Art: Art Curriculum

The primary aim of the visual arts program is to elicit from students the most powerful and expressive work possible. This requires profound thought, an enlarging sensibility, and a broad understanding of experience. Our aim is to help students invent pictorial and plastic activity to carry this wealth of feeling and thought into comprehensible artistic representation.

In the Preschool and Lower School, the aim of the Art Department is to familiarize students with a wide range of materials, techniques and pictorial concepts. We consciously differentiate our studio program from the extensive visual work carried out within the individual classrooms. Along with thematic-based projects, students enter the ‘art studio’ to become fluent with the ‘language’ of image and object making, to understand the ‘instinctive’ nature of the artistic process and to become more aware of their own unique ‘vision.’

In the Middle School, more sophisticated concepts and techniques are introduced, with a continuing emphasis on drawing, painting and object making. Along with the continued reinforcement of pictorial and compositional fundamentals (texture, form, rhythm, color), contextual, poetic and conceptual notions are explored. Building skills are expanded through work in plaster, clay, cardboard, and wood. Ultimately, students find their own relationship to art through the viewing, discussing and making of art works.

Two art electives are offered to upper middle school students. A drawing elective includes students from both seventh and eighth grades. It concentrates on a study of light, perspective, volume and composition. Introduction to Digital Photography is open to eighth grade students who learn the basics of camera operation and the basics of software-based image manipulation techniques.

The teaching of the visual arts in the High School is a continuous process of shaping and reshaping vision, giving each individual student deeper aesthetic insight. The process occurs across a broad spectrum of disciplines: drawing, figure drawing, painting, still photography, digital photography, animation, ceramic sculpture, sculpture, printmaking, and architecture.

The drawing classes explore various techniques, conceptual approaches, and media. In figure drawing the emphasis is on a feeling for the volumetric structure of the body and the expressive potential of drawing from live models in a wide range of media. In the regular drawing course, students explore varied subject matter from both realistic and abstract perspectives, with the objective of learning to perceive form and to articulate those perceptions pictorially through a variety of drawing media.

3D Animation involves designing and constructing a set and the creation of articulated elements or characters from a variety of materials (clay, paper, cardboard). Students sequence individual scenes using a digital camera, and use computers to edit and add soundtracks to generate a fully realized film presentation.

Painting classes emphasize the study of light, color, and composition. Students paint from still life setups, nature, photo sources and from their imaginations. We also encourage students to explore abstract images and conceptual notions. Inks, water-based media (watercolor, tempera, acrylic), mixed media and water miscible oils are used.

Photography begins with an introductory course emphasizing skills (operation of a camera, exposure and development of film, and darkroom procedures) followed by more advanced courses in which the emphasis is on self-expression. Students continue to work on technical mastery, but with the understanding that the power of the image precedes all. In digital photography courses, students explore image making through an entirely digital format. Students move between the digital camera, the scanner and the computer to refine and manipulate images that are then printed through a digital printer. Traditional studio materials and processes are also integrated into the final digital presentation.

Printmaking explores intaglio techniques (engraving and etching), color printmaking, wood and linoleum cut prints, poster designs (including collaborative posters for theater productions), and screen printing.

Ceramic sculpture and mixed media sculpture are also offered. The former emphasizes slab and coil techniques as well as slip casting and mold making; the latter involves a broader range of materials (plaster, wood, wire, cardboard, papier mâché) exploring reductive, adative, and casting techniques. Both sculpture courses are concerned with producing three-dimensional abstract and representational work.

Introductory and advanced courses in architecture investigate the basic elements of design and structure as they relate to architectural practice and industrial design. Students learn to interpret the history and meaning of their physical surroundings, and the various roles that architecture has assumed throughout history. A variety of drawing techniques, projection systems, model-making approaches, and computer applications are explored.

Art history, offered in alternate years and sponsored by the History Department, is an important part of the art curriculum. A survey of global artistic styles–from the Parthenon as summation of the classical ideal, Chinese landscapes as the realization of an aesthetic tradition unrelated to western conventions and Ai Weiwei or Kara Walker as the epitome of artist-activists–the course is driven by the belief that to place a work in context is to see it more deeply. Students explore how changes in artistic styles reveal (or conceal) changes in political, economic, and social relationships and complete the course equipped with the knowledge and skills to analyze any work of art they encounter.