The Visual Arts Department

Studying the visual arts is an interactive hands-on learning experience where students learn the basic concepts and skills that are common to all visual arts disciplines. Students develop their problem-solving skills by learning how to design and execute a piece, assess it, and refine it.

In the beginning-level classes, the focus is on developing the skills and concepts of the discipline, which will enhance a student’s ability to express herself in the visual arts. In the upper level classes, emphasis is placed on learning how to critique, analyze, and interpret art while undertaking more complex and meaningful studio projects. Art making affords an outlet for personal expression and girls may explore and express things they cannot communicate in words.

Our curriculum supports the needs of girls by offering them many opportunities in the arts. A conscious effort is made to use the work of women artists as examples in the classroom. The artists who exhibit in the Geissler Gallery are often women, and each gives a gallery talk to the student body about her experience and life as an artist. We also offer assistance in portfolio preparation to seniors for college admission.

Two trimesters of the arts are required each year.

Middle School Art 8

In MS Art 8, students study the illustrative aspects of art. They explore ways to express their personal narratives through a variety of media, with a focus on drawing and painting skills. Sample projects include an illuminated letter, a clay vessel inspired by Grecian art, and a Pop art painting. The basic elements and principles of art are reinforced.

Middle School Art and Culture

In Grade 7 Art and Culture, students study the art of various countries and time periods. This class will investigate how people can express their traditions, beliefs and daily actions through art, with a focus on the use of symbolism. Students will create artwork in the style of each country studied. Sample projects include Chinese brush painting, Native American pottery and South American weaving. Different media are introduced as well as the basic elements and principles of art.

Middle School Art and Identity

In Grade 8 Art and Identity, students contemplate their identities, which are formed from many different components including nationality, gender, interests, culture, race, values, and our life experiences. This class will explore ways our identities can be expressed through artwork. As in Grade 7, different media are introduced and the basic elements and principles of art are reinforced.

Ceramics I

This study of ceramics will explore basic hand-building techniques of pinch, coil and slab. The potter’s wheel is introduced and students explore throwing basic bowl and cylinder forms. A range of decoration and glazing options are covered, including underglazes, sgraffito and wax resist.

Ceramics II

Ceramics II includes furthers exploration of hand building methods and throwing on the potter’s wheel. Students will learn how to transform their two-dimensional designs into three-dimensional forms. Students are encouraged to pursue their personal interests in their wheelwork. Previous projects include mask-style self-portraits, woven baskets, and a series of matching dishware.

Prerequisite: Ceramics I

Design and Color

This foundation course is an introduction to the basic principles of design and elements of art and prepares students for future classes in the visual arts. The elements of art include: line, shape, form, value, space, color and texture. Students explore principles of rhythm, balance, emphasis, scale, unity and variety while designing works for visual impact. This is a one-trimester course and is required of all ninth graders.

Desktop Publishing

This class provides an opportunity for students to explore beginner techniques in desktop publishing and journalism, and learn the basics of Adobe InDesign. Students design a mini magazine, learning about theme development, copy writing and digital photography. They then apply these skills to produce the spring supplement to the Yearbook, covering spring term sports and events. The course is recommended for anyone considering taking Yearbook the following year.

Spring term elective

Digital Photography I

Students work with Digital SLR cameras to learn photography using traditional concepts and skills. Most work is done in black and white to stress elements of design, structure and contrast. The history of photography and basic styles is introduced. Students become comfortable and competent in the basic use of the camera, working with focus, aperture, shutter speed, light meter, ISO, different shooting modes, and menu controls. Using Bridge and Photoshop, essential editing skills of adjusting contrast, cropping, toning, retouching and printing are covered. Emphasis is on developing one’s eye and vision while creating groups of related images. Students and parents are required to sign a release form accepting responsibility for the loss or damage of the camera.

Digital Photography II

Students work with Digital SLR Cameras to explore and master advanced skills and pictorial concepts in digital photography. The class views and discusses different aspects of the history of Photography and styles of Photography. Students continue to work with advanced camera modes, TV (setting the shutter speed) and M (setting both shutter speed and F-stops.) Most of the work is done in color. Assignments include: Documentary, Double Exposures, Abstraction: related textures, abstract realism, distortion, and photograms, and surrealism.

Students and parents are required to sign a release form accepting responsibility for the loss or damage of the camera.

Prerequisite: Digital Photography I

Graphic Design with Photoshop

This course is an introduction to using the computer as an art medium by exploring tools and techniques of the digital imaging graphics program Adobe Photoshop. Students design and create images for graphic design, illustration and expressive purposes. Scanning, image resolution, file management and printing are covered.

Prerequisites: Students must have taken two studio classes: Design & Color and Digital Photography or have permission of the instructor.

Weaving I

This study will provide students with a fundamental understanding of the techniques of weaving on a four-harness loom. Students will become familiar with the parts of the loom, weaving terms and the tools and materials necessary to create functional and aesthetically satisfying hand-woven fabric. Students will plan, weave and finish hand-woven items in a course designed to develop technical proficiency and comprehension of good design principles.

Weaving II

Moving beyond basic technical skills, students will study the structure of fabric. Students will explore detailed drafts, the function of proper sett and beat, and supplemental wefts. Students will also research three yarn types: cellulose, protein and synthetic fibers. Students will be required to apply good design principles and color theory to all projects.

Prerequisite: Weaving I


This course allows students to produce the annual yearbook. Students work in many areas: desktop publishing, photography, layout and design, copy writing, editing, and group management. The staff must work together to make decisions and are expected to meet the responsibilities outlined for the job they are assigned. Instruction and guidance on all aspects of production are given throughout the course. All materials necessary are provided. Editors require previous experience and are appointed by the advisor.

This is a two-trimester (fall and winter) course and earns two arts credits.

Introduction to Studio Arts

The goal of this class is to give students a foundation of basic studio skills and concepts in drawing, painting and sculpture. A limited study of selected Art Historical Styles and Concepts and Art Criticism is introduced. Students keep a sketchbook, which is modeled on the IB Art Journal. Essential skills of researching, analyzing and interpreting artworks, and planning and assessing one’s own work are included in the sketchbook assignments. This class will help to prepare students for the IB Art Program.

This is a year-long course recommended for 10th graders, and open to 11th and 12th graders on a term or full year basis.

International Baccalaureate Art (Higher Level & Standard Level) – Year One

In this course, students investigate and explore art from diverse cultures and time periods and plan and create their studio works, which are influenced by their research. Each student keeps a sketchbook, or Visual Arts Journal where she documents her research about art and culture, analyzes artworks, and plans, sketches, documents and discusses the evolution of her studio works in a “process” portfolio format. The class visits galleries and museums to view and write about original art. As the year progresses, each student is encouraged to find and develop her own voice in the visual arts.

Prerequisite: Introduction to Studio Arts

International Baccalaureate Art (Higher Level & Standard Level) – Year Two

In the second year of the IB Art Program, in addition to studio work, each student will complete a Comparative Study, in her Art Journal, which examines and compares at least three artworks, objects or artifacts, at least two of which need to be by different artists. The works selected for comparison and analysis should come from differing cultural contexts. During the Winter Term, each student will plan and install an exhibit of her work and prepare curatorial statements. The exhibit of studio work is cohesive body of work of the student’s choice. During the latter part of the Winter Term, students prepare their Exhibit, Process Portfolio and Comparative Study materials for the IB assessment.