Op-Ed: New Canaan High School Senior Art Awards 


The year was 1969. A year of change, revolution and an historical benchmark in our country’s history. Apollo 11 was launched from Kennedy Space Center, making historic progress in space travel by successfully entering our moon’s orbit with a safe landing and return. While the war in Vietnam continued, many back home were coming together to make a stand for their beliefs, like the 400,000 people that migrated to the Woodstock Music Festival to experience the hymns of rock and roll. Political activism sparked by demonstrations, rallies, riots and raids across the country, with movements like the Stonewall Uprising, proved to be pivotal in this special year of our nation’s history. 

Portrait of Fritz Eager, Andrew Jameson 2020 

But what exactly was happening in New Canaan High School in 1969? Despite all that was taking place in our country, a monumental turning point for the Visual Arts at NCHS took place in 1969 in honor of former student, Frederick “Fritz” Eager, when the Fritz Eager Foundation for Art Education was established. Here is an excerpt from the Bylaws of the Foundation: 

“Preamble: The Fritz Eager Foundation for Art Education, Inc. (the Foundation) supports art education at New Canaan High School by providing art purchase awards to graduating students, the services of visiting artists, scholarships for summer art studies, and support for other significant learning and teaching endeavors. 

Richard Hernandez, Point of Me, Photograph

History: Fritz Eager graduated from New Canaan High School in 1959. A witty, spirited, and creative young man, he loved writing and visual art. He died in 1968, and in 1969 his friends established a memorial fund to be used to purchase student art. As conceived by Principal James O. St. Clair and implemented by Art Department chair Bernice D. Hall, the purchase award recognizes excellence in the visual arts by acquiring the work of graduating seniors “from the whole range of media”. These founders intended these works to comprise a permanent collection of high school student art to inspire young artists. Their earliest statement (April 1971) provided for the “purchase of other works of art” for the permanent collection, and for “other expenditures connected with significant artistic endeavors”. 

In the late 1970’s the trustees provided workshops conducted by visiting artists. A community exhibit of the purchase award collection and works completed by the award recipients since graduation was mounted in 1984. In subsequent years (1985 & 1986) a grant from the IBM Corporation enabled the trustees to fund regular visiting artists. Formal bylaws for the Fund, which increased the number of trustees to nine, were adopted in 1991. In 1995 the trustees instituted a Summer Art Scholarship in memory of Bernice Dobkin Hall. 

Eliana Bukai, Dissolve, Mixed Media: Digital Drawing, Photoshop, Pencil & Colored Pencil

A generous bequest by Fritz Eager’s mother, the late Jane Eager, led in 1996 to the formation of the Foundation as a separate organization supporting art education in the school and continuing the original mission of the Fund. In recognition “of her passionate nurturing of youthful creativity, sustained throughout her life”, the trustees named a new visiting artists program in her honor.” 

Now here we are in 2022, celebrating the 35th annual Senior Art Exhibition, entitled “restART” at New Canaan High School that includes the artwork of 11 exhibiting senior artists: Eliana Bukai, Natalie Frank, Richard Hernandez, Faith Hibbert, Jack Marshall, Sumner Pelegrini De Paur, Larson Riccoboni, Alexandra Schauer, William Stallings, Estella Trygg and Lucas Tullier. Organizing the exhibition with the senior artists were the Art Department faculty members: Jennifer Sinski, Kimanne Core and Maggie Pennoyer.

Class of 2022, Fritz Eager Purchase Award Recipients, L-R: Natalie Frank, Eliana Bukai and Richard Hernandez.

The exhibition closed on Friday, June 10th; however, three of the artworks will remain at NCHS as part of the permanent art collection purchased by the Fritz Eager Foundation for Art Education. Natalie Frank’s artwork titled, The Inchworm, is a digital illustration of a hand holding a single, glowing inchworm. Eliana Bukai’s Dissolve is a mixed media artwork that visually investigates the mistreatment and exploitation of the endangered rhinoceros. The third purchase is Richard Hernandez’s Point of Me, a black and white, photographic self-portrait with a unique perspective. All three of these newly acquired artworks will be professionally framed and have a new home somewhere in the halls, classrooms, or offices of New Canaan High School. The collection now consists of 210 artworks. 

Senior Art Show

The foundation’s selection committee also honored three seniors with Merit Awards, whose portfolios exhibit an outstanding body of work that exhibits quality and originality. This year’s Merit Award recipients were Natalie Frank, Eliana Bukai and Larson Riccoboni. 

The following is a list of current board trustees for the Fritz Eager Foundation, comprised of the New Canaan High School art teachers, local artists, educators, administrators and curatorial directors: 

  • Gina Barber
  • Nina Buxenbaum
  • Kimanne Core (Secretary)
  • William D. Egan
  • Lisa Granite (Recording Secretary)
  • Maggie Hamill
  • Peter Kingsbury
  • Ellen Hoverkamp
  • Mary Ann Lendenmann
  • Jeanne McDonagh (President)
  • Maggie Pennoyer
  • Beth Shepherd Peters
  • Christopher Shore
  • Jennifer Sinski (Treasurer)
  • Alan Sneath
  • Hilary Wittmann 

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