At St. James Academy, art is everywhere— in the halls, hanging from ceilings, and certainly in the minds of the students. Colorful murals, whimsical sculptures and other impressive visual works created by artists-in-residence fill the building. The art teachers inspire a passion for art-making in their students who are usually found in the art room during recess, putting finishing touches on projects they began in class or engaging in arts-themed after-school clubs.
“My goal is to create art patrons, and for them to enjoy the process of art,” says Annie Bergland, middle school art teacher at St. James Academy. Within a supportive environment, students attain that goal in various ways.
Expanding on Academics through Art
From lower school through middle school, the art teachers take advantage of every opportunity to expand on lessons taught in history, language or even a science class and apply them to create art projects.
Examples abound. In a Japanese tea ceremony, first graders sip from ceramic teacups that they’ve made in art class. After extensively studying an animal throughout the year, the second graders draw that particular animal which lower school art teacher Cheryl Bubier then prints onto t-shirts. The students proudly wear their artwork on a field trip to the Baltimore Zoo. In conjunction with their Spanish lessons, sixth graders create nichos: three-dimensional display boxes used in ceremonies during the Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead. Eighth graders create their own lamps in art class, which they “wire” in science class for a terrific interdisciplinary project.
“With most of my art projects, I will start from art history and then go way beyond that,” explains lower school art teacher, Mrs. Bubier. She exposes even the youngest of her students to a diversity of artists—of different genders, ethnicities, and time periods.
Recently, Mrs. Bubier displayed a bold painting of the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama in the front of her classroom. “She’s a hot new artist—the Picasso of our time,” explains Mrs. Bubier. She so routinely discusses famous artists from all time periods with her students that they learn to identify them based on their style of work. Even very young students lean on this advanced skill during fun spelling bee-inspired activities, in which they take turns calling out the name of given artists as samples of their work flash in front of them.
Students at St. James get the rare opportunity to spend time with and learn from artists. Through the artist-in-residence program, the administration demonstrates a commitment to arts education and immersing students in the creative process. Working artists spend time throughout the year at the school, teaching art lessons to the students and creating their own work of art: a sculpture, mural, tapestry, or some other creation displayed at the school long after artists complete their residency.
Through frequent and varied exposure to the arts, St. James builds in its students a true appreciation of art and a desire to become personally involved in the process of making art. “I tell them it’s okay to make mistakes,” says Mrs. Bergland.
Giving the students the freedom to create art without the fear of failure allows them to take risks with their work. What’s truly exciting about the arts program at St. James Academy is how student artwork is showcased around the greater community.
Three talented SJA artists were selected to have their artwork highlighted in the annual AIMS Student Art Show at the Walters Art Museum. The Hereford Branch of the Baltimore County Library will have a student art exhibit from February 1-22nd.
St. James Academy in Monkton welcomes the public to its upcoming performance arts productions: 4th-8th grade production of Matilda: Dec. 6th and 7th at 6:30 pm and Dec. 8th at 2 p.m.; Middle school Winter Concert Dec. 11th at 7 pm; All-school Talent Show: Jan. 24th at 6:30 pm.
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