AP Art and Design students tackle year-long sustained investigations



Contemplating a peer’s painting, the students in AP Art and Design use class time to critique and provide feedback on each other’s art work for their portfolios.

From oils to ink to printmaking and more, students in Advanced Placement (AP) Art and Design craft their own questions and investigate ideas to further evolve their art skills.

AP Art and Design is the highest level of visual art that students can take at the high school, focused around an “inquiry statement.” Students create a collection of artwork based around an inquiry question of their choosing. By the end of the year, they will submit this collection to the College Board.

Elizabeth Brennan has been teaching visual art for over 30 years, but this is her first year teaching AP Art and Design. She said that the class helps students mature as artists.

“There’s incredible value in coming up with your own question and diving into that and showing your understanding of that visually,” Brennan said.

At the beginning of the year, students in the class create mind maps to expand on their original investigation questions. Brennan said this shared activity is very valuable because it provides the students with peer feedback, helping them develop their inquiry statements. Brennan said the class fosters a collaborative environment where the students work and improve together.

“Everyone’s really giving all of themselves to their classmates; there wasn’t anyone who looked like they didn’t really care. There were some wonderful ideas in addition to the question,” Brennan said.

Senior Sylvia Blaser’s investigation focuses on the shared connections between women over time. Blaser said that there isn’t a rigid curriculum of projects and that she can discuss topics that are important to her through her artwork.

“It’s a way to delve into a concept that you think either you can bring something new to or you haven’t seen a lot of art surrounding,” Blaser said, “You want to explore it and show people how you think about that topic, how you approach it, and create something that’s really important to you.”

One of Blaser’s pieces, in which she uses a combination of pictures from the ‘70s and pictures from modern day protests to create a collage, centers on abortion rights. Blaser said it is important to explore serious topics through art.

“I really wanted to create impactful art that wasn’t just a hobby anymore. I wanted people to be genuinely touched by whatever I could produce on this topic,” Blaser said.

Senior Aliana Dellarocco, is focusing on the tangible and intangible effects of someone after they die. Dellarocco said that her investigation explores grief and the impact of death on relationships with others. One of her paintings is of a childhood friend lying in the sand.

“I tried to represent a faded memory because it’s both the physical and non-physical effects of someone dying. It’s the faded memories and the people that you lose along with them, ” Dellarocco said.

While the students use collaboration to further their artistic ideas, they also are able to shape their own learning. Dellarocco said her favorite part of the class is the freedom students have.

“We can just get locked in, put in music and do our work and whatever we need to do and get done, and we have flexibility on what we create,” Dellarocco said.

Dellarocco said the class allows students to take their artwork to the next level and further their artistic journey and development.

“There’s always room to improve in art,” Dellarocco said. “Art is a very subjective genre, so how can I expand an idea to make it something interesting and creative?”