New school year introduces first all-advanced Art class at PHS

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Beginning this year at PHS, the art curriculum is offering their first all advanced art class, in which all students are AP Studio Art or Studio 2.

In the past, when AP Studio Art was offered as a class, very few students signed up to take it, causing the class to be split into multiple sections, joined in with other courses, such as Studio 1. Because of this, art teacher Ms. Nora Schaefer, explains that, “Part of the issue with the split [AP] classes was that they weren’t able to see what the other AP students were working on. Particularly with concentrations, where they’re coming up with a sustained investigation, the ability to be able to see what the other students’ are in class enriches the whole experience for everybody.”  

“It felt wrong being separated from the other AP kids,” says Tori Gruber, who took AP Drawing in her senior year last year. “It was hard to see others’ points of view on their concentrations,” she said, referring to the year long series of works AP Students create, which relies heavily on critique and feedback from others.

This year, the increased number of AP Drawing students allowed them to create an advanced section of the course, where all students in the classroom are working at the same or similar skill levels. This class joined together all the AP Drawing students with Studio 2 students to create a first period class.

This change is accredited to recent efforts to promote the art program at PHS, according to Schaefer.

“We’ve been trying to get students started at the [introduction] level right when they come to high school. So we have our first wave of students who started freshman or sophomore year and worked their way up to the higher levels” said Schaefer.

In the new, creative environment, students are described by Schaefer as more equipped to offer each other effective feedback, and as a result, new and unique opportunities arise. For example, in student demonstrations, a feature specific to this class, advanced students are able to demonstrate their technique and describe their process in front of the entire class.

“I think that because I am a student myself, being able to talk to my peers and teach my peers is the optimal way I am able to connect with them. It was also beneficial for me because I was able to use my skills in a way that I thought was genuinely informative,” says Catherine Livingston, an advanced student who was able to perform a student demo

“It’s a good way for them to challenge themselves. They’re actually thinking about, ‘how would I teach this to somebody who is new to this concept?’ It’s helpful to students who see someone who’s actually walked in their shoes demonstrate these skills from their perspective,” Schaefer explains.

Another feature of this class is the unique age range for an art class. Because the class is composed entirely of upperclassmen, each student has more years of experience to rely upon. Ms. Schaefer has observed that “Because they’re all so focused in their discipline, they’re able to really pinpoint issues and successes in each others work, in a way that maybe you wouldn’t with somebody who is a freshman, starting in Studio 1.”

When asked about the effect on the AP Drawing students, Schaefer responded with enthusiasm, saying that “You get to see 27 different processes going on at once,” something unprecedented in PHS history.

Schaefer says she hopes the advanced section classes will continue to be possible if students keep electing to take advanced art classes at the same rate. “Tell your friends to sign up,” she laughs.

Overall, there is a great possibility that the all-advanced class will be a continuing feature of the art program here at PHS in the future, as the positive results of the the new creative and collaborative environment are already seen in the classroom each day.