Advanced Placement art fosters independence



Senior Hannah Ernst works on a painting in AP portfolio. Through the curriculum, many skills they have developed through previous art classes have shone through in their assignments.

Students enter the classroom and immediately start to work. The room is silent and productive, with pencils scribbling, paintbrushes waving around and the sound of clay moving on a wheel downstairs.
Taught by art teacher Donna Sartanowicz in Unified Arts Building room 29, the Advanced Placement (AP) Portfolio allows students from any of the novice visual arts programs at the high school to earn an AP credit from the College Board while still unleashing their skills and devices from prior classes.
The course allows students to express their skills and creativity in many forms. Sartanowicz emphasized the independent aspect of the class, citing how the structure differs from a typical art period.
“I think this class makes an attempt to get students to work as artists – to make their own voice and their own curiosity central to the work they make,” Sartanowicz said. “It is different than the other visual arts classes because the inspiration of assignments does not come from me, it comes from their own experiences.”
Sartanowicz described how the freedom of creativity in the class allows students to take ownership of their work and feel good about their process and drafts.
Because of this unrestricted work environment, Sartanowicz explained how diverse their products can be.
“I think all of my students do awesome work. I love teaching and I love seeing what they do. I have had students that have done amazing illustrations, paintings, ceramics and other amazing things,” Sartanowicz said.
Senior Erica Wong, who is currently taking the class, praised the structure of the classroom environment and curriculum.
“The curriculum allows you to come up with your own theme where we think about a topic or question that we are really interested in and we get to develop our own ideas around it and come up with our own assignments,” Wong said.
Wong emphasized how this AP class acts as the final destination for most people to pursue the visual arts.
Wong highlighted the importance of the diversity of skills that students use in their projects.
“I think it is a really nice environment to be in because although there are mediums that I am not as good at, it is inspiring to see what students that I am not really familiar with can create,” Wong said.
Wong is currently working on a project that involves recurring dreams she has experienced throughout her life, including crocodiles and snakes chasing after her. The class encourages students to use their creativity to develop a question about themselves, and then describe their answer through different forms of art. Their skill sets from prior courses are showcased throughout this project.
Senior Judy Liu, who took Drawing For Understanding In Field Science, Painting I, Painting II and Photography before taking this course, mentioned the importance of the weekly critique she gets from her classmates.
“Critique is very important because it gives you an opportunity to see other people’s work and learn from them and get some feedback from others. This allows me to improve my project to a new level,” Liu said.
Liu is currently working on a project that focuses on modern societal issues and human connection. She used her skills from previous classes to create the best project possible.
“My question I am focusing on is: what connects people together emotionally? My project is about a general social connection between people and how people connect. I am incorporating all of my prior knowledge and skills to create the best possible piece,” Liu said.
Sartanowicz explained how many of the lessons about visual arts at the high school help students succeed in the real world, even if they do not pursue it in their careers.
“Even if you do not become a fine artist or designer,” Sartanowicz said, “developing your visual abilities and your ability to read visual art, to communicate in that way, are foundational skills that you need.”