AP Art: Full of Unrecognized Talent

Artwork courtesy of Ashley Wasilewski

By Chloe Frantzis and Matt Reinstein

“Yeah today’s like, a party-day,” is the first thing that comes from a mouth full of brownies as we enter the AP art classroom– a large, dimly lit room in the back corner of the school. Though the festivities might have seemed a bit out of place for a random afternoon in November, it quickly became clear to us just how much these students deserve a party. Although many don’t realize it, the AP art class is as hard– maybe even harder– than most other APs at South.

A clothesline is strewn across the ceiling. Random objects are hanging from the line, including shirts, pants, socks, and toys, with a skeleton right in the middle of the room. Beneath that are more clothes scattered across the floor and a woven basket. Students are sitting on the table, laughing about previous events of the day. Everyone has their own little space of table to rest their artwork. This artwork ranges from self portraits to other portraits to still life creations, which draw inspiration from the objects in the center of the room.

“Yeah, we’re just celebrating for the beginning of a mini-vacation,” another student says happily as he chews on a cookie while students are out of their seats and drawing on the whiteboard on the side of the classroom.

In the very back corner, Mrs. Christ, the AP art teacher and head of the Arts Department, sits at her art-covered desk, quietly conversing with a student. Although the atmosphere seems pretty laid back and relaxed, this is not usually the case, as AP art is just as rigorous as every other AP class at Newton South.

Roughly 45% of high schoolers across America take some sort of art class, but only 25% require any arts credits to graduate. Massachusetts was not one of those states; however, it was one of the 17 states that require the assessment of student learning in an art course. This may be one of the reasons we see a lack of acknowledgement towards the kids who take the AP art class at South.

Showing deserved recognition to art students, Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. stated, “kids can grow in self-confidence, and in linguistic skills, as well as in creativity [by taking these classes].” He then went on to say, “States now have wider options for the kind of interventions they can put in place.”

So not only are students becoming better at drawing and painting by taking AP art, they are also becoming better at other classes, such as English, math, and hard science because art can be very challenging to the mind, creating better thinkers in all aspects of life.

Even though art can prove to be very helpful in different subjects, students of the class still see other students poking fun at the “easiness” of the course. For some students, seeing this disrespect towards the class is bothersome because they feel as if other students don’t understand the amount of work they put into the class.

“What makes it really hard is that we have to give our best every single day, and it’s a four day class, too,” senior Doina Iliescu said. “Art is really hard because you need inspiration to do it, and you know, sometimes you just don’t have any inspiration. You have to find something within yourself.”

When asked how to get around this lack of inspiration, Iliescu replied, “I go for a hike sometimes, I hang out with friends, or I’ll listen to some music. I’ll take a break from doing art, and then I’ll get some inspiration and come back.”

Clearly every student has their own unique way of cultivating inspiration, and the key is finding an activity or hobby that not only calms you, but strengthens and empowers you as well.

“Art is really hard because you need inspiration to do it, and you know, sometimes you just don’t have any inspiration. You have to find something within yourself.”

To become good at art,” Iliescu said, “it’s not like you already have a skill, it’s not just something you learn [easily]. You have to always keep practicing.”

Not only does AP art require an extreme amount of practice, but the final product “takes hours to do,” senior Mel Egan said. “Not a lot of people get credit for [what they do]. It’s a lot of hidden talent.”

Clearly, the time commitment and skill that goes into art is no different from that of sports, theater, or general academic learning– art is just approached a different way.  Still, the curriculum is still largely marginalized.

Senior Jordan Wang does do a good job of dealing with the jokes made around AP art though.

“When I’m like, ‘I take AP art,’ they’re like, ‘AP art?’ and I’m like, ‘yeah, it’s actually a class,” Wang said. “I actually am not [frustrated] when people ask that because like, art is kinda something that you do, like I do this really casually.”

Although some people are more casual about the class, others, like senior Jasmine Chan, want to make careers out of it.

“Some people spend up to eight hours drawing at home,” Wang said, nodding at Chan, who added that “that’s just for drawing. It might take two weeks to plan everything and then eight hours to complete.”

“It’s kind of like what you make out of it,” Wang said. “Like my dad is an artist, and you can spend an hour and finish a project, or you can spend three hours, four hours, and that time is reflected in your work.”

If you hand in a piece of work in AP art and it is clear you didn’t put any effort into it, you fail– its that simple. Many times Mrs. Christ has told students this and has asked them to re-do their projects. Sound familiar? Yep, handing in a piece in AP art is just like handing in a paper in any old English class.

Agreeing with the amount of productivity required for AP art, Adam Cohen, a student who takes Art Portfolio, acknowledged the severity some students take in regard to the class.

“The art curriculum here is very strong, and there’s a lot of different things that people do” Cohen said. “I know that Newton South produces a lot of people who go to art school.”

Though, there is no final for AP art. Instead of a test, they have to hand in a portfolio at the end of the year. It can consist of works from this year and past years, which amounts to about thirty pieces.

“To do art, it’s not like doing some math problems,” Iliescu said. “You have to find something within yourself to make it meaningful.”

Unlike most normal classes, sometimes you physically cannot complete an assignment on time. In other words, you are forced to procrastinate.

“It’s hard when you have a deadline,” Iliescu explained. “Maybe we are given a month or two to complete a term project, but we don’t get inspiration until one week before its due– and then we are working all night and day.”

When we ask Iliescu what she thinks when people say things like, “AP art isn’t a real AP,” many other students in the class turn to us and burst out laughing.

“Of course AP art is a real AP!” is the main message behind their laughter. Still skeptical? Just come see for yourselves.

Check out what these AP art students had to say about their experiences, or click here to look at some of the artwork mentioned above.