A Conversation with Ms. L


One of Ms. L’s most recent pieces, titled Side Effects

Lila Joffe, Co-Editor, '21


To say a proper goodbye to Country Day, I have to say goodbye to my favorite class: Photography. Ms. Lichty-Smith has introduced my classmates and me to an entirely different mindset than what we are typically taught in our other classes. She reminds us that there is no right or wrong way to create.  In photography class, there is no thesis or formula for good work because all work is good work.  Ms. L finds craft and artistry in each of her students’ pieces and can always be counted on to introduce us to the latest and most unexpected methods. Thanks to her hours of help and handful of recommendation letters, Ms. Lichty-Smith has introduced me to the welcoming arts community of Cincinnati, which I did not even know existed. To mark the end of my career here and to inspire other students to take her class, I have interviewed the legendary Ms. L.

Ms. Lichty-Smith has always known she was an artist. She received her bachelor’s in fine arts in photography and she was granted a full scholarship to the University of Cincinnati graduate school. After receiving her MFA, she quickly realized that she needed more experience to become employable. Thanks to her decade spent as an adjunct professor at NKU, UC and the Art Academy, Ms. Lichty-Smith decided to attend graduate school a second time for a degree in arts education. Throughout grad school, Ms. L cared for her young children, worked part time, and spent much time in the hospital due to complications with her fourth pregnancy.

Ms. L remembers when she got hired at Country Day as a turning point. “I think it saved my life”, she recalls. When asked about the highlights of her career at Country Day, she mentions the infamous grant, which enabled her  to take photography students on international trips and host famous visiting artists.  Ms. L received the grant for her work with Cincinnati’s troubled youth at The Children’s Home, a program for children expelled from their school system. She describes her and her students first interaction with the children there, “there was an altercation… desks were crashing. We went in anyway.” This fearlessness was rewarded, as the Country Day students began to bond with the teens at The Children’s Home, taking pictures and exchanging stories. Ms. L describes the shocking difference between the privilege of Country Day and the lack of resources of the teens at the children’s home, “some students didn’t even have a bed.” She received the grant from an organization for her work with orphaned and abandoned children.

Although the grant money has since run out, Ms. Lichty-Smith has kept her students creative and engaged. In my opinion, this is partly due to the environment she has created in her calming classroom. Complete with tapestries, posters, books, pillows and couches, Ms. Lichty-Smiths classroom provides a stark contrast to the bare grey walls and white boards of the rest of the Upper School. When prompted about her unique classroom, Ms. L recalls a class she took in graduate school when she designed her perfect learning environment. She decided that she wanted an open environment, where her students would have inspiration all around them. Ms. Lichty-Smith also challenges her students through in-class activities and assignments, like painting, drawing, glasswork, and collage. She says that her favorite things to teach are alternative methods like silver printing and cyanotype.

I will never be able to thank Ms. L enough for her guidance, and I truly hope that all students who pass through the upper school will have the privilege of taking her class and learning from her. Ms. L hopes that all her students “will have the ability to approach what they do in life from another perspective.”