As one of the world’s great traditional old-time and bluegrass fiddlers, the late Fletcher Bright dedicated his life to sharing his gifts with others. So when his daughter Lizzer Bright Graham ’77 wanted to honor his legacy through a gift to Girls Preparatory School, she knew it had to celebrate the arts. The result is The Fletcher W. Bright Fellowship for Inspiring Artistic and Community Engagement, an endowed program that offers an annual award to a rising senior.
The award was established to foster and instill individual growth, to develop a discerning sense of inquiry, and to explore an area of concentration that brings excitement and sensitivity of wonder in a student. As Fletcher Bright felt about all of the arts—the possibilities are vastly endless. For the sake of this fellowship, the disciplines include visual, creative writing, music, theater, or dance.
This year, Rowan Espy ’23, a member of Terpsichord, Partnerships in the Community, Science Club, Environmental Club, and SWE-Next (Society of Women Engineers-Next Generation), was awarded the prestigious title of Fletcher Bright Fellow by a judging panel composed of Peggy Wood Townsend ’81, a GPS alumna and arts philanthropist who co-owns Townsend Atelier; Charlotte Caldwell ’01, a GPS alumna and arts philanthropist who founded and serves as director of Stove Works; and Eleanor McCallie Cooper ’64, a GPS alumna, arts philanthropist, author, and community engagement strategist.
Rowan’s proposal outlined her plan to showcase mental health topics through dance during a two-night performance at Barking Legs Theater. During this showcase, the Chattanooga dance community could come together to perform, with proceeds donated to various mental health organizations such as the Aim Center, the AB Korker Foundation, and Erase the Stigma Through Dance.
She explained, “The COVID-19 pandemic—and the loneliness, grief, and isolation it brought—has caused a mental health crisis, particularly among youth. Some therapists have described it as a ‘second pandemic’ that has intensified depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
“Despite this increase,” Rowan said, “openly discussing mental health is considered taboo, so the subject does not receive the attention it needs, and people who need help go without treatment. Those suffering from mental health illnesses often do not receive the same level of care or are not taken as seriously as those with physical illnesses. Because of this stigma, many people suffer in silence. The goal of this project is to expose people to the issue of mental health illness, encourage the destigmatization of it and demonstrate how participation in the arts can be freeing to those who suffer from it.”
Ultimately, she hopes her project can prompt people who are struggling to get help, to destigmatize asking for help, and to raise awareness in addition to funds. As of now, the plan is for the performances to take place this October.
Additional applicants for the fellowship included:
Soree Kim | Soree, a violinist and member of GPS’s Tango Quartet, proposed to perform for her elementary school and provide an illustrative wall cling in an effort to empower young girls to pursue music. In addition, she wanted to sponsor a young musician’s introductory lessons. She said she wishes she had been introduced to the violin earlier, but her elementary school didn’t have a music program like GPS.
Anisha Phade | Anisha, who created her own business in middle school called Quill for Kids, which raised money for Children’s Hospital at Erlanger, proposed a week-long quilling class for elementary and middle school children over the summer. They would learn to make jewelry pieces, then have the opportunity to sell their work at local markets and donate the proceeds to charity. The workshop, she said, would push kids to take risks and experiment, and would encourage self-confidence.
Colette Smith | Colette proposed to host a week-long summer camp at Siskin Children’s Institute for kids with special needs. The programming would center around music therapy. On the autism spectrum herself, Colette has received immense support and inspiration from musical theater, choir, and dance. Music enrichment, she said, is one of the best ways to stimulate the mind of a child with autism.
Congratulations to all finalists for their hard work and dedication to the arts and to the GPS and Chattanooga communities!