Art auction raises funds for Keegan Fellowship: Senior artist and activist honors legacy of deceased alumna

This summer’s Marina Keegan Fellowship projects will be sponsored, in part, by money raised from a five-day art auction organized by Annabel Kiley ’19 in the Upper School (US) second-floor gallery during the first week of this month.

Forty-five students, teachers, and parents bid on 35 art items, including drawings, paintings, pottery, photography, and other mixed media art forms donated by community members and friends. Current students, alumni/ae, and current and retired faculty contributed, along with students at other Independent School League (ISL) schools and a student at the Rhode Island School of Design. The auction culminated in a closing reception from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, March 8, with $1259 raised for the Marina Keegan Fellowship Fund created in honor of the Class of 2008 alumna who died in a car accident just days after graduating from college. 

Each year the fund allocates between $500 and $2500 each to two or three rising juniors and seniors so that they can pursue self-designed projects focused on either art or activism over the summer.

“I figured, the more money that can go into [the fund], the more kids have opportunities to pursue projects,” Annabel said. “Hopefully we can expand the program even more, and I’d love for someone else to take over the auction next year and do it again.”

As the two share interests in art, activism, and writing, Annabel cited Keegan as one of her biggest inspirations and said she thought the auction would be a great way to leave the school better than she found it—advice Head of School Dr. Jen Price told students to take to heart at the Senior Dinner back in September.

Thanks to donations immediately following Marina’s death and at the Class of 2008’s 10th reunion last year, the fellowship fund currently has over $100,000 in its endowment. The proceeds from Annabel’s art auction will add to that endowment, helping students in years to come realize their projects, US English Teacher and Junior Class Dean Beth McNamara said. 

Ms. Mac, who chairs the Marina Keegan Summer Fellowship committee, praised Annabel’s work in organizing the auction.

“This was a fantastic way that she both built on traditions that we have—such as the Hand and Heart [art] auction and the [Keegan] Fellowship—and yet made it her own,” Ms. Mac said. “I was very impressed that she worked so hard to reach out to other schools to have faculty members and students from so many other places not directly connected to [the school] get engaged.”

Mary Leahy P’19, Annabel’s mother and an attendee of the closing reception, expressed pride in Annabel.

“It’s been a huge amount of work that she’s had to do, on top of everything else that she does,” Mary said. “I really was amazed at how she pulled everything together because it required a lot of communication with a lot of people.”

Friends came out to buoy the effort on both sides of the auction. After hearing that Annabel was organizing the event, Talia Mirel ’20, a fellow photographer, donated her picture, “Light Walls,” to the auction. 

“I thought this would be a great opportunity to put some work in for a good cause and to support Annabel,” Talia said.

US Science Teacher Michael Chapman, who led Annabel’s forensics class, said he was drawn to the auction’s photographs of water scenes by fellow US Science Teacher Paige Kemezis and applauded Annabel for organizing the event.

“I know from seeing her fret about this from day to day that she’s put a lot of work and effort into [the auction],” Mr. Chapman said. “I’m so glad that it’s really come to true fruition. It’s a really great legacy for Marina, and it’s a great statement for BB&N to show the importance of the arts and how they tie in with our values and our school mission.”

Tracy Shoolman P’08, Marina Keegan’s mother, donated two of her untitled art items she made to the auction, one an archival print—a museum standard print done with high quality ink—and the other a photograph of an egret walking through water, and she noted how glad she was that Annabel included art from a wide range of sources.

“It’vs marvelous Annabel’s art auction includes work donated by students and faculty from the greater independent schools community as so often rivalry is the dominant relationship between these institutions,” Tracy said. “During her life, Marina often wondered if art could make a difference. Annabel’s art auction is a beautiful response to the call to action in Marina’s final words: ‘we are in this together—let’s make something happen to this world.’ Marina would have been humbled and honored by Annabel’s event.”

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