Visual Arts Thrive at Northwood

This is the first in a series of articles to explore the arts at Northwood. Here we look at visual arts, while an upcoming story will feature music and the performing arts.

The arts programs at Northwood encourage students to apply their curiosity, creativity, and imagination in exploring various mediums and spaces to produce original works of art. While it is required that all students take at least a year, or three trimesters, of visual and/or performing arts courses throughout their four years at school, many choose to pursue their interests in arts regardless of the minimum course requirement. Some students even discover their artistic passion at Northwood and come to consider a career in the arts industry after graduation.

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Although we are a small school, we have many talented artists, musicians, and performers in our community. We are surrounded by student art exhibited around our campus, including in and around the library, the hallway leading to the dining hall, or the stairs heading down to art classes at Bergamini.

Students take advantage of the diverse range of art courses to take a first-hand approach to discovery and mastery of skills. Ingrid Van Slyke is a Northwood arts teacher whose renowned pastel paintings have been widely exhibited. “All of the [art] classes are different,” she said. “For example, I teach drawing and painting classes through the basic elements of art and design. Advanced classes go a little bit more into depth and require more detailed skills,” said Van Slyke. “The classes also vary in size. Painting classes are generally the biggest classes I have.”

In addition to drawing and painting, there are also classes for multimedia exploration, printing, digital image-making, ceramics, raku, and sculpture that are open to all students.

Students also have opportunities to study and practice art during the time dedicated to co-curricular activities. “While normal art classes at Northwood are skill-based and goal-based, co-curricular is seen more as an after-school art club made up of kids who just like to do art,” said Van Slyke. “It’s a lot freer and looser. My philosophy is that I don’t want everyone to always do the same thing,” she added. “I like the idea of people trying to express themselves and their emotions through art, so I help kids learn about different materials.”

The Northwood arts faculty offer students numerous opportunities to display their creative visions and share their perspective by engaging a broader community and taking the initiative to expand their horizons. This year, Northwood has entered five student art pieces to Strand Center for the Arts in Plattsburgh as well participating in the annual student art show at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. Kevin (Ruiyang) Xiao ’18 won first place in drawing and ceramics.

“In the last two years we’ve entered [artworks] into student shows, Northwood students have won awards,” said Van Slyke. “Student shows not only help our artists gain experience,” she added, but they also increase the profile our art department.”

Field trips to local art resources are also a great source of inspiration for Northwood’s aspiring artists. Ms. Van Slyke said, “The curator [at the gallery in town] is really knowledgeable about the different types of arts, so sometimes when I’m introducing a new lesson, and I want the kids to have a visual of what we will be doing, I bring them [to the gallery] to show some examples. Looking at art makes you a better artist.”

The vibrant arts scenes both on and off-campus have helped some seniors in their final college decisions. Ten percent of seniors this year submitted portfolios to art schools and will attend world-renowned arts schools, including the School of Visual Arts, Parsons School of Design, and the Pratt Institute. “I’m really excited about our artists who have chosen to go to art schools,” said Van Slyke, adding, “Being a college art student is a lot different from a normal high school experience. It can be very intimidating. It’s constant, having to put yourself out there all the time. I tell them not to be discouraged because they may not be the best all the time. The best artists I’ve ever met are those that are grounded and know who they are.”

In the coming days and weeks, students will be making course selections for next year. Art teachers and student artists encourage students to add art classes to their schedules, even if they’ve met the minimum requirement.

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