Portrait of an Artist

Wheeler School builds on the artistic tradition of its founder

Mary K. Connor
Posted
The Mary C. Wheeler mosaic at the Wheeler School Photo by Amy Amerantes
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Is there something in the water at the Wheeler School? Or maybe is has something to do with its founder, the artist Mary C. Wheeler? But when it comes to the arts, the school is in a class by itself.

Success comes in many forms, certainly, but Wheeler, an independent, N-12 coed day-school on the East Side of Providence, seems to have graduated an inordinate number of overachievers in the highly visible – and highly competitive – world of the performing arts. Consider the (highly abbreviated) bios of these six Wheeler School alums.

Allison Argo, Class of 1971, is a six-time Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaker. Her very first documentary, The Urban Gorilla, broadcast by National Geographic in 1990, received two Emmy nominations. Argo Films has since won numerous coveted awards and earned top recognition at the Missoula, Jackson Hole and Japan Wildlife Film Festivals, among others, for films such as The Last Frog, The Secret Life of Cats and Chimpanzees: An Unnatural History. Argo’s most recent documentary, 9/11: Where Were You?, broadcast by National Geographic, aired on August 30. The film takes an unusual and compelling look at 9/11 through the stories of ten people who survived the attacks. Her next project, The Story of Dao, is currently in pre-production.

Michele Steckler, Class of 1980, is a Senior Vice-President and Senior Producer for Disney Theatrical Productions in New York City. She joined Disney in 1997, first as assistant director and then as associate producer of the original production of The Lion King. Steckler is responsible for the ongoing creative oversight of The Lion King, which includes bringing new companies of the musical to stages all over the world. She oversees the entire production process for new Disney Theatrical projects as well, from first readings through openings and continuing oversight. Current Broadway, touring and international companies Steckler manages include Mary Poppins and Tarzan, in addition to The Lion King.

Paul Corrigan and Brad Walsh, both Class of 1990, are writers and co-executive producers of the hit ABC comedy Modern Family, the highest-rated scripted program last year in the all-important 18-49 year-old demographic. The show has won six Emmys and three Golden Globes, a Peabody and was nominated for four Writers Guild awards, among many others. The syndication rights to the show, whose third season premieres September 21, have already been sold. Corrigan and Walsh began their careers in 1997, writing for the television series Married With Children and have written for many other network shows. In 2008, Corrigan and Walsh were nominated for an Emmy for their work as writers and producers on King of the Hill.

Joshua Schwartz, Class of 1994, at 26 became the youngest person to create an hour-long drama for a television network. The O.C., a teen drama series set in Orange County, California, premiered in August 2003 and ran for four seasons on Fox. The show was broadcast in more than 50 countries. Schwartz is the also the co-creator of Gossip Girl, a CW Network teen drama show set in New York City, and Chuck, an NBC action-comedy/spy drama series which has been applauded by publications such as Rolling Stone and USA Today. Both series return this fall for their fifth seasons and have been nominated for and won many industry awards. Schwartz is the executive producer of Hart of Dixie, a new American medical drama series on the CW Network.

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