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Visual Arts Core Curriculum

The Visual Arts program develops a student's artistic talents through experimentation with different media and forms including painting, drawing, photography, printmaking, ceramics, metals, fiber arts, and more. The Visual Arts program develops a student's capacity for expression through a correlation between the visual arts and an awareness of the student’s broader environment.

For information on graduation requirements and academic curriculum, please visit Academy Academics.

Required Courses: Visual Arts Majors

This course investigates the foundations of drawing, painting and design principles while encouraging proficiency in a wide range of approaches. Students strengthen their drawing and painting abilities and knowledge through practice and progressive exploration. They examine the differences between media, such as oil and water-based paint, and experiment with a variety of surfaces, such as panel, canvas, and paper. Preparation of surfaces is emphasized, while students learn to build their own painting stretchers in the woodshop. Study of proportion, form, perspective, visual measurement, portraiture, chroma, mark and value making with a wide range of materials are emphasized in a series of observational and experimental projects. In addition to foundational techniques, conceptual development is promoted. Students are also expected to take part in critiques, classroom discussions and research.

In this course, students learn basic and advanced compositional techniques, and the proper methods for documenting artwork and other visual projects. Special attention is paid to different historical ideas of proper composition, photographers who utilize these varied practices, and their application in abstracted and documentary photography.

In Sculptural Forms, students explore visual and physical concepts and processes such as form, volume, plane, line, space, texture, and surface. Students gain experience with a diverse selection of sculptural processes including addition (construction or fabrication), subtraction (carving), manipulation (modeling), and substitution (casting). Students explore a variety of methods such as found objects and installation. Contemporary and traditional issues related to sculpture and design are explored through assigned readings, personal research, class discussion, critiques, and individual projects. Students are required to work proficiently in their sourcebooks and develop their ideas through course-related research.

Figure exploration is a study of figurative anatomy and proportion as depicted through observational painting and through digital technology. Students develop a working knowledge of both skeletal and musculature anatomy and how these can be employed and manipulated to create a convincing figure. Students develop strategies for work through the process of creating an armature, sculpting, and finishing. In this course, students also look at digital tools of capturing a three-dimensional model and explore how this can be employed as a tool in hand sculpting and painting. 

In this course, students explore a broad range of digital image editing tools. Students enhance their digital literacy by examining the different capabilities of image editing software programs, and understanding the difference between vector and raster-based imagery. Graphic Design, Image Formatting and Photo Editing, and Digital Painting and more will be explored. 

In this course, students develop and refine two-dimensional and three-dimensional foundational techniques while cultivating the capacity for visual and conceptual thinking. Students also develop their ability to brainstorm, research and collect reference images and materials, in order to learn to independently develop ideas for assignments. Students in Visual Awareness embrace unique solutions to creative problems, and develop the skills necessary for conceptual growth and experimentation with material. Group critiques and discussions throughout the year allow students to gain insight from fellow students and strengthen their own speaking skills.

In this course, students develop a rigorous artistic practice that yields a cohesive and sophisticated portfolio. Skills emphasized relate to the presentation and completion of major bodies of work, articulation of personal creative process, and continued honing of craft. Extensive independent research into contemporary and historical art and both cultural and autobiographical influences are necessary to create a meaningful and developed body of work. Students learn flexibility, answering questions about “Why?” and “What if...?” Interdisciplinary, collaborative and community-based creative investigations are highly encouraged. By the end of the term, students are able to articulate their thesis clearly and demonstrate research in the form of a cohesive body of work.

This course prepares students for their Thesis Exhibition at the end of the year. Students develop a thesis idea that is connected to them through personal experience in order for their work to be genuine and original. Through an in-depth exploration of their chosen thesis idea, students learn how to interpret ideas metaphorically with multiple solutions and in multiple media. They continuously examine their idea and develop a body of work that is both visually and conceptually cohesive. In addition to the Thesis Exhibition, students are expected to complete college applications or research other professional opportunities available after graduation, write essays and artist statements, and enter scholarship competitions. In this course, students learn that making art as an ongoing process that involves the student in informed and critical decision-making. Technical mastery is emphasized and demonstrated through a wide range of approaches and media. Abstract, observational, and inventive works are explored and developed.


Students work collaboratively and individually to curate and install their thesis exhibitions. The Dow Visual Arts Gallery serves as the main exhibition site. Exhibitions that students oversee also include the Student Juried Exhibition, Senior Thesis Exhibitions, and the annual Festival Exhibition. Upon completion of the Thesis Exhibition, students are expected to continue to create meaningful artwork for their portfolios. 

Sample Visual Arts Curriculum for a 4-Year Student

Semester I

Required Courses
Two-Dimensional Ideation / VA101
Sculptural Forms / VA111
Introduction to Photoshop & Illustrator / VA131

Sample Academic Courses 
Algebra I; Biology; English I; French I


Semester II

Required Courses
Two-Dimensional Ideation / VA102
The Figure / VA122
Digital Photography / VA398

Sample Academic Courses
Algebra I; Biology; English I; French I


Semester III

Required Courses
Visual Awareness / VA201

Elective Courses
Ceramics: Intro to Handbuilding and Wheel Throwing / VA221
Fibers: Intro to Sewing and Garment Construction / VA231
Paint as a Metaphor: Abstraction and Interpretation / VA241
Interdisciplinary Sculpture / VA251
Metals: Fabrication / VA261
Ceramics: Experimental Processes / VA271
Exploring the Figure / VA281
New Genres / VA207

Sample Academic Courses
Geometry; World History; English II; French II


Semester IV

Required Courses
Visual Awareness / VA201

Elective Courses
Paint as a Metaphor: Abstraction and Interpretation / VA242
Interdisciplinary Sculpture / VA252
Exploring the Figure / VA282
New Genres / VA208
Experimental Fashion / VA222
Printmaking: Relief Printing / VA232

Sample Academic Courses
Geometry; World History; English II; French II


Semester V

Required Courses
Thesis I / VA301

Elective Courses
Ceramics: Intro to Handbuilding and Wheel Throwing / VA221
Fibers: Intro to Sewing and Garment Construction / VA231
Paint as a Metaphor: Abstraction and Interpretation / VA241
Interdisciplinary Sculpture / VA251
Metals: Fabrication / VA261
Ceramics: Experimental Processes / VA271
Exploring the Figure / VA281
New Genres / VA207

Sample Academic Courses
Algebra II; U.S. History; English III; Chemistry


Semester VI

Required Courses
Thesis I / VA302

Elective Courses
Paint as a Metaphor: Abstraction and Interpretation / VA242
Interdisciplinary Sculpture / VA252
Exploring the Figure / VA282
New Genres / VA208
Experimental Fashion / VA222
Printmaking: Relief Printing / VA232

Sample Academic Courses
Algebra II; U.S. History; English III; Chemistry


Semester VII

Required Courses
Thesis II / VA401

Elective Courses
Ceramics: Intro to Handbuilding and Wheel Throwing / VA221
Fibers: Intro to Sewing and Garment Construction / VA231
Paint as a Metaphor: Abstraction and Interpretation / VA241
Interdisciplinary Sculpture / VA251
Metals: Fabrication / VA261
Ceramics: Experimental Processes / VA271
Exploring the Figure / VA281
New Genres / VA207

Sample Academic Courses
Precalculus; Ecology; English IV


Semester VIII

Required Courses
Thesis II / VA402

Elective Courses
Paint as a Metaphor: Abstraction and Interpretation / VA242
Interdisciplinary Sculpture / VA252
Exploring the Figure / VA282
New Genres / VA208
Experimental Fashion / VA222
Printmaking: Relief Printing / VA232

Sample Academic Courses
Precalculus; Ecology; English IV

Updated for course catalogue 2020-21.