In the Middle School, visual art is a required course. The Visual Arts program encourages students to express their creativity as they gain a foundation in traditional art forms and experiment with contemporary artistic practices. Emphasis is placed on experimentation, risk-taking and making choices based upon research, introspection, and observation. Students actively think about how art shapes society and provides a means for self-expression. Classes explore art-making beyond the classroom, through museum visits, art walks, neighborhood explorations, and sketchbook assignments. Many interdisciplinary projects are done in conjunction with the Spanish department over these four years.
Fifth graders experiment with various media to create art, including drawing, soft sculpture, painting, paper collage and illustration. They also visit art museums and venues around New York City. Sixth graders build on their knowledge while learning about art-planning, scaling, orientation and perspective and gaining experience with glazing and firing, slab rollng, coiling, modeling, and book making. In seventh grade, students learn soft linoleum printmaking and sculpture, work on a papier-mache project of a skull for the Día de los Muertos holiday, which requires them to study geometry of the face, and are introduced to the Pop Art movement. Eighth graders are challenged to work more closely with media of their choosing, such as mixed media, printmaking, acrylic painting, wood-carving, charcoal or graphite pencil drawings, computer-assisted graphics, found object sculptures, clay-based forms, and digital photography. Emphasis is placed on student-generated ideas and independent problem solving.
Fifth graders create art in many shapes and forms; they experiment with various media and visit art around the city. During the observational drawing unit, they draw objects from the natural world using pencil and India ink with sumi brushes. As part of the soft sculpture unit, inspired by Claes Oldenberg, students pick an everyday object that they recreate as a soft sculpture, a process that requires them to observe, draw, engineer, and sew. In the painting unit, students are introduced to ancient Chinese flower paintings in collaboration with the study of China in history class. Using tempera cakes and watercolors, students practice mixing colors and selecting appropriate brushes as they construct overlapping compositions. The final unit on paper collage and illustration draws on the works of Matisse as students study positive and negative spaces. In collaboration with English and history class, students illustrate a scene from a myth they have written with their own paper collage.
The sixth graders build off of the skills and experiences from fifth grade. At the start of the school year, they make observational drawings from plastic animal figures, using India ink and sumi paint brushes, using different marks and overlapping strokes to create texture and space. In the second unit on students chose an animal to incorporate into a clay vessel. This project builds on art-planning skills and introduces students to slab rolling, coiling, and modeling. Students are also introduced to the chemistry of glazing and firing. During the book making unit, student-illustrators experiment with scale, orientation, and perspective, which take the reader on a pictorial journey through time and space. Each page becomes its own work of art, through the use of pencil, watercolor pencils, tempera cakes, and watercolors. The project concludes with book covers and bookbinding. The final unit, drawing from dreams, is a collaboration with the study of Salvador Dali in Spanish class. Students learn about the surrealist movement and make works of art from their own dreams using charcoal and colored pastel.
The fall semester begins with a celebration of the Mexican Day of the Dead/Día de los Muertos holiday. Each student makes a papier-mache skull of a person close to them who has passed as a way to honor his or her life and legacy. Students study the geometry of the face on iPads and on paper, and the unit culminates with a Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos celebration. In the second unit, students are introduced to the Pop Art movement, including Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Keith Haring, and Banksy. By learning soft linoleum printmaking, they are able to use everyday objects to make political and social statements. In the spring, students make a sculptural bust of themselves.
The eighth grade visual arts curriculum includes self-portraits, abstraction, observational drawings, 3-dimensional forms, new technologies, assemblage, and color studies. Using more focused mind-mapping exercises and brainstorming sessions as well as one-on-one critiques, students are challenged to work more closely with media of their choosing, such as mixed media, printmaking, acrylic painting, wood-carving, charcoal or graphite pencil drawings, computer-assisted graphics, found object sculptures, clay-based forms, and digital photography. Emphasis is placed on student-generated ideas and independent problem solving. In addition, students continue to build the vocabulary and communication skills needed to critique other artists’ works, whether that of their peers or contemporary artists in the New York City region.