To the casual visitor or passerby, the Sequoyah high school art room tucked into the back corner of campus is rarely noticed, let alone explored. Despite its relative seclusion, however, many projects and pieces are created there everyday. Currently, three visual art classes, including Foundations in Studio Art, SAS Studio Art (Sequoyah Advanced Studies, similar to an honors course), and Sculpture and Installation are taught there – creating many exciting artworks and projects in the process .
Foundations in Studio Art, taught by Aimee Zvinakis, is an introductory art class many freshmen and sophomores take where students learn the basics of art. Students take the course for a range of reasons. Loella Kleiner ’27 said, “I like art and I like learning anything new about it.” Fellow classmate Ila Rae Brookshire ’27 expressed apprehension at taking an art class based in painting and other traditional 2D art forms, but noted, “I wasn’t excited about it at first, but I actually find it super helpful.”
To gain new artistic techniques, students created semi-blind contour line drawings where students drew their own face, trying to look at their drawing as little as possible, without picking up their pen. Later in the course, students made another version of these contour line drawings on acetate, a clear plastic-like sheet. They then transferred their work onto three different pieces of paper where they colored their drawings with different mediums, including colored pencil, chalk pastel, and watercolor. These first projects allowed students to learn about different mediums and techniques before getting into more complex techniques and skills in their next unit.
Students in Foundations in Studio Art are now starting an abstract unit in which they learn about the vocabulary and elements of art. They will begin working on their first major project soon, an abstract painting based on music, literature, film, or other forms of media. Brookshire is thinking about doing an abstract piece based on Hayao Miyazaki’s movie Howl’s Moving Castle, and is currently working on the color scheme for this project. Even though the projects done in this class closely follow a rubric, Brookshire does think “it’s mostly [driven by] your own ideas and creativity.” But there are always some restrictions. Overall, this class is a must for developing fundamental art skills.
Zvinakis also teaches SAS Studio Art, which many students take to gain artistic experience at an advanced level. The course also provides students opportunities to build art portfolios for college applications. Nicole Sanders ’24 noted that the first time she was in SAS studio art, she was really nervous – but that she wanted to push herself artistically the second time around. Sanders is venturing outside of her comfort zone by making a sculpture, something she is less familiar with, instead of a painting. In this class, there are three main projects over the course of the semester, each of which follow a specific theme. Sanders mentioned that, because there are not so many restrictions in the materials used and themes explored, as long as it falls under the larger unit’s theme, SAS Studio Art is “very open and freeing. In Foundations you are usually a bit more controlled about what you can do.” This class is very self-driven and students must set their own goals.
The first unit of SAS Studio Art is “Narrative,” in which students are tasked with making an art piece of any medium that tells a story. Sanders chose to make a sculpture of three hands showing the passing down of creativity from generation to generation. She was focusing on her own family history and how the other artists she is related to have influenced her today. “I think [this is] the hardest [art piece] I’ve ever had to work on,” she said. Despite the difficulties, Sanders found the experience of making a sculpture and doing something she was unfamiliar with very rewarding. Even though she is happy with her piece, for her next project Sanders is thinking of doing something smaller, especially because she is applying to art school and is working to build her portfolio with a diverse selection of works.
The last art class offered this fall is Sculpture and Installation, taught by Viviana Palacio, Dean of Students for Community Life and Arts Department Chair. So far, the class has focused more on the sculptural aspect of art; students have created projects such as plaster life casts of their hands done with alginate molds. Tingri Monahan ’24 is very excited to be in this class. “I’ve grown up around a lot of sculpture and a lot of making of sculpture and just making of objects in general,” she says. “I’ve never taken like a real class about…the theory of it, and I’m just really interested in how objects can say something about the world.” For her hand cast, Monahan made a sculpture of both of her hands, with one hand ripping the other’s nail off, demonstrating how the mind can alter and destroy the body. Even though the medium for the hands was set, students could choose the hand position and add elements such as candles and incense.
The next unit of the course deals with the body and hybridity. Of this project, Monahan said, “I feel like we have a lot of agency, especially in our last [project].” Now the class is moving more into performance art – and Monahan is very excited about it. “I’m super interested in that,” she says. “And that definitely is like a whole new realm of material. You know, because a lot of it has to do with the body and a lot of it is thinking about material.” They have since been doing small projects related to Yoko Ono’s book, Grapefruit, where students chose a prompt from it and either did an action and filmed themselves or made something following the directions. Some examples include a video documenting the student staring at the sun until it became square and writing down all the things you can and cannot buy with one dollar.
Overall, the students interviewed by The Barefoot Times are enjoying their art classes and the art program at Sequoyah in general. Sequoyah students feel the art room is a safe and welcoming place where they can go after school and at lunch to collaborate, relax, and create. Come drop by the art room and see what other exciting projects the students are working on!