Featured Artist: Senior Deck

In each issue of C Magazine we feature an Artist of the Month. Here we stray from the standard, as we have chosen to feature a piece of art instead, the Senior Deck. An essential part of campus, artists from the class of 2019 contributed to make the deck a unique representation of their unified high school experiences.

Featured Artist: Senior Deck

The senior deck, a somewhat sacred part of campus, represents the unity, pride and accomplishment of a student’s final year of high school. The ceremonial painting of the deck has been a tradition for each rising senior class as it is their first opportunity to claim the space and personalize it, leaving their mark on campus. Additionally, it shows the bonds formed between students throughout their previous three past academic years. Seen as a privilege only eligible upon reaching senior year, stepping onto the deck is a momentous tradition at Paly. As intimidating as it may seem to the grades below, the deck is idolized by most as they anticipate their chance to occupy the space. Each year, when a new class claims the prized expanse, it is christened with a fresh coat of paint, typically in the familiar splotches of dark brown, sandy beige and various greens, creating the historical camouflage print.

The deck, previously a wooden platform on the edge of the quad, went under renovation last year, only finishing near the end of the spring semester. The former senior deck was remodeled into a concrete, octagonal shape, serving as a memorial to Paly alum Emily Benatar. In the spring of 2012, her family and the Paly community suffered the tragic and unexpected loss of Benatar while she was completing her freshman year at Washington University in St. Louis. Remembered as a compassionate individual, talented lacrosse player and loving sister, the loss of Benatar was felt throughout the community. Designed by her close friend Gracie Cain, the memorial was built using a generous donation from the Emily Benatar Foundation, which hosts volunteer service events annually on her birthday to honor her memory and commitment to service. In many ways, this memorial adds another element of respect to both the deck and the unspoken rules around it.

To the senior class, it no longer felt representative to paint and decorate the deck itself for this upcoming school year, so David Foster, the senior class president, thought of a compromise. “I thought the area in front of the deck provided the perfect opportunity to start a new tradition and showcase our spirit,” he said.

Though this idea may sound like a simple solution, a variety of challenges presented themselves throughout the process. In order to enact this decision, Foster had to gain permission from the Paly administration, which he was only able to receive the Friday before school started.

Once approved, he gathered a team of artists who were all well-versed in building the intricate spirit week floats. Eager to be a part of the senior deck decorating, the artists “finished [the deck] in 23 hours on the last weekend of summer,” Foster said.

The team consisted of Britney Fan, Hannah Li, Jeseop Hwang, Jessica Li, Kaitlyn Ho, Natalie Churchly, Kennedy Herron, Isa Cossio, Ella Thompson, Galileo Defendi-Choi and Audrey Mechali.

In order for the senior class to feel united at the start of school, the artists desperately wanted to finish the deck before the first day. This dedication presented itself through a tireless weekend where the individuals were so immersed in their work they neglected to apply sunscreen. Weeks after their sun-filled painting venture, Foster joked, “I’m still burnt.” Working late into the night these artists did not let anything discourage them from completing the task they had ahead. Throughout their years at Paly, the class of 2019 has combined their artistic and mechanical talents, utilizing them to create impressive floats. Their freshman year, they used the theme, The Lorax, to build the outskirts of Sneedville on their float. They even found ways to include additional flair, such as truffula trees. The sophomore year float was constructed with a detailed fire truck on one side, and a burning building on the other, which beautifully embodied the theme of firefighters. Last year, they won the spirit week competition with a float resembling a traditional bathroom covered in rubber ducks, beating out the 2018 seniors. This particular float included a mechanical addition, with waves moving across the front of the float, as well as running water flowing from the showerhead.

When painting the senior deck, it was almost instinctive to include these themes within the design, as they have come to encompass the class. “We included the previous spirit week themes on each number to make it special for our grade,” Foster said. “I don’t think any class, while we have been here, has included theirs. I hope it is a tradition that will last, although I know our grade is more spirited that most.”

Including each year’s theme within the deck’s design signifies how, after four years of wonderful memories and creating significant relationships with peers, the seniors’ high school experiences are finally coming to an end. For their last year of high school, seniors must acknowledge that it will be some of their last experiences of pure adolescence. This year, each time a student wanders by the deck, they can look back and begin to reminisce on what the class of 2019 will soon call “the good old days.”

Not only has the senior class successfully shown their abilities as artists throughout the years, but they have also shown their unity as a class. Their pride and class spirit is something that should be appreciated and acknowledged, especially as we approach the competition of Paly’s Spirit Week.