(L-R) Seniors Kate Mallard, Jonny Sundermeier, Grace Demba and Matt Genser presented to Pace over a Zoom assembly on April 9. Photo: Omar López Thismón

Each year, the Pace Upper School recognizes ten students for their achievements in the performing and visual arts, naming these talented artists and performers Arts Laureates. Through a nomination, presentation and selection process, freshmen through seniors are chosen to share their art with the Pace community. 

Although the move to online learning in March last year prevented the 2020 Arts Laureates from showcasing their work in person, this year’s Class of 2021 senior recipients, Grace Demba, Matt Genser, Kate Mallard and Jonny Sundermeier, were able to perform for their classmates on April 9 in the Fine Arts Center. 

Underclassmen recipients included freshmen Emmy Battista and David Fu, sophomores Amartya Kallingal and Ovie Nirgudkar and juniors Emma Stewart Maske and Leah Favero. These students were also able to share their talents with their respective classes in homeroom assemblies. 

Demba, who joined Pace her freshman year, was selected as a 2021 Arts Laureate for visual arts, in which she mainly works with oil paints and uses acrylics and gouaches. In addition to painting, Demba loves to create digital work, draw and make collages. She has an Instagram account (@grace_d0es_art) where she features her work from abstract gouache paintings to graphic designs.

Art is very therapeutic for me,” said Demba. “When I first took [US Visual & Performing Arts Teacher] Donice [Bloodworth’s] painting class sophomore year, I fell in love with art because it was a relaxing break from my busy day.” Demba said she appreciates artist Georgia O’Keeffe’s patience and outlook on art and the arts faculty at Pace as they helped her discover her passion. On April 9, Demba presented an edited video of her artwork with pictures and time lapses of her work. She will continue studying art at Washington University in St. Louis’s Sam Fox School of Art and Design this fall.

Sundermeier, who joined Pace in sixth grade, has always been into music, whether that be singing or playing the piano. He also received the Arts Laureate award his junior year. “Art to me is just another form of expression,” said Sundermeier. A stress-reliever for Sundermeier, playing the piano is his preferred method of relaxing after long days at school or strenuous track meets. His inspirations have always been family members, like his great grandmother and his grandfather, along with professional performers.

“My great-grandmother was an amazing pianist, much better than I will ever be, as she could play any song after hearing it just once,” said Sundermeier. “It is very cool for me to think that I have a musician in my family that I am kind of chasing. I also am inspired by Billy Joel as a lot of his songs really speak to me.” In the Spring Arts Ceremony, Sundermeier performed Joel’s “Piano Man,” playing the piano as well as the harmonica and singing. Attending Trinity College this fall, Sundermeier has plans to either major or minor in music. 

In his seventh year at Pace, Genser has become fascinated with ceramics, the medium for which he received his Arts Laureate award. This year, he has practiced creating Jomon pottery, handmade vessels created with soft clay coils in an independent study. “To be honest, I don’t really have that much artistic talent, but the reason I became so good at making these pieces was practice,” said Genser. “I made so many pieces to the point where I knew what would look good and what wouldn’t… At first, it wasn’t pretty, but over time I got a lot better.” For Genser, art is a relaxing hobby that takes his mind off lectures and athletics, and he appreciates US Visual & Performing Arts teacher Mark Knott’s support and advice. In the assembly, Genser presented a three-minute time lapse of him creating his favorite piece thus far.

A lifer at Pace, Mallard received the Arts Laureate award for the second time for her singing. “Singing is my creative outlet where I can completely be myself and let loose, so I value my voice so much,” said Mallard. Her favorite inspirations include artists Tori Kelly, Natasha Bedingfield, Alicia Keys and Sara Bareilles. “I’d also say that I inspire myself because my own emotions motivate me to write songs,” said Mallard. She also has a social media presence, posting on her Instagram singing account (katem.mallard) and TikTok, performing songs like Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” and Olivia Rodrigo’s “Driver’s License.”

In the Friday assembly, Mallard shared a recorded video of her singing Lady Gaga’s “Always Remember Us This Way” from “A Star is Born.” Attending the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill this fall, Mallard hopes to double major in music and another subject. 

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