October 2019
Jennifer Crusco
Communications Assistant

Angelic Artworks Welcome Visitors to Kelleher Hall Chapel

Demarest, NJ: A pair of prayerful angels painted by Holy Angels’ 2019 Advanced Placement Studio Art class, now welcome visitors to the Kelleher Hall Chapel. The framed artworks, which were commissioned by the AHA Campus Ministry Department, were installed on either side of the chapel entrance, where they will be seen by everyone who attends weekly Masses.

Eight Advanced Placement Studio Art students worked on the complementary pieces under the guidance of Christine DeGennaro, AHA’s studio art teacher. The student artists included Allison Asselberges, Kirsten Garino, Jennifer Kim, Ernestine Klecz, Kerry Limberg, Kym McGowan, Grace Velarde, and Hannah Velarde.

The students, all of whom were seniors at the time, were very excited to paint the angels to flank the chapel doors, DeGennaro reported. After they met their requirements for the AP exam, the students took on the project, using acrylic paint on illustration board to create the angels over a three-and-a-half week period in May 2019.

“Because art-making is often a solitary occupation, we do try to incorporate some team projects in our advanced art courses to emphasize creative collaboration and problem-solving skills. The AP Studio Art students really took the initiative to figure out the strengths of each artist and apply them accordingly during each painting session. Some students focused on drawing and painting the faces; others worked on the gilding of the feathers or the folds of fabric. Often they would step back from the work and discuss where to go next with it,” DeGennaro said.

Although AHA’s studio artists traditionally created murals directly on the walls of the school, the Academy now encourages the students to create their art on canvas or paper. Works are framed and hung in Kelleher Hall, which is home to AHA’s cutting-edge art and photography studios. Each piece is an inspiration for up-and-coming artists, and everyone who passes through the halls of the building.

“With the beautiful new addition of Kelleher Hall to our campus, we realized it would be an asset to be able to move the paintings around the building for visibility and to ensure the longevity of these works for the alumnae,” DeGennaro observed.

Originally used as a convent when AHA moved from Fort Lee to Demarest in 1965, Kelleher Hall once housed 40 SSNDs, including Sister Genevieve Marie Kelleher. S. Genevieve, who was active at AHA between 1948 and 2011, is the longest-serving SSND at Holy Angels. She taught multiple subjects and logged time as the school’s librarian. She was the guest of honor when the renovated building was dedicated in her name on October 2, 2017.

Over the last 54 years, the 20,000 square foot building was re-imagined several times. After the extensive renovation project that began in February 2017, the first floor includes a Mac Lab, two multi-purpose classrooms, and two art studios with an abundance of natural light, the realization of a dream for former art teacher S. Eileen Casey, who also attended the 2017 dedication.

Kelleher Hall’s additional space and equipment bolster AHA’s STREAM curriculum, which encompasses science, technology, religion, engineering, art, and mathematics. The Mac Lab enhances AHA’s digital design curriculum, and the construction of the new art classrooms freed up three classrooms in the main school building.

The painstakingly renovated chapel includes stained glass windows that feature SSND leaders Mother Caroline Freiss and Sister Nonna Dunphy. Mass is celebrated in the chapel each Wednesday before the start of the school day. Intentions are available through AHA Campus Ministry.

The second floor of Kelleher Hall houses AHA’s business offices and two conference rooms. This level also features an SSND Heritage Suite and archive, which were a gift from the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

The 2017 renovation was completed with the help of a $1 million gift from an anonymous donor, who asked that the building be renamed for S. Genevieve. Funding was also provided by everyone who supported Phase I of the AHA Capital Campaign.

The design of the building blends contemporary and traditional elements, and all of the updates were made within the structure’s existing footprint. The project architect retained the original shape of the windows and the distinctive main entry overhang that recalls the hats once worn by the SSNDs.

“Green” elements featured in Kelleher Hall include LED lighting activated by sunlight sensors; high-efficiency heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment that runs on a centrally controlled timer; drinking fountains that double as water bottle filling stations; and automatic hand dryers in the bathrooms. The carpeting and other flooring contain “green” components, including elements that are sustainable, renewable, or made with recycled materials.

Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious high school serves young women from a broad spectrum of cultural and religious backgrounds. Over time, thousands of women have passed through AHA’s portals. Many go on to study at some of the nation’s best universities, earning high-ranking positions in medicine, government, law, education, public service, business, arts, and athletics. The Academy’s current leaders continue to further the SSND mission to provide each student with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically, by offering a first-rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity, and service to others.

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