The Visual Art Department at Breck is studio based in the best sense of the word – the artist studio being core to what makes our program so vital. Artists teach what they know, love, practice, and what rouses their own curiosity. Students engage as artists in beautiful spaces filled with Master Art references from around the world, visually compelling props, and vibrant student art. They plumb their ideas and play with a wide range of materials to enact a process of complex problem solving that has no one right answer, yet infinite possibilities.
With an authentic studio environment in the classroom, students are stretched to move beyond what they already know and feel comfortable with – into a place where they take creative risks in search of new ground. With this expectation to activate fresh experience, they also are challenged and mentored to craft their work in sensitive ways, honoring the time-held traditions of the artisan. This nuanced interplay between searching and honing, sets the stage for a real artistic undertaking to be cultivated in our classrooms with all ages and levels of students.
In the classroom
The elements and principles of art and design are the mainstay of our visual arts curriculum, anchoring each class with concepts of how art is made, seen, reconsidered, critiqued, and appreciated. The elements (what we make art out of) and the principles (how we utilize the elements) serve as an endlessly revolving and malleable structure that is manipulated in various patterns by the act of expression.
Along with coaching the physical manifestation of making art, teachers at Breck take seriously our roles as purveyors of art history. This component is conveyed in an individualized way. Each teacher designs how best to weave the multiple perspectives, historical context, and artistic styles in ways that allow students to glean the pivotal role art has in the vast story of human culture.
Breck values the visual arts in an essential way. Student art is seen, esteemed, and celebrated throughout the building during the entire school year. Knowing this, students are excited to have their work shown publicly and motivated to bring their best energy to art class. That the community believes creativity and its outcome is important, verifies the intangible realm in which art often resides.
Another way that Breck commits to the visual arts is the amount of time allotted. All Lower and Middle School students have art as part of their student experience. Visual art is an elective in Upper School and although only two semesters are required for graduation, most Breck students take much more. The Upper School art curriculum allows for the deeply focused art student, as well as the more casual. Creative Design is the prerequisite for all Upper School art classes and may be taken in either 8th grade or in Upper School. Advanced Placement Portfolios are the highest-level classes and we offer all three: AP 2D Design, AP Drawing, and AP 3D.
Upper School art students participate not only in exhibitions at Breck, but also beyond in the greater Twin Cities, statewide, and nationally. We help students thoughtfully choose their strongest work and write artist statements that reflect their concepts and process. Students with exceptional art portfolios will often send them as an important part of their college applications.
In evaluating art, three aspects are paramount: technical excellence, inventive use of materials, and creative expression. In our program we focus on these to support our students in making their best possible work and to familiarize them with how the larger community of art views their accomplishments.
Breck has traditionally had two major focuses: Drawing/Painting and Ceramics. We recently have introduced digital media with Photography and Film. In the contemporary art world, hands-on studio practice lives side-by-side with new media and this is how we frame the philosophy of the Breck Visual Art Department.