BY JULIA TARINELLI
Here at CHS, we have a large variety of classes, both academic and nonacademic, provided for all types and levels of students. Overall they are all very good, especially our music program which we are known for. Yet as someone who has always cared about art and art classes here in my school, I feel the art department is often overlooked.
Art is something I have pursued ever since I was eight years old. However, this was largely on my own free time, where I learned from trial and error or from online resources. School art class was not where I gained my skills; instead it was a place where I implemented what I already knew. Others would struggle with basic concepts, or use the class for socializing. Even going into high school, the two classes I have been able to take had a huge range of abilities.
For most other classes, this mixed skill level is not the case. Math and science have up to four different skill levels, and humanities have two to three. Even outside of academics, the music department has multiple advanced ensembles and various other opportunities outside of school as well as the AP Music Theory classes. At the top level, classes get small, even with less than ten students in Music Theory and this year’s AP Physics, yet all run annually with no questions asked.
In theory, each art class does have a 1 and 2 level. In practice, there will be almost no difference between these classes, as you are just as likely to find a serious art student as someone who is only taking art classes for the credits in a 2 level class. There are often not many people in these 2 level classes, with both the levels even being held in the same room. A teacher who is constantly trying to manage behavior issues will also have to help serious students in the same class, in the process not able to give either group what they need at their level.
However, the issue is not solely in our school’s course selection, but found in the perception of the visual arts in education in general. Even among other non-academic subjects, they come in well below sports and performing arts, especially music. These extracurriculars are touted as improving children’s physical and mental health, respectively, making them appealing to those who want the best for their child. In contrast, parents and students alike do not see the benefits in visual arts, perpetuated by the starving artist stereotype, or the misconception that art classes have no value beyond fun yet kitschy crafts.
I and other aspiring artists I have met already know that not only is art difficult and technical, but it is also a powerful means of expression and communication. For us, its value is obvious, and we want improve because we see that value and skill in others’ work. But others, who may only think of dusty old paintings or bizarre contemporary contraptions in museums, unfortunately do not see the impact art has on their lives. It is in their shows, cartoons, movies, media, advertisements, products, and so much more. It is, in fact, possible to get a decent job in art, even if getting wealthy in a creative field is obviously more challenging than for an engineer or doctor.
Those of us who want to go into the field of art as professionals, or even just care about art enough to continue to advance our skills as a hobby, want and need the same opportunities as our peers going into STEM or humanities or sports or music. With the current art program, this just is not happening. We need more advanced classes, where we can develop at a higher level and receive support for those who are applying to art school or seeking other opportunities in the industry.
By supporting art students, they will be more likely to succeed, which will draw more people into the program at all levels. Hopefully, more people in the student body will be able to appreciate the value of art the same way I always have.