Upper School

Visual Art

The Upper School visual art program fosters conceptual visual expression across a wide variety of media and disciplines. From drawing and painting to ceramics to digital and darkroom photography to art history, studios and classrooms provide innovative spaces for a challenging, intellectual approach to creation.  

All Ellis students take art classes through the tenth grade and have a firm foundation in design, digital media skills, and art history that prepares them for further art training and the ability to apply important creative tools in their other coursework.  

Students reach beyond the studios via opportunities for authentic Raku and wood firing experiences, figure drawing, and internship possibilities with an array of local arts institutions. A biennial Fine Arts Festival, annual Senior Show, and regular in-school exhibitions offer students the chance to show and discuss their work. We are proud of the excellent work our students submit to the prestigious Scholastics Art and Writing Awards competition and of the many regional and national awards they have received. Visits by practicing artists, supportive emphasis on risk-taking, multiple iterations of creative problem solving, and a dynamic balance between independent and collaborative work are constants across the curriculum.

Visual Arts Curriculum

List of 10 items.

  • Clay Works | Beginning and Advanced

    Elective Course | Grades 9-12

    Students explore elements of three-dimensional form while developing clay handbuilding and wheel work skills. Introduction to glazes, kiln firing, and special workshops with visiting artists are included. Students learn about various time periods and styles, such as traditional Native American black firing and contemporary mixed-media forms. This course will further develop advanced students’ wheel throwing, hand-building skills, and glaze experimentation. In addition, kiln loading/unloading, Native American clay work, and Japanese raku firing are investigated. Senior clay students can elect to work towards a wood firing at the Touchstone Arts Center. Students are required to spend time outside of class in the clay studio working independently on projects.
  • Digital Video | Beginning and Advanced

    Elective Course | Grades 9-12

    Digital Video is a year-long course in which students gain the basic language of cinematography, non-linear editing, and motion picture production through project-based learning. This course is designed to foster appreciation of cinematic arts and to prepare students for opportunities in the media production industry. Projects follow and reflect the history of cinema and video art through the works of independent artists. Students are called upon to bring their own vision to their video pieces as well as to collaborate with other students on their projects. Students are expected to spend time outside of class in the studio, working independently on projects.
  • Studio| Beginning and Advanced

    Elective Course | Grades 9-12

    Students in this course experiment with a variety of two-dimensional, three-dimensional, and digital media to solve problems which address elements of design and content. Using an array of traditional and innovative skills, tools, and techniques, students explore the disciplines of drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, mixed media and digital imagery. Students survey artistic styles and consider cultural contexts as they form unique responses to the problems presented; and use research, prototyping, critique, and curation to develop a personal aesthetic. Advanced students are expected to apply themselves in more challenging ways to their work. Students are required to spend time outside of class working independently on projects.
  • Senior Studio

    Elective Course | Grade 12

    Senior Studio is a self-designed elective for grade 12 students who wish to make a dedicated commitment to using visual arts media and the content of their choice to define their voice. Students submit a proposal to outline their plan for an evolving theme through a series of works that address any variety of artistic styles and social, political, personal issues. Students in this course define a personal aesthetic through regular engagement in discussions and critique. Journaling, technical mastery, problem solving and risk taking are expected components of the creative process as students prepare, document, and assemble their work.
  • Photography

    Elective Course | Grades 9-12

    This introductory course teaches basic photographic techniques and processes. Film processing and printing—as well as the aesthetics of picture making—are explored in depth. Emphasis is placed on learning technical expertise in various photographic processes, darkroom maintenance, and developing a personal photographic vision. Students are expected to spend time outside of class working independently on projects.
  • Advanced Photography

    Elective Course | Grades 10-12

    Intensive work in black and white photography and experimentation with some alternative processes (infrared film, hand coloring, non-silver printing, toy cameras, and multi-media approaches to art making) are required for this course. Students are expected to show mastery in film and photo processing, to be able to prepare their photos for presentation, and to achieve a critical awareness of the artistic and communicative potential of photography. Students are expected to spend time outside of class working independently on projects.

    Prerequisite: Photography
  • Art Now

    Elective Course | Grades 11-12

    Art Now is an exploration of Modernism through contemporary art that examines the cultural, historical and aesthetic foundations of the art of Western culture. Students analyze and discuss critical elements of style and technique in a seminar setting. Student presentations augment lectures and discussion with images from extensive slide and digital libraries.
  • AP Survey of Art

    Elective Course | Grades 11-12

    In this course students survey the symbiotic relationship between art and society through a scholarly study of the ever-changing history of artistic styles, trends, techniques and motivations. Subject matter includes art from prehistoric times to the present with emphasis on art of the Western and non-Western worlds. Students identify and analyze elements of style and their evolution throughout history. Students in this course are required to take the AP Art History exam.
  • AP Studio Art

    Elective Course | Grade 12

    Students work within an intensified curriculum to develop a portfolio which follows the guidelines of the 2D Design or Drawing Advanced Placement portfolio. Students are required to complete one of these portfolios—oth of which include a concentration project requiring an independently propelled, sequential body of work that demonstrates the student's capacity for in-depth, visual problem-solving. This is in addition to approximately 20 pieces—some of which can be from previous art courses. All works must be photographed and organized for submission in May.

    Prerequisite: Two full years of visual art courses.

  • Visual Art Independent study

    Grades 10-12 | By Permission of Instructor

    Students who are interested in connecting the visual arts to authentic experiences, and/or furthering their study of specific disciplines beyond the offerings of the general program, can design independent courses with an identified visual arts faculty member. A written proposal must be submitted which outlines course goals and the work intended to be accomplished. Evaluation is based on process, reflective writings and successful completion of work.