Middle school offers year long 7th grade visual arts class

By Kelly Ohriner

and Catherine Wang

A new visual arts class for seventh graders was added to the curriculum this year.

The class encourages seventh graders to become more aware of the art-related opportunities existing at school by letting them experience art through various media such as painting, drawing, animation, photography and clay, visual arts teacher Robin Miller said.

“The class gives the students a taste of everything,” Miller said.

Miller, the class’s lone teacher, hopes that the class will help students learn which medium of art that they like best.

“Hopefully, if a student takes this class and likes animation, he’ll start taking animation classes in the years after,” Miller said.

In addition to allowing students to explore new types of art, Miller hopes that students will learn more about the artistic process, which she tells her students, is like the process of writing an essay.

The class has been on the minds of Visual Arts Department Head Brenda Anderson and photography teacher Andrew LauGel for quite a while.

“I’ve been at Harvard-Westlake for seven years, and they were already talking about it when I came to the school,” Miller said.

Miller, primarily an animation teacher, wrote the class’s curriculum with Anderson and pottery teacher Katherine Palmer.

Though none of the upper school visual arts faculty contributed to the writing of the curriculum, the curriculum was designed with upper school classes in mind.

“At the Middle School, we definitely try to lay a good foundation for the Upper School,” Miller said.

To help students better interpret art, Miller asks them to keep a sketchbook and use it as a “Visual Notebook.” She hopes taking note of the aesthetics around them will heighten students’ awareness of art.

“For example, if a student goes to Malibu for dinner, they could take a picture of the ocean as they drive there and then take notes about the interior decorations inside the restaurant,” Miller said. “These are like visual notes they can review later.”

A unique aspect of the curriculum is the field trips that the students will go on.

Miller plans on taking her students to local art museums, such as the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Norton Simon Museum and the Getty Villa.

Additionally, she hopes to take her students to the Los Angeles Zoo.

The classroom used for Visual Arts 7 was designed specifically for this class.

“It’s still a work in progress,” Miller said. The classroom is definitely “larger” and “lighter” she said, but she hopes to get more storage space in the near future.

Currently the class has two sections, one with 12 students and another with 11.

Miller hopes to have more students next year, since the class was not heavily publicized to the incoming students last year.