What Really Goes on Inside GCAD?

Interviewing two V Formers about the Gruss Center for Art and Design (GCAD), I’ve recently uncovered insights far more profound than I expected.

Interviewing two V Formers about the Gruss Center for Art and Design (GCAD), I’ve recently uncovered insights far more profound than I expected. I was reminded of the ability that architectural spaces hold in facilitating self-recognition and expression; GCAD became more than just another building on campus—it became a proxy for one's overall Lawrenceville experience. Sam Boston ’21 is a Kennedy House alumnus and musician from Connecticut going to Wesley College. Jack Reichert ’21 is a lacrosse-playing V Former from Charlottesville, Virginia headed to the University of Utah. Both of their GCAD stories became platforms through which we explored ideas like human companionship, creative freedom, and the conflict between seeking objective achievement and personal fulfilment.

In our conversation, Reichert first highlighted the freedoms of his classes in GCAD. In Architecture, music selected by students contributes to the relaxed atmosphere of the class. “One of the students [would] play music through the speakers. We’ve got Frank Sinatra, Grateful Dead…we’re open to anything,” he said. In Interactive Storytelling, he used Twine 2.0 to create a short choose-your-own-adventure piece of fiction that involved making “a different decision with each choice.” The metaphor abounds. The nature of Reichert’s program parallels our lives at Lawrenceville—we all face our share of crossroads, be it the everyday decisions (should I finish my work now or during lunch right before class starts?) or the larger, high school career-shaping decisions. Jack further noted that GCAD classes foster long-lasting companionships. “My architecture teacher is [Brian Daniell H’89 ’06]…he’s the man. I’ve also got a couple of buddies in the class.” Through describing bonding in his classes, Reichert reflected upon general relationships as a V Former at Lawrenceville. “It’s a bummer [that] I haven’t made solid connections until late, but I have a bunch of friends that I’ll forever keep in touch with.”

My interviews also revealed that GCAD has played a central role in helping individuals with making important decisions. For Boston, the decision lay between continuing lacrosse or pursuing other passions.“I’ve played lacrosse since third grade, and I’ve always [thought that] this [was] my golden ticket [to college]. But this year…I quit lacrosse, and I’ve had so much time to play music in the [Edith Memorial] Chapel and work on building a guitar pedal and all these other projects—I’ve been so happy because of that,” he said, “GCAD and [its] facilities and teachers have enabled me to follow these passions.”

This year, Boston has undertaken a few building projects in GCAD. For his first building project, he made a custom Fender Telecaster. He has never liked the plasticity of commercial Fender finishes as they “suffocate the wood and dampen the tone.” Making his own guitar, he could sand it himself and pick his own parts from various sources. With the assistance of Art Teacher Rex Brodie, Boston worked with various GCAD tools to design a unique instrument. “I was able to customize it [and] make a vintage style guitar down to specs I wanted…if I wanted to buy a guitar of that quality, I’d have to pay $4000 at the Fender custom shop.” During this process, he realized the true value of GCAD. “Facilities in GCAD were available to me, I was able to just walk in there and he was excited to help me out,” he said. After soldering and designing his own guitar pedal, Boston now is working on creating a three-string bass. “This guy Tony Conrad, he built a long string drone—you play it with a bow and [it] makes a low frequency droning chord. I’m building this in GCAD with Brodie. I’m using the CNC table, which is a 3D table [carver] for wood. It cuts wood into intricate shapes.”

Inspired by his experiences in GCAD, Boston proceeded to spark a sort of existential contemplation in me as he discussed the ephemerality of our high school experience. He reflected, “High school is a time of exploring interests and defining your identity. Things are always changing, it’s so important to embrace all those [new] ideas…if I had [continued] lacrosse, I’d be doing it for three hours a day…I thought playing lacrosse was fun [and] I do miss it…but I thought, does it make me happy?” Boston also reflected on the pressures of high school. “At Lawrenceville, [there is] an expectation [that] you’re supposed to do well in school, play sports, [and] be social. [In reality,] it’s like the triangle of sleep, schoolwork, and social time—you can only choose two.” With finite time and resources, he argued that we shouldn’t waste time doing something that we don’t enjoy.

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