Commencement 2023: Benediction from Upper School Art Teacher Leah Grear P’14

June 22, 2023

Hello graduates, families, friends and colleagues.

As some of you know and many may not, I too am graduating from Wheeler. At 25 years, I have been here nearly half of my life. Thats a ¼ of a century! Yikes! How did this happen?

And so, while I think about the nature of change all the time, these last few months have me looking at it with a little more urgency and a particularly intensified lens.

Change can be terrifying. For me I find myself wondering who will I be when I am no longer in this community on a daily basis as a friend, a colleague, a teacher, a mentor?

What will I talk to people about if not the work of my students, working through frustrations with a colleague or policies, and the nature of creativity and education?

What will sustain me when I am not crisscrossing on this city block with tiny beings to very tall ones and having a thousand micro and macro interactions everyday? Where will I park?

What will I do without the shelter of that beautiful studio space that I have been so privileged to inhabit and that has provided a safe and inspiring harbour to so many, as well as being a space that has allowed me to sustain my own connection to myself as an artist.

My artistic identity has not been one I needed to leave elsewhere when I came to work. It is in the very weave of my work and for that I am grateful.

Thank you to Mary Coleman Wheeler for all that you have set in motion and to all who work to carry on your vision.

At the same time that I am riddled with these questions and fears, I am equally inspired by the unknown landscape ahead. I also know in my very being that all those safeties that I have enjoyed over this last 2 ½ decades, have helped to build my courage to embrace change.

And that is what I wish for all of us in this journey, with a particular focus on the graduates as you too look at change through this intensified lens of graduation.

And with that thought, I offer you these words from ethnobotanist Terrance McKenna: “Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a feather bed.”