Visual Arts

Visual Arts


“The beauty of craftsmanship is that it has the capacity to engage each of us in activities that nurture our humanity, satisfy our need to express ourselves, and give us the opportunity to learn with our hands in ways that are not possible with our minds alone.” --- Jimmy Carter


“I want to live in a society where people are intoxicated with the joy of making things.” — William Coperthwaite

The Visual Arts program at McCarthy-Towne is based on the philosophy called Teaching for Artistic Behavior. At the center of the program is the core belief that children are artists, the classroom is their studio, and the studio is a place to learn about what artists do. The goal of the program is to invite students to assume creative control of their art making, from ideation to final product, within a studio environment designed to support individual inquiry and the development of artistic behavior. 

The visual arts curriculum is choice-based and learner-centered, encouraging children to work and behave in the studio just as any artist would. Students are introduced to a variety of materials and techniques through centers, including drawing, painting, collage, clay, inventor's workshop, printmaking, and fiber, as well as pop-up centers which evolve from emergent curriculum. Media centers open gradually, accompanied by demonstrations, skill-building practice, tutorials and inspirational artist videos, and are often accessed simultaneously depending on the individual creative need.

In a choice-based classroom, it is the individual student, rather than the teacher, who defines the project. Students investigate art problems to solve, ask questions, and discover creative possibilities in the world around them. They learn to persevere through difficulties, become self-directed, and trust themselves and their own judgement. Students learn to look closely, reflecting and evaluating to decide when their work is complete. They learn how to talk about their work with others and to write artist statements that accompany their display pieces. When students design their own work, they understand why they are doing what they are doing and naturally engage more deeply with their learning. When students find their own way of expressing ideas, their confidence grows, leading to further authentic engagement.

Walking into the McCarthy-Towne art studio feels like entering a collaborative art space, filled with many artists working in different materials and pursuing different creative goals. At the woodworking table, several artists may be using the coping saws and files to create wood sculpture; in the inventor's workshop a group of artists may be using hot glue guns, cardboard, and wire to create an urban landscape filled with model cars and skyscrapers; at the drawing center, a pair of artists may be working together with needles and thread, embroidering and sewing soft sculptures. Because a myriad of projects are being explored simultaneously, students are less likely to compare themselves to others. Instead, students are collaboratively drawn to each other, work in teams, share ideas and materials, and coach each other. The McCarthy-Towne art studio is truly a nurturing community of artists made up of students and teachers.

If you'd like to read more about choice-based art and the research behind this style of teaching, the website Teaching for Artistic Behavior is a great resource, as well as the book, Studio Thinking from the Start, by Hogan, Hetland, Jaquith, and Winner, which features a number of art educators from Acton-Boxborough!

Please feel free to contact  Hannah with any questions!

Hannah Kotelly
McCarthy-Towne Visual Arts teacher
hkotelly@abschools.org

Check out the Visual Arts website for more info. 

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