by Isla Huffadine

Arts Report

The circumstances of a global pandemic and school closures and remote learning have drawn all of us in the arts into applying our creativity in new and unusual ways. As is often the case, students are leading the way setting an example with their resilience, creativity and tenacity. It is inspiring to see the way students have taken the disappointment of various cancellations in their stride and brought enormous energy to new and adapted activities. This term has turned out to be full of a great deal of positivity and artistic delights!

Image by: Isla Huffadine


Our 2020 Artist in Residence Eliana Gray has been amazingly adaptable, beginning the programme for this year remotely, partway through lockdown, then continuing working face to face with students once we returned to school. All feedback from students and staff alike has been overwhelmingly positive and it is certainly an ongoing delight to see the way the energy of a visiting artist impacts students. Mrs McMillian’s year 10 performing arts class were the focus group for this year’s Artist in Residence Project. Eliana has worked with this class exploring the concept of ‘bubbles’. This idea was initially inspired by the art domes of the 2019 Jerry Howelet Artist in Residence project, and then informed the lockdown ‘bubble’ experience. Various themes have been explored through a variety of artistic mediums which have included the creation of a board game and a dance. Throughout the project, self-determined modes of creation have been explored. Restriction, boundaries and limitations have been applied in different ways than students are used to - to time rather than content - students were encouraged to keep it fun, to keep the work happening in the immediate, to keep word limits short, and then to focus on freedom of expression within these boundaries. Mrs Mc Millian has been particularly impressed with the way students have risen to this opportunity, creating a rich diversity of work full of heart and soul! Eliana has a great gift of positivity and encouragement and we can see such an impact in the confidence and engagement of students in response to this infectious enthusiasm for life and creativity!

Eliana says: “My favourite things have been the generosity of spirit of the school, it has been really inspiring and restorative to be in such a supportive education environment, I have found it so inspiring to be around the creativity of the year ten performing arts class. It has been really fun and enjoyable and easy. Hard things aren't always the best, it has felt easy in the best possible way, because It has been so much fun!”

2020 Artist in Residence Eliana Gray — Image by: Isla Huffadine


We were thrilled to host a mini Festival of Arts in partnership with the Dunedin Fringe, enabling our students to engage with several local performing artists over several days. The inaugural SHCS Festival of the Arts has been a huge success this term! A wonderful festival atmosphere abounded all around the school from Wednesday to Friday of week 11 with circus performers, short plays, bands and other acts including clowns and balloon animals. Organised in partnership with Dunedin Fringe this year it has been a great opportunity to support local artists as well as provide new and interesting opportunities for SHCS students to interact with the arts, festival style. Students could be found conversing with clowns, running around with delight interacting with a high stilt walker, sitting on bean bags in 125 immersed in a sound and light experience, listening to a play reading and dancing to a live band and improvised musical theatre. Our performances over the three days also included Otepoti Hip Hop Hustle (with performances by several of our hip hop crews) and a collage project with Eliana Gray our Artist in Residence. As part of the lead in to this mini Festival of the Arts, we have had two other visiting artists, Jane Siddall (Embroidery) and Jonathan Usher (Magician). Each of these provide valuable opportunities for students to observe, listen to and ask questions of artists, gaining insight into different ways of working and thinking creatively. A very big surprise at the end of a full school assembly came with a flash dance by the Year 10 Performing Arts class. A huge thanks to Sharon Ritchie and Geraldine Corkery for taking the lead in organising this inspiring festival.

Image by: Isla Huffadine


Throughout lockdown our Arts Prefects were actively engaged in supporting artistic endeavours amongst the student body. One of these endeavours was St Hilda’s Got Talent, a talent competition run throughout the lockdown period. This gave students a chance to show off things they had been doing while away from school. The prefects had a great response with many entries from a wide range of disciplines.

Anna and Trinity were also proactive in posting some creative resources on the virtual school drive. This included dance tutorials/classes, origami, and drama performance videos. Another endeavour was the Lip Sync Challenge to celebrate NZ music month. There was a really positive response and some great entries with the teachers taking out the competition. Radio Hilda’s also began during this time as a spotify account that the school has access to with a range of playlists on it for things from studying to ‘fizzing up’ to country music. Arts Prefects have taken a lead on this and have designed and run the account.

Image by: Isla Huffadine


Sings Hilda had a strong start to the year in term one with new members joining and preparing a range of repertoire before lockdown put rehearsals on hold and led to the cancellation of The Big Sing. Fortunately rehearsals via zoom began and enabled two new songs to be learned along with some fun vocal exercises! Sings Hilda girls were also among those who participated in ‘The virtual Sing’ (click here to view 2m video) Since our return to school Sings Hilda has served the school beautifully by singing for the end of term Founders Day Eucharist Service, and performing in our end of term Arts Assembly.

While several of the events music students would normally look forward to have not been able to run this year, orchestra and band practices are up and running again and students have been able to prepare video submissions for chamber music, and look forward to Band Quest and Rock Quest later in the year.

Anna Harcus and Mrs McMillian along with the Hip Hop coaches have worked hard prior to, during and after the lockdown to support our Hip Hop crews to be ready for the regional competition which will still be going ahead in August. We have four crews who are looking forward to competing.

We have been fortunate enough to have the Ugly Shakespeare company come and perform Othello for the senior Drama and English students as well as for year nine Performing Arts students. Senior Drama students also enjoyed a specialist workshop called (I)sland T(rap) by Austin Dean Ashford, helping students to express themselves using rap, poetry and rhythm. Eve Scott (Old Girl class of 2019) has been coaching our Theatre Sports Club during Wednesday lunchtimes with 14 students in attendance most weeks. These students also have the opportunity to participate in inter school Improvisation training at the Athenaeum Theatre on Friday afternoons. SGCNZ University of Otago Sheilah Winn Shakespeare Festival this year was moved online and we had two student groups submit entries which is a significant achievement under the circumstances.

Kapa Haka over the lockdown consisted of a few zoom calls to keep connected and to continue learning and practising waiata. It was challenging as this was a new way of practising for everyone. Due to the cancellation of the 2020 Otago Polyfest students are now focused on performances within our school and wider school community. Everyone is happy to have the return of lunchtime practices and multiple new girls have joined after clubs morning advertising Kapa Haka at school. The girls were all very excited about the news of some new piupiu as well as bodice and headbands. It was lovely to see the new headbands in action for the Arts Assembly this term as students performed a lovely waiata and haka as a send off for Ms Corkery.


We are greatly looking forward to House Singing next term, the opportunity to sing together holding special significance in 2020. Rehearsals will start at the first student assembly of next term. Songs have been chosen by house captains and a Disney theme promises some great uplifting joy filled singing! We also look forward to a chalk art competition during Maori Language week, as well as the annual photo competition.

Katie Mangai - Arts Coordinator

Image by: Isla Huffadine