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The Arts

The arts curriculum offers a rich texture of experiences to deepen boys’ awareness of art, to nurture their appreciation of it, and to inspire their own creative impulses.

Through hands-on and studio classes, students learn to express themselves in a variety of physical, visual, and aural media and develop facility with both traditional and modern techniques and technologies. Through instruction and discussion students sharpen their critical, analytical, and perceptual skills and develop standards for appreciating and evaluating the world immediately around them and the aesthetic achievements of the past.

The arts curriculum offers a rich texture of experiences to deepen boys’ awareness of art, to nurture their appreciation of it, and to inspire their own creative impulses.
Concerts, plays, exhibits, and field trips further enrich the arts curriculum. Through the Claire Berman Artist-in-Residence Fund, the School regularly welcomes professional artists to share their expertise through performances and classroom visits.

Required courses in Class VI and IV expose students to a range of artistic disciplines. In Class III boys choose two half-year electives from design, drama, music, and technology & art. Students in Classes I and II may choose full-credit courses in advanced art and music.

Art Courses

List of 11 items.

  • Natural Design

    Natural Design, for boys in Class VI, is comprised of three complementary, 10-week courses taken in rotation. The studio art component, The Art of Construction, is paired with Science Department courses, The Design of Life, andEnvironmental Systems. All three components take a “hands-on” approach, pairing rigorous academic study with frequent lab and studio activities that keep the boys on their feet and on the go.

    In The Art of Construction, boys investigate architectural plans and models and use them to construct a full scale design. The principles of linear perspective, structure, support, and the formal elements of three-dimensional design are studied and put into practice. The course begins with a discussion of the forces of tension and compression in various arches (Gothic, Roman, Catenary), and group construction projects on campus follow. As a culminating exercise, boys produce a detailed design of a wood project using an established architectural style—i.e., Classic, Gothic, Modern. The boys are required to develop a portfolio of research and computer-aided design plans working toward a scale model and, finally, a finished wooden structure. Along the way, the boys consider various construction materials and techniques, and learn the proper use of hand tools to construct their project. Both structural integrity and aesthetic considerations are important in the final review and evaluation of their designs.

    In The Design of Life, students study form and function in living systems. We investigate the nature of life itself, observing its remarkable unity and its incredible diversity. We consider how Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection accounts for these features of life and enables us to understand the exquisite design of cells, organs, and organisms. We develop an understanding of the nature of scientific inquiry by making frequent observations of organisms in the lab. We use compound microscopes, conduct dissections, and construct models and simulations to accomplish these goals.

    Nature is interconnection. At its most basic, Environmental Systems is the study of this interconnectedness. As part of nature, humans have ignored, denied, and celebrated our inescapable bonds to the ecosystems of which we are members. Today, this is no different; only our recognition and celebration of our own connection to nature is of more imminent importance than ever before: The consequences of denying our powerful role within the natural world are as dire as they have ever been. In this course, students study the relationships between organisms and their environments. Students strive to understand our species as within, rather than outside of nature; from that perspective we consider the impact of human activity on the environment. Students research sustainable initiatives connecting humans to their respective ecosystems. We are outside frequently, using the woodlands on the R.L. campus as a living laboratory to introduce students to the tools and techniques of environmental science.
  • Introduction to Visual Art

    In Class IV, students take Introduction to Visual Art, which concentrates—in the first semester—on developing drawing skills. Once a degree of confidence is developed, the class moves toward more expressive endeavors in a variety of media. Masterworks from the past and present are referred to as sources of motivation and inspiration. Work of high quality is selected for competitive exhibits throughout the year.
  • Introduction to Watercolor

    One of four Class III arts electives, Introduction to Watercolor requires no prior experience with watercolor; the Class IV Visual Art course provides the necessary background. Watercolor is the oldest painting method and represents the fundamental nature of painting as we know it. The elusive nature of combining water and pigment makes it an alluring and challenging medium. This course seeks to develop in students an understanding of the medium of watercolor and an appreciation of its history as an artistic expression. Students are taught to balance their desire to control the medium while taking advantage of the fluid and often unpredictable nature of water. The course teaches formal concepts of design and composition, as well as dry- and wet-brush techniques, to help students express themselves artistically and competently through the medium. Students are guided through the creation of several paintings, exploring subjects of landscape and still life. Materials are provided.
  • Art and Technology: How Did They Do That?

    Art and Technology: How Did They Do That? Ever wonder how works of art and architecture were made? What the technology of the times was that allowed a massive dome to be built without collapsing or a multi-ton block of marble to be excavated, moved and carved to smooth perfection? What about the technique behind Jackson Pollock’s (in) famous drip paintings? In this class students will study the technology behind art, examining the innovative engineering and technical practices that have led to the production over time and across cultures of extraordinary works in architecture, sculpture and painting. They will then try their own hand at creating similar works. The study of engineering and technology in the MSI course has provided Class IV boys with a solid foundation in problem-solving skills and related vocabulary which will be built upon in Art and Tech and combined with studio practice.
  • Applied Art

    A natural extension of the Class IV course, Applied Art is a full course elective open to boys in Classes I and II that incorporates art history with a broader, more complete development of studio work. Covering the history of art from earliest times to the 19th century, students learn to recognize and relate to the development of ideas and techniques as they pertain to visual art through the ages. Students work independently on a succession of individual projects (in a variety of media), which are in part stimulated by the class’s study and discussion of a given period in art history.
  • Studio Art

    Studio Art is a half course open to boys in Class I who have already taken Applied Art 1. It is also open to those in either Class II or Class I who wish to take a studio art course concurrently with AP Art History. It will meet approximately three blocks per rotation. A boy may take Studio Art in addition to his five major courses. Studio Art is comprised of studio work alone (with references to art history). There are no assignments outside of lab time. The course seeks to advance the individual’s progress within his unique style in a studio atmosphere.
  • AP Art History

    AP Art History is an elective open to Classes II and I. It is offered jointly by the Art and History Departments. The purpose of the course is to study great works of art and architecture across civilizations, from ancient times to the present, with heaviest emphasis placed on art of the Western world and Islamic cultures. Students will learn to analyze artworks both visually and historically, articulating how they look, why they look the way they do, and what they mean. The course is not “art appreciation,” although students will surely encounter works of art of exceptional beauty and appreciate the extraordinary creativity behind them. Instead, the course will introduce art historical methods and expose students to the rigor of the discipline as a tool of historical inquiry. Politics, religion, economics, philosophy, literature, mathematics, physics, engineering, technology, and craftsmanship—it’s all here. In preparation for taking the AP Art History Exam, students will learn to contextualize works of art effectively and compare and contrast them in lucid essays. They will also be asked to present a work of art of their own choosing from a non-European culture. Primary sources will be used whenever relevant and, whenever possible, visits to museums will be made in order to study works of art first-hand. Students will be required to take the AP Art History Exam in May.
  • Class III Drama Elective

    The Class III Drama elective is a hands-on class in the elements of theatrical performance. We begin the semester with simple circle exercises, improvisation games, status scenes, and vocal work using the Prologue from Shakespeare’s Henry V or other texts from Shakespeare. We follow this with “story theater” exercises focusing on character and “given circumstances,” in particular narratives based on the familiar styles of crime dramas and dream narratives. The first performance project involves a monologue which all students take part in choosing, rehearsing and performing. Chosen from a variety of sources, the monologues are drawn from a variety of contemporary, classic or Shakespeare’s plays. These individual projects are followed by an introduction to stage combat in which students prepare scenes with brief dialogue and then extend them with carefully choreographed sequences of stage combat. The course concludes with the rehearsal and performance of two- and three-person scenes, with one or two scenes to be presented to an audience of other Arts 10 Elective students.
  • Class V Music

    Class V Music is an introduction to the principles and history of Western music. The course includes units on basic music theory and ear training, the goals of which are to enable students to read musical notation and to hear internally what is represented by the notes in a musical score. Students also study the history of Western music, in which they must synthesize their listening abilities and theoretical understanding in studying important works from the medieval period to the twentieth century. The course places within a historical context the lives and contributions of the great composers who are central to the development of Western music. Upon completion of the course, students are required to recognize by ear some 20 works of composers ranging from Hildegard von Bingen to Aaron Copland. Supplemental course work includes attending live musical performances, reading and writing music reviews, and presenting an original research paper on a music-related issue.
  • Class III Music Elective

    The Class III Music elective investigates a variety of ways in which music has an impact on our lives. Students begin by researching an artist of their choice in preparation for in-class presentations. The relationship between music and images is explored in units on music videos and movie soundtracks. The course also provides students at all levels of musical ability with opportunities to compose and perform their own works.
  • AP Music Theory

    AP Music Theory is an elective course in composition, analysis, and history offered to Classes I and II. Harmony and counterpoint, the principal elements of Western music theory, are explored in depth, and also placed within the context of the development of Western musical thought from the Middle Ages to the late twentieth century. Individual as well as group projects are aimed at exploring the relationships among music theory, composition, and performance. To this end, students compose a number of pieces, including a major work at the end of the year. In addition to forming sound analytical and compositional techniques, students are expected to develop keen aural perception, sight singing, and score reading skills. They are prepared to take the Advanced Placement Music Theory Examination in May.