For Some Alumni, Home is Where the Art Is

Andy Suzuki ’05 was touring the country with his band, Andy Suzuki & The Method. Then, as happened with so many others, his plans changed.

“This was our biggest opportunity to date; we were playing sold-out clubs to thousands of people,” he said. “We were supposed to do 34 shows across the country, and then corona hit.”

So, Suzuki turned to his Instagram account, where he plays a show every Friday at 5 pm. Last week, though, he added a special show as part of the “Art Among Friends: LIVE” social media series organized by the Sidwell Friends School Alumni Office and DC Regional Alumni Committee to highlight alumni artists. Livestreaming via the Sidwell Alumni Instagram page, Suzuki gave an intimate, lighthearted performance for Sidwell alumni and other members of the School community.

“It was a hometown kind of thing,” he said. “In the chat, I recognized the names of some alumni and some teachers. Seeing those people in the comments was really cool and exciting and comforting.” Suzuki’s sister, Jessi Suzuki ’00, even got in on the act. “A good thing about these livestreaming performances is that there can be impromptu guests,” he said. Classmates saw Jessi in the chat and lobbied for her to join him. “So we sang a little bit together.”
The artistic talents of the featured alumni ranged from Deborah Zickler ’03 showcasing her work in ceramics, a poetry reading by Lory Ivey Alexander ’97, and a drawing session with Liza Donnelly ’73. Some livestreamed on social media, while others prerecorded their performances. (You can find a complete schedule of the series here as well as links to the featured artists’ performances and demonstrations.) Only one, though, involved bison: Kate Ochsman ’05 took viewers along with her for a day of wildlife photography in Yellowstone National Park—and, like Suzuki, it was a place she didn’t expect to be.

“I’m a wildlife photographer and safari guide in South Africa, and I was supposed to go back and move there permanently,” Ochsman said. “I got my visa on a Tuesday, left home in Los Angeles on a Friday, and on Sunday I was in Zion National Park.” Then South Africa revoked all visas and canceled all international flights from high-risk COVID countries. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is bad,’” she said. “I had nothing—just my dog and a week’s worth of clothing.” But she persevered. Now she has an unexpected, if temporary, life in Wyoming. “I’ve got a car, I’ve got an apartment, and I’ve been really focusing on my photography and truly seeing American wildlife for the first time,” Ochsman said. “For this video, my hope is that viewers get an appreciation for what we still have here and what we risk to lose when habitat is lost with climate change. I’m the human facilitator to show people how incredible these animals and this landscape are.”

While making her video for Art Among Friends, Ochsman recognized the deep connection between her work and Sidwell Friends. “Because of Meeting for Worship and Quaker beliefs, my understanding of oneness got me onto this path of conservation,” she said. “That teaching has informed everything in my life. Sidwell teaches you to be someone who contributes to the world.”

Special thanks to the DC Regional Alumni Committee, who organized this series in collaboration with the Alumni Office.

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