The Year in Art

Lesley Rucker, Upper School and AP Studio Art Teacher, takes us into her studio as her Advanced Placement art students prepare their portfolios. 

Nine months, countless weekend and evening hours, copious deadlines, six art reviews, three Saturday work days, over 25 works of art, and done.  I am often asked questions about the AP Studio Art year, the most common one being “There’s an AP exam for art?” While not in the same form as more traditional AP courses, the AP Studio Art year is an exciting and demanding one. There are three components to the AP portfolio: Breadth, Concentration, and Quality – the last section consisting of the five strongest pieces that are sent to the AP Board. Students who choose to take AP art are dedicated, passionate, highly motivated, extremely talented, and understand the incredible amount of work they are undertaking. The Breadth portfolio, twelve final works, highlights their technical and conceptual skills and versatility in style, subject matter and media. It can include paintings, drawings, collage, mixed media and digital art. Subject matter in the Breadth portfolio can range from portraits and still life renderings to fantasy imagery and illustration. The artistic growth that happens throughout the year culminates with their twelve piece series: the Concentration portfolio. This twelve-piece series is an investigation of a particular artistic concern and can be a visual narrative or studies that explore materials and mediums. The students begin work on their series in December. By the time late April rolls around, students have had the opportunity, in twelve works of art, to show their voice as an artist. The end result always takes my breath away.

It is no small feat to get to the AP year. Each student has taken multiple foundation courses in Drawing, Painting and Design, and usually has worked at home or in a pre-college program the summer prior to their AP year. Work created in advanced and pre-college programs usually becomes part of their AP portfolio, but many times their artistic growth throughout the AP year is so strong that earlier work is replaced with new work.

That’s the nuts and bolts of the AP year. But it is so much more than that. There’s the camaraderie that comes from working day in and day out with each other in a small studio. Students are supportive of one another, offer suggestions and advice, and grow together as a team. There is the personal growth each student displays as well as the confidence, the “let me see what happens if” experimentation that allows their work to shine. Finally, there’s the amazing sense of accomplishment that comes from dedicating so much time to something they love. Nine months, countless weekend and evening hours, copious deadlines, six art reviews, three Saturday work days, over 25 works of art, and success.

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