his basketball season. He went on to study art in college. “It’s those type of things that happen...unexpected talent, the kids that didn’t know they had it, and then all of the sudden the lightbulb goes on and they blow you away,” she says.
Moore fell in love with the transformational aspect of the arts long ago, having previously worked at The Darrow School for over 20 years. There, she taught drawing and painting and ran the theater department. She directed, choreographed, and did all the costumes and lighting for all of the school’s productions during that time. She and her husband, Walter – who is South Kent’s Director of College Counseling, Associate Athletic Director and Travel Coordinator – worked together and raised their two children at Darrow. In her busy schedule, Mrs. Moore still found time to work in the costume shop and serve as prop shop house manager for the famous Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA. After their children were grown, the Moores felt it was time to start a new chapter, and they were welcomed with enthusiasm at South Kent.
Since joining the community, they have co-coordinated the School’s Affinity “Call to Explore” program, which introduces many students to the arts for the first time. One of Mrs. Moore’s favorite events is the Kent town “Thriller” dance at Halloween, where students from South Kent and other local schools dress as “prep school” zombies and perform the famous dance to large crowds in the center of town. It started small years ago but has become an anticipated local event, and Moore is careful to involve South Kent students of varying interests and backgrounds. She notes that some are shy or find it silly at first, but everyone always ends up buying in and truly enjoying it, noting the importance of the lesson that it is “okay to dance.”
Mrs. Moore, front and center, with her "Thriller" dancers.
With all that she does, Mrs. Moore knows how important it is to recharge. In the summers, the Moores head to Great Cranberry Island outside of Acadia National Park in Maine. There, Mrs. Moore enjoys a huge ocean-view studio and makes sure to have two or three pastels going at the same time. As an artist and educator, it is vital for her to strike a balance between personal practice and sharing her passion with others. And she doesn’t have to look far to see the impact of her life’s work. The Moores’ daughter, Bridgette, now teaches outreach classes to middle schoolers at the Berkshire Botanical Garden, and their son, Brendan, is a designer and fabricator working with glass, wood, clay and more at RT Facts in Kent. Furthermore, Mrs. Moore’s influence has extended to the multitude of students she has taught throughout her meaningful career.
Here at South Kent, we are incredibly grateful. Thank you for imparting a spirit of exploration in our students every day. Some may only participate for a semester or a year, but the benefits and lessons last a lifetime.