Can you tell us a little bit about the New Trier AP Art program? How have these artists developed during their time at New Trier, and during the New Trier AP Art class? Do many of the students go on to study art in college and pursue art as a career?
Our AP Art program is strictly seniors. During their junior year, they apply to the AP class, and as teachers, we review their portfolios and give them guidance in whether or not we feel as if they are able to be successful doing the AP exam, and also the curriculum of the course. And then the summer between their junior and senior year, they’re required to take an art class outside of New Trier, whether that be a community class, or they may even go to the School of the Art Institute for a studio immersive for a month or more. Some have gone as far as Rhode Island School of Design, and taken courses there.
When they come to us, at the beginning of senior year, the first semester we do a variety of works, trying to get them to develop as an artist, to think about moving out of their comfort zones, thinking about what it takes to make a really good, quality piece, and the amount of time and effort that goes into it. We think about how they formulate an idea, how they think about work, and where their ideas come from. It might not simply be from a self-portraiture standpoint where they can take ideas from what’s happening in the world around them and bring it back to themselves. So, that’s the first semester.
The second semester, we do the “concentration,” or the “sustained investigation,” and these are AP terms, where they make a group of twelve works of art, that are literally of a body of work that all stem and hopefully develop from one singular idea. They have about twelve weeks to make twelve works of art, so it’s pretty intense.
So, going off of that, how does this project at Vivid fit in with the rest of the AP Art class curriculum?
It’s wonderful. It’s an opportunity for the students to get outside of New Trier and be in the community. The relationship with Vivid Art Gallery has been nothing but wonderful in respect to how the students feel about having their work in the gallery.
What I like about it is it allows them to understand what a professional relationship with a gallery can be; this includes how you look at a show and see what a gallery might be considering and wanting, as well as give them the opportunity to go into a gallery, feel comfortable with a gallery owner, and gain an understanding of what a gallery opening, like First Friday, could be. I always try to make the prompt, or theme of the show, something that relates to the students, but at the same time, something that is incredibly constrained, because I’m a big believer at this level for art students that constraints actually foster creativity rather than limit it.
What’s the idea behind this year’s “Bouquet” theme?
Really, it came down to just thinking about one word that probably would have an obvious outcome, and challenging the students to push beyond that obvious outcome. It was really getting them to think beyond their first step while also considering that Cynthia (the gallery owner) really wants to see who you are as an artist. Having them find the balance between making work specifically for a show and making work specifically for yourself, and blending them together to hopefully make a piece that people in the community like and also benefit from also influenced the “Bouquet” theme.
We haven’t had a chance to see the New Trier art facilities, but we hear that they’re amazing. Could you describe it for our readers.
As far as art facilities go, they’re a dream to teach in, a dream to be a student in, they open up incredible possibilities; students don’t have limitations when it comes to the facilities. The facilities are definitely motivating. We had the opportunity to, as a staff and the art department, think about what art will be in the next fifty years, and that was the charge that was given to us by the board, administration, and also the architects. We really invested in that idea, and we’ve come up with spaces that are multi-purpose, that flow from glass art all the way down to ceramics. We have a traditional black and white wet darkroom, we have a digital dark room, we have a wood shop, we have a computer lab, we have multimedia spaces where kids can literally work in all of those ranges, and the only thing separating one material from the next is a garage door that opens and closes, so it’s incredible. They’re phenomenal.