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Art & Spirituality, a Theology elective taught by Mrs. Betsy Holcomb, is open to juniors and seniors at Mount de Sales Academy. After auditing a class in graduate school that had a similar emphasis, Mrs. Holcomb created the course eight years ago.  “It is basically a compilation of all of my favorite things,” said Mrs. Holcomb, “and I get to share it with my students. It’s a beautiful gift.”

Mrs. Holcomb uses different types of art and literature in her lessons, and the works of Shakespeare are a cornerstone of the class. Students see the play Macbeth at the Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta. In the text, students read about a man and the decisions he makes as he becomes undone psychologically and spiritually. Students witness a haunted Macbeth­—they experience the ghosts, the bad decisions, and the consequences of his actions. Mrs. Holcomb says, “It is a great way to explore spiritual truth—for high schoolers and as a person, as we understand our lives in the real world.”

In addition to her passion about the Bible and its truths,  Mrs. Holcomb enjoys transforming classroom spaces to motivate and encourage passionate learners. Last year, she created an art exhibit in her classroom to further a lesson and deepen a story’s theme.

Bishop Robert Barron uses an analogy that inspires Mrs. Holcomb and her work in this area: a prism. When white light enters a prism, it comes out on the other side in a rainbow of colors. A student can be transformed when they leave a regular classroom with traditional desks and physically walk around, look, touch, and experience art. It gives them perspective, it offers a wide variety of beauty they may not have noticed before, and it connects the learner with the lesson and helps them to understand certain physiological mysteries. In short, the learning experience transforms into something bigger and brighter.

Mrs. Holcomb admits this philosophy does not work with every student, as beauty is in the eye of the beholder. However, she believes it is a blessing to share this experience with students. “I like to throw everything at them, and hopefully, they will encounter something that is beautiful, something that moves them, causing them to then keep looking, and ultimately feel something greater, outside of themselves.”

Expressed in colorful ways, art provides a platform for students to encounter God through something concrete. Art can change the way we see things, our relationships, and how we look at the real world outside of the school walls. And that is the goal of MDS teachers: to empower students and fill them up and let them fly.

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Mount de Sales Academy is a private Catholic school located in Macon, GA, which is sponsored and inspired by the Sisters of Mercy. Since 1876, MDS has served  a diverse college-preparatory community of learners—students and teachers alike—who are poised to discover, challenged to innovate, and motivated to serve.