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Advanced Studio Art Brightens Up the Visual Arts Curriculum

Working in their personally decorated mini studios, Advanced Studio Art students are covering the muted yellow walls of the Summit building with beautiful, vibrant artwork.

Built on the foundation of a humanistic education, the Northwest School has long strived to be a community that supports the arts. Every NWS student is not only required but encouraged to participate in arts classes from a variety of disciplines. Ceramics, Photography, Concert Band, and Creative Dance are just a few of Northwest’s extensive arts offerings. NWS encourages students to pursue a wide range of arts classes and supports students in developing expertise in an area they are passionate about. Performing Dance Ensemble (PDE), Vocal Collective, and House Band are all ways students can pursue advanced level arts. Until this year, advanced visual arts classes were not an option. The addition of Advanced Studio Art (ASA) to the NWS curriculum is creating a new opportunity for students who are passionate about the visual arts to demonstrate their commitment and improve their skills.

Although the addition of a new visual arts class is recent, ASA has actually been in the planning for years. Adding a new class “requires thinking about how it fits into the overall curriculum,” said Claire C. (she/her), teacher of ASA and the chair of the visual arts department. All classes are carefully considered before being added to the school curriculum, and ASA is no exception. 

“We get to see people dance, and we get to see music shows,” said Claire. “It’s not always quite as visible what the art students are doing.” ASA is an opportunity for committed visual artists to gain more visibility within the NWS community. The new class gives students the opportunity to expand the reach of their artwork and prepare themselves for the visual arts scene beyond NWS. “I think [Advanced Studio Art] will make our school stand out as a place where high school students are really making extremely high level work,” said Claire. 

Because ASA is being offered for the first time this year, no prerequisites are required. However, in years to come, it is suggested that students have taken at least one intermediate art class and required that they submit an art portfolio and artist statement in order to apply. Although applying might sound daunting, having an application process can add to the experience of being in the class. Like other advanced art classes, requiring students to demonstrate their interest helps guarantee investment and dedication among students selected for the class.“I know everyone in the class wants to be there just as much as me. They’re not just taking it for their graduation requirements,” said Ketil J. ‘24 (she/her), a student in ASA and a leader of the Drawing Interest Group (D.I.G.).

One of the most unique and appealing aspects of ASA is the freedom it offers students. “It kind of prepares you for college art,” said Katiya S. ‘24 (she/her), a student in ASA. Instead of focusing on developing technical skills, students are able to choose how and what they want to create. They design their own space, produce their own artwork, and participate in formal critiques.

“I’ve been drawing in a sketchbook almost daily since sixth grade,” said Katiya. “I thought this class could really help me develop a portfolio for college.” ASA is meant to give students who are committed to the visual arts the opportunity to develop their personal styles and create a body of work by the end of the year. Most classes are devoted to open studio work, however, critique and constructive criticism are especially common in this class. “When you’re getting so much feedback from so many people, I think that it’s a great opportunity for people who take the class to learn and grow and evolve in their art style,” said Ketil. 

Students in ASA also get their own personal art studios, creating a more professional environment and allowing them to design their own space. “It means I get to spend more time actually on the art instead of worrying about maintenance,” said Katiya. “I don’t have to interrupt my process to clean.”

ASA helps interested students enter their work in competitions, prepare for galleries, and create art portfolios. “The fact that I’m going to be able to enter this [piece] into a gallery show is something that I couldn’t necessarily do on my own,” said Katiya. 

Students who enrolled in ASA are excited to explore, develop, and improve as artists. “I hope that my art style changes, that I get effective feedback, and grow as a person and as an artist from within the class,” said Ketil. The students are able to explore and enhance their artistic styles, create and showcase more work within the school, and build a stronger network of people interested in the visual arts. 

The NWS mission statement asserts that an education in the arts builds self-confident, creative individuals capable of critical thinking and problem-solving. The addition of ASA brings the school one step closer to that goal. In the class, “There’s no being told, ‘Oh, no, you can’t do that,’” said Katiya. “I think this is, at least for me, the most exciting visual art I could take.” ASA expands the horizons of visual art students within the school, offering them a space to learn and grow. “It’s added to my experience at NWS,” said Ketil, “to be able to take [Advanced Studio Art] my last year.”

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