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Creative Arts Blog

Exploring Creativity

Emanna Khan '19
Advanced Studio Art Students Explore their Creativity
Just as Derryfield offers honors and AP courses for those students who want to pursue an academic subject at a more rigorous level, the capstone experience in the visual arts department is the year-long series of electives dubbed “Advanced Studio Art.” Creative Arts department chair Mrs. Barsi notes that “the course is designed to allow students to work on individually directed goals, to create meaningful and fully developed artwork that reflects advanced knowledge of the visual arts, creativity, ingenuity, and self-expression.”

This past year, five young artists took on the challenge of fully investing themselves into their creations. Each trimester started with an extensive planning process for the culminating project, which “students begin by determining what Big Ideas they would like to explore in their work (i.e., Memory, Power, Identity, etc.). They determine what media they would like to work in, research artists that inspire them, and then lay out their goals and include an estimated timeline for when they will complete their work throughout the trimester.” Not only are students tasked with directing their own curriculum, but “students develop their own grading rubric for this class based on five main criteria; growth & studio practices, craftsmanship, composition & originality, and understanding of medium/ concepts.”

As the students began the creation process, they engaged in frequent one-on-one conferences with Mrs. Barsi, as well as class critiques that allowed them to hear others’ perspectives on their art. However, their learning did not take place exclusively in the classroom: students were expected to visit and make notes about various galleries and local art museums, as well as participate in class trips to art museums such as the MFA in Boston and similar institutions in NYC.

The fall and winter trimesters culminated in “popup” shows to showcase the students’ creations, while the spring ended in a celebration of student work in a more traditional setting in the Lyceum Gallery. To bring an “entrepreneurial component” into the course, “the students are responsible for publicizing their exhibit, developing posters and gallery cards, hanging their work, and setting up the event space with decorations, music and refreshments.” The spring exhibition reflected the diversity in styles and interests of the young artists: Ada Hu ’19 created traditional Chinese art that she sewed herself, Andrew Lombardozzi ’18 included a podcast interview with his grandmother as a component of his project, and Crystal Xie ’18 integrated her self-portrait into video form with accompanying audio that represented her Chinese and American identities, to name a few.

Advanced Studio Art pushed the students out of their artistic comfort zones, and Mrs. Barsi points out with pride that all of the students experimented with new materials for the first time. In addition to trying out new artistic mediums, the students were challenged by being limited to short class periods and a 11 week term to complete their projects, which often must be modified and adapted throughout the creation process. However, the stressful moments are balanced by the reward of the final exhibitions, “When the students can take a deep breath, step away from the artwork they have spent so much time researching and creating to reflect and celebrate their peers.”
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