When Carolina Day School students arrive on campus for the 2021-2022 school year, they’ll be welcomed by an attractive new front entrance sign. But the true beauty is that the design was inspired by a student, and—in true Wildcat spirit—gifted to the school by generous parent donors.
Getting to this point was a winding journey. Back in 2019, the school still had a “temporary” sign at its entrance. The original stone masonry sign had been damaged by a vehicle several years prior, and a gray, stucco sign had been put in place.
“From what I know, the gray sign was never meant to be permanent,” said Head of School Stephanie Whitney. “But it stayed around for much longer than intended. We were very ready for a change.”
It was during the 2019-20 school year that then senior Carson Oswald came up with a sketch for a replacement. “Ever since I was a kid, I've loved drawing,” said Carson in a 2020 interview. “Drawing things, houses, buildings—it's always been my passion for as long as I can remember. Ms. Keeble was the art teacher in the Lower School, and she really got me into it—doing art in her classes really sparked my interest to create at home and outside class. I took classes with my uncle in SketchUp [3D design software]. That also sparked my creativity in this field.”
Carson felt the gray sign in front of the school campus didn't have curb appeal. While taking an Honors Studio Art class in the Upper School with art teacher Marbie Kollath, he decide as a homework project for the class, he would redesign the sign for the school. "I just really love to get my hands on that kind of stuff—I just decided, why don't I just try it myself?”
The rendering Carson created in his studio art class became the inspiration for the sign’s new design and a catalyst to finally address the aging, gray temporary sign, which was already showing cracks in its stucco surface. Generous parent donors came forward to help fund the campus enhancement project, and the new sign was installed in summer 2021, just in time to welcome students back to school in August.
When interviewed in 2020, Carson was looking toward a future beyond Carolina Day, getting ready to graduate and enter the Program in Environmental Design at University of Colorado Boulder. “What I've really been interested in lately is K–12 education and those buildings and that design, and how classrooms are evolving. The way we teach is evolving, and so, as we teach, it's also important to change our buildings and facilities to accommodate learning—learning of the future—so that's something I've been really passionate about lately, but also incorporating that with our changing environment and the need to create sustainable buildings and classrooms. So in the future, my hope is to be able to create places—whether it's houses, or offices, or schools—that are really sustainable and work well with the environment, and also just the future in general.”
When asked whether he had any advice for younger students who might have an interest in art or design, Carson said, “I would just say, get your hands dirty, try everything. Try different mediums, whether it's on the computer or by hand, and really reach out to the people around you. Ask questions and look at the environment and think about ways you can change things. Take advantage of the opportunities you have around you—like at Carolina Day taking advantage of the art courses, especially in the Upper School. Really reach out to teachers, too, so they can help you with what you're interested in.”
By August 2021, Carson had completed his first year in the Environmental Design program, and was able to see the finished sign while he was in Asheville. “I’m super excited about how the sign looks!” he said. “I think giving people a great first impression of our campus can make a huge difference whether they are just driving by or coming to school again. In school this past year, my professor strongly emphasized how what we design impacts communities, thus it is important to listen to the voices of CDS families and faculty. The sign before was bleak and boring. It was a sign that didn’t represent Carolina Day well at all. By using natural stone, the design of the front entrance now ties together most other aspects of our campus.”
What did the original sign look like?