The Fine Arts Building: A Hub for Community Learning

When you enter the Ellis Fine Arts building, the first thing you’ll notice is a beehive of activity. From the first day of school, our classrooms are ablaze with lively chatter and energy coming from students of all ages, across divisions. Something particularly unique about the Fine Arts Building: this space is the only place on campus where all three departmental divisions reside in the same building and teach in close proximity to one another. 
Because of this, a strong sense of togetherness is present in our daily interactions—between myself and my Visual Arts colleagues and with our students. 

As a team, the Visual Arts department designs, plans, and executes the bi-annual Fine Arts Festival, a whole Ellis community event. We also install a yearly exhibit of recent works in the Stained Glass Hallway, and take huge pride in celebrating our senior art students during the Senior Art Exhibit each spring. As artists, we naturally respond to the world around us, and we introduce this approach at Ellis by cultivating practices that support student voice.

This most often happens through a traditional community practice in the art classroom: regular critiques. Students in my studio courses must consider, reflect, curate, and provide commentary to classmates as they develop their artistic voices and art works. This skill-building and technical practice is paramount for confidently delivering a message as an artist, and because of it, big questions are posed and responded to inside and outside of the art classroom.

Through this type of collaborative assessment, girls learn to ask about process, ideation, and product as they share work with each other. One of my many favorite moments is to observe students embracing such a breadth of materials, methods, and perspectives, even in the course of one unit of study. Then, “in community” they return to peers with ideas, responses, and constructive criticism toward the greater service of their work.

As a Visual Arts Department, this is what we believe in and see happening every day in front of us in the Fine Arts Building—come visit and see for yourself!