“I tell my students that they can look at anything: buildings, their clothes, a chair, whatever it may be — an artist has touched that.” — John Ely, art teacher at Ánimo Venice Charter High School
The arts program at Ánimo Venice is reimagining rigor in a traditional high school art class, equipping students with the tools necessary to pursue postgraduate studies and a career in the arts. “Taking AP 2D Art is preparing me for when I have to take Digital Design classes in college,” said senior Jonathan Monroy. On any given day in an art class at Ánimo Venice Charter High School, students are creating logos for brands, mastering candid photography or practicing traditional Japanese tattoo design. Art is more than a series of classes at Ánimo Venice, it is a program that offers a gateway to the human experience, an opportunity for authentic learning to teach students about themselves in relationship to the world around them. Not only does the program build students’ basic art competencies and skills, but art teachers at Ánimo Venice know that exposure to the arts can help students make deeper meaning of their learning across content areas, as well as deepen students’ understanding of their own identities. By studying the arts, students are learning and building metacognitive skills through creativity, imagination, and critical thinking.
Learning to Refine a Portfolio
There are three levels of art courses at Ánimo Venice: introductory, advanced and Advanced Placement (AP). Once students have mastered introductory and advanced classes, they are able to choose from AP Drawing, AP 2D Art, or AP Photography. In these AP courses, students work towards mastering a chosen concentration, advancing their technical skills, and creating a portfolio of their best work to be critiqued and graded by The College Board.
Their portfolio process corresponds to traditional college foundation courses, and their presented body of work is critiqued on technical competence, innovative thinking, and demonstration of artistic intention. Through feedback from their teachers and the College Board, students learn to refine their portfolios, an essential skill for those who hope to work in the arts professionally.
Art teachers John Kannofsky and John Ely guide students through their portfolio creation: Ely provides students with fine art supports in AP Drawing, while Kannofsky offers digital supports in AP 2D Studio Art and AP Photography.
“I challenge my students to show evidence of their ideas in their art,” said Kannofsky. “So when their work is being shown they can confidently discuss it.”
Gaining Exposure to Professional Artistry
A polished portfolio that has gone through the critical feedback process is important for all aspiring artists. As a result, students will graduate from Ánimo Venice with a tangible skill set and materials they need in the professional art world. In Digital Art students learn to create logos and brand products, similar to what graphic designers do in the workplace. In AP Drawing, students recently completed a unit on tattoo art to improve their skills, to sharpen their attention to detail, and to challenge their patience and concentration.
But helping students build a requisite set of artistic and technical skills is only the first step. In order to help students imagine a career as a professional artist, and to show students how skills developed in class can become valuable in the job market, Ely and Kannofsky regularly bring industry professionals as guest speakers, including graphic designers, painters, architects and video game designers. “I think it’s important for students to see a wide variety of careers that utilize art,” said Ely. “I want students to know there are many lucrative opportunities for artists.”
Connecting to the Community
Venice is known for its vibrant art scene, and for being a historic home to painters, muralists, and street performers. Through the arts program at Ánimo Venice, not only are students developing technical skills and being exposed to potential careers in the arts, but they are getting equipped to connect to their diverse and eclectic community in a new way. Instead of merely enjoying the art that surrounds them, students are prepared to critically and confidently engage their neighborhood.