Examining art classes at WHS
You might see them walk into the rooms by the gym, carrying large, cardboard folders holding colorful pictures and paintings: Wayland High School art students. But this begs the question, what are they doing behind those closed doors?
Wayland High School offers Art 1 to Art 4. Most students start with Art 1 their freshman year and progress to Art 4 their senior year. According to Art 4 student Dasha Bobrova, if a student shows aptitude in the subject or receives a recommendation, administration might allow them to skip a level.
“Personally I had done art my whole life, and when I didn’t get into Art 1 my freshman year, I was devastated, but after talking with my guidance counselor and showing Ms. Armentano my work, I took Art 2, which ended up being better for me in the long run,” Bobrova said.
In Art 1 and Art 2, most classes are structured with assignments with different requirements given throughout the year. Students are taught basic technique, composition, perspective, and how to blend colors their freshman and sophomore year. Composition is the placement or arrangement of visual elements of a piece. And perspective helps students accurately portray a scene on paper as one would see through his or her eye.
“It’s really a super wide variety and just introducing students to everything,” Art 1 teacher Amy Cuneo said. “Right now we’re introducing oil, pastel and watercolor observational drawing.”
The beginner classes not only introduce basic technique, but they also provide a controlled environment for students to learn in.
“Less advanced classes tend to be larger and more controlled since there are a lot of people that take them who simply want to try art or are taking it because of the art requirement,” Bobrova said. “Advanced classes tend to have less students who are more committed to what they do and giving strict assignment becomes unnecessary.”
Technically, WHS does not offer AP Studio Art as a class. However, Art 4 acts as an informal class for the AP level. Students in Art 4 are encouraged to submit their work for AP credit. For AP Studio Art, students must submit a portfolio with 24 to 29 pieces of art.
The portfolio must consist of 12 concentration pieces, 12 breadth pieces and five quality pieces. The pieces for concentration are works that have the same idea behind them just shown in different ways. Breadth means any 12 pieces you have that show what you can do in different styles and mediums. The five quality pieces can be on their own, fit into neither concentration or breadth, or they can be pieces from either group.
Ryter did a series based on coffee and traveling for her 12 concentration pieces. For her breadth, she used a collection of pieces that she had worked on over the past four years that show a variety of things from scenes to mediums like pencil or paint. For her quality, she picked her five “best” from her concentration series. According to Ryter, those pieces were the ones she had liked the most and spent the most time on.
“A lot of [my concentration series] is based of buildings from cities I have been to or would like to go one day, but also there are a few conceptual pieces. The piece I did on dancers is symbolizing traveling as a movement, and there are other pieces that show traveling as a flow between people or things, or even a state of mind,” Ryter said. “One painting I did of a bunch of buildings coming out of a hand over a coffee pot was intended to be a pun, as they were built ‘from the ground up.’”
On the day of the “exam,” students can tie up any loose ends they might encounter. By the end of the period, they must have written their artist statements for their concentration as well as upload their concentration and breadth artwork with their dimension to the AP Central website. Finally, they must frame their work using a mat and mail the pieces to be graded.
“Most of this can be done beforehand and you can hang out and eat pizza, but others like me work until the last minute and end up photographing and photoshopping on the day of the exam,” Bobrova said. “It is much less oriented around one specific day than other AP exams, which I believe allows for a grade that better reflects a student’s level in that particular subject.”
According to senior Kira Ryter, as art class advances to the AP level, students are given more personal attention and freedom. Instead of working solely on assigned projects, students can come in with their ideas and bring them to life.
“It’s been different over the years. When I was a freshman I stuck to more class assigned projects, using the same medium everyone else was, but eventually I started to venture off into my own random projects here and there,” Ryter said.
Once a student enters AP art, they are given the most amount of freedom. They can choose how they want to use their class time. Ryter spends her class time working on her artwork. Bobrova on the other hand spends more time in class preparing her completed work for presentation.
“I prefer to do work that requires less thinking in class because it is hard for me to focus in such a short period of time. For example I mat work, I take pictures and photoshop pieces or work on repetitive parts of a drawing,” Bobrova said. “There are, however, other people who complete a large portion of their portfolio work in class.”
Grading in art classes is not based solely only the outcome of the piece. According to Cuneo, the outcome of the piece is not the only factor in grading. A large part of the grade is the time spent and effort put into the work. Cuneo also evaluates whether the student takes critique into account and how they apply what they learn in their lessons to the actual work of art.
“You do not have to be good at art to get a good grade, though it obviously doesn’t hurt. Being attentive and putting in the required effort is always enough, and there are lots of opportunities for extra credit,” Cuneo said.
Prior experience is not necessary to join a Wayland High School art class. There are requirements, such as having to take a lower level class before the more advanced version.
“Anyone can and should do art if they have an interest,” Ryter said. “Even if you don’t think you can draw there are other ways to be creative and it’s something you can learn by practice.”