Visual & Performing Arts

The Visual And Performing Arts (VaPA) curriculum exposes students to a creative and collaborative exploration of the arts. Students in VaPA classes develop the ability to communicate through visual art media and the performance process. Students discover personal expression, meaning through the creative process, tools and techniques in a variety of artistic disciplines, an understanding of aesthetics, and the awareness that they are part of a greater artistic history and community. Students are taught by artist-teachers who believe each child has a unique creative voice that can be fostered and developed through encouragement, inquiry, skill, and discovery. At OES the VaPA Department is a lively place where young people learn how to express themselves and value the expressions of others.

Visual Arts

In the Visual arts students will experience:

  • The creative process focusing on creativity, concepts, composition, and craftsmanship
  • Creating art pieces in the studios with artist-teachers as mentors
  • Tools and techniques of a wide array of media and periods of art
  • Experiencing being apart of a larger community of artists

Lower School

In the Beginning Years Studio our focus is on process, not product. The visual arts are introduced as a language through which children can experience, question, and understand their world. Children paint, draw, sculpt, explore pastels and inks, sew, make paper, work with clay and cardboard and found materials both inside the studio and out in our lush and verdant OES campus. They paint murals and self portraits, make prints, explore possibilities with charcoal, wire, and found materials, working independently and collaboratively. These explorations of material and process foster a habit of creative thinking and problem solving that expands into all areas of the children’s learning.

The Lower School art program operates on the premise that children have an abundance of creative ideas and love to learn about and manipulate a vast array of media and materials. The program endeavors to bring these two elements together in a way that results in a rich mixture of experimentation, learning, skill building and self-expression. Topics in visual art are integrated into the curriculum at each grade level and at at times in collaboration with technology and science departments in building STEAM programing. Experimentation and self expression are emphasized throughout all they do.

Middle School

Through the three years of MS art studio, students grow more advanced in the creative process and their curriculum moves through periods of time in art history: Ancient Cultures through Modern art to Contemporary art.

Middle School Art students have the opportunity to take art during all three years of their Middle School experience. In 6th all students take one semester in art. They study Ancient Cultures focusing on tools and techniques of early civilizations. They learn about the creative process focusing on creativity, concept, composition, and craftsmanship. They have the opportunity to learn about art from different cultures, responding by creating art pieces in studio based class assignments. Focus in class is on learning how to use various art materials and artistic techniques, learning to use and recognize the principles and elements of design, and using symbol, narrative, and the figure.

In 7th grade students who choose to continue in art class learn about Modernity and take the class every other day for an entire year. They study the influences leading into the Renaissance and move through art history up to the Modern Art of the 1940s. Once again they learn about the tools and techniques of different art periods with a new focus on the idea of inspiration and the individual. They respond to art lessons in a studio-based model focusing on more intensive practices and techniques. Concepts such as proportion, perspective, and basic color theory are included in lessons. Students are also introduced to a variety of artists and their artistic processes. Students have the opportunity to work in materials such as clay, watercolor, acrylic, pastels, colored pencil, collage, and mixed media.

In 8th grade students who were in art in 7th grade continue in art. They study Contemporary Art for the entire academic year with class every other day. Students start the year with an intensive focus on skills and techniques giving them the knowledge and tools for independent work. Focusing on art that has been created in the last fifty years, students are exposed to Contemporary painting, performance art, environmental art, sculpture, installation art, new media, contemporary craft, design, and street art. Students also discuss and learn to look for, see, and understand Visual Culture around them in their everyday environment. Students have the opportunity to create many individual art pieces inspired by their own ideas and life. Second semester they have the opportunity to create an inquiry based large scale art piece as their culminating work of the year.

Upper School

Upper School students have many opportunities for creative aesthetic expression and appreciation of art. Students are producing sophisticated work in painting, printmaking, photography, ceramics and other media under the support of working artist- teachers. Students have the opportunity to take their creative art ideas to the heights of their imaginations and depth of their skills.

A sampling of US visual arts courses:

Art Trek offers an introduction to art both culturally and historically. The course covers Cave Art, Primitive Art, and the art of Egypt, India, China, Japan, and Greece. Other major periods of art covered include Byzantine, Medieval, Renaissance, Impressionism, and Modern. The class is primarily a studio class, which allows students to use a variety of media and methods in making projects for each unit, including ceramics, calligraphy, painting, and drawing.

The intensive, hands-on Drawing class introduces and explores the basic elements of observational drawing and design. Linear perspective, proportion, texture, tonal value, composition and anatomy are core concepts. Students learn to control a variety of monochromatic art-making media in order to create finished artwork that reflects their understanding of the illusion of space on a two-dimensional plane. The culminating project in the class is a sophisticated, concept driven self-portrait.

Advanced Drawing builds on the skills acquired in the Drawing class and offers students the opportunity to engage in developing the conceptual aspect of their work ...developing voice, concept development, fully realized creative process, visual metaphor and meaning, and write artist statements.

The Ceramics course provides an introduction to and the mastery of ceramic construction and wheel throwing techniques and glazing methods. Students use hand-building techniques and wheel-throwing to create both functional and nonfunctional forms of increasing complexity and sophistication with glaze coloration and methods of effective application. Firing methods include electric kiln and raku. Students with a strong interest in ceramics can continue their work at an advanced level.

The Contemporary Studio Art curriculum includes painting, sculpture, collage and multimedia work, and culminates with a student-driven independent project. The class provides the theory and techniques so that students have the tools to articulate their ideas using multiple modes of visual art expression. In order to stay relevant, art needs to acknowledge, reflect, reinterpret, subvert, sublimate and influence rapid cultural evolution. The Contemporary Studio Art class aspires to provide students with the opportunity to meaningfully engage in this process.

In Digital Simulations the students explore the use of computer graphics in a 3D virtual environment. The curriculum focuses on translating the fundamental skills learned in traditional art forms onto a digital canvas using advanced graphics applications, particularly Maya, a high-end 3D modeling and animation program.

The Photography course includes both film and digital techniques. Students learn to use a manual, single-lens reflex camera, chemically develop 35mm film, and print photographs using silver gelatin paper and darkroom techniques. Students explore studio lighting and digital post-production using a variety of image manipulation software. Group critique sessions inform student learning and allow students to develop critical communication skills. Students showcase their artistic voice through digital portfolios and in the public spaces around the school.

Performing Arts

The vision of the OES Performing Arts program is for students to experience the aesthetic, creative, and collaborative joy made possible in the performing arts. We strive to have students learn and develop as performers, in a process that fosters safe risks, thoughtful reflection, profound research, and authentic reaction. We believe the collaborative performance process teaches students how to see connections in the world around them, and enables them to challenge audiences with difficult topics. Students experience a culminating performance in all grades levels.

Lower School

  • Students find ways to ask questions about the world
  • Explore ideas with self-created stories and imaginative play
  • Have opportunities to perform for various communities in the school

Central to the Beginning School Performing Arts goals is inquiry. Classroom teachers work closely with students to find ways to ask questions about the world. Through these conversations, students explore ideas with self-created stories and imaginative play. These stories are then captured and performed by the class for many different members of the community.

Middle School

  • 6th Focus on storytelling skills, character, plot, voice, and improvisation
  • 7th Focus on stronger plot development and using improvisation to create characters and scenarios. Introduced to the concept of Actor as Collaborator, and the importance of group work.
  • 8th Advanced vocal techniques and character development as they work from written scripts

Formal acting instruction begins in the sixth grade. Acting classes focus on storytelling skills, character, plot, voice, and improvisation. The quarter culminates with students performing stories for Lower School audiences.

In seventh grade, students focus on stronger plot development and using improvisation to create characters and scenarios. Students begin to understand that acting is not just about talking but also communicating with the body, the eyes, and movement. At this time we also introduce the concept of Actor as Collaborator, and the importance of group work. The 7th graders culminate each semester with an improvisational performance.

In the eighth grade, students learn more advanced vocal techniques and character development as they work from written scripts. At the end of the year, the eighth grade acting students perform a culminating project that is shared with family, friends, and members of the community.

Upper School

OES is committed to staging plays that align with our school mission and thus benefit the intellectual, cultural, spiritual, emotional, and artistic growth of the students. We strive to choose plays that are relevant to the community and that complement one another in style, content, and technical demand over the course of the year.

Through the Theater instruction in the Upper School students learn skills that are applied in three main stage productions in the Great Hall, as well as scene readings throughout their other Upper School classes. Through Stagecraft students learn and create sound, light and set and costume design for every US production.

Theater instruction in the Upper School includes the following courses: Actor’s Studio, Stage and Screen, and Stagecraft. The skills students learn are applied in three main stage productions in the Great Hall, as well as scene readings throughout their other Upper School classes.

Main Stage performances include dramas, musicals, and one-act plays written by students in the senior elective playwriting class and directed under the mentorship.

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