Don’t Brush Aside Art Class

Recently, on the AGHS campus, it has been difficult to go anywhere without seeing posters saying, “Sign Up for an AGHS Art Class Next Year”. These posters are part of a project started by the AGHS art department to increase awareness of the visual art classes available for students.

Jenna Draine played a key role in the development of the project. Draine has taught at AGHS for twelve years, teaching drawing, painting, and AP studio art.

“That particular project came out of the need for several things,” Draine said. “It was pre-pandemic… and we as a department were realizing that we needed to find ways to promote our classes so students knew what was available on campus.”

Angelina Jollvette

In California, only 39% of students are enrolled in an art class. At AGHS, there are many factors limiting students’ exposure to the art classes, one being the location of most visual arts classrooms.

“We’re on [the] 900s side and we’re tucked in the corner, and unless someone’s really walking around, they’re not really going to find us,” Draine said. “I wanted to find a way to bring students awareness to the class just in general.”

Draine recognized that creating her own artwork to promote the class would not be a good approach.

“I knew the best people to speak to students are students, and…coming up with something [myself] could be nice, but it’s not going to speak the same language,” Draine said. “It was more important for me to allow students to come up with a design with the purpose and intention of promoting art class than for me to create something.”

Students’ willingness to help with the project demonstrates how much they appreciate the class. Art classes function much differently than most academic classes, in that everyone is on equal footing.

“Art provides so many different things for different people, and those pieces change on a daily basis. Sometimes students need a space where they can just be… maybe they had a bad day, they need to just process those feelings or emotions, whether they’re actually drawing something, or they’re just taking that mental break, art class is of course a place for expression, a place where you can hopefully feel comfortable to be yourself and put yourself in your artwork and be proud of what you make,” Draine said.

Abigail Ferreros

Another unique aspect of art class is the space it allows for socialization, which is often discouraged in other classes.

“There ends up being more of comaraderie when you sit at tables and talk about your artwork,” Draine said. “And that brings up that social aspect. The art room is a social room. It’s a place where you have conversations with your peers and you develop your ideas and opinions about things.”

The loose structure allows for students to feel a lot more comfortable creating their artwork and sharing ideas without intense academic or social pressure.

“I feel like at the root of every one of my lessons is the opportunity for students to be creative and expressive in their own way. I am not under the philosophy as an art teacher that you have to make what I make and make it look the way that I do,” Draine said. “For me, the process, and the experimentation, and the creative problem-solving skills, and the conversations you have about the artwork or the other topics that come up, all of that cumulatively is the sum of what makes the art class such a special place.”

Art classes aren’t just about the skills you learn or the things you make, but also the relationships you build and the opportunity for self-discovery.

Ozzy Bamberger

“The art room, yes, is a place where people make art and that’s what happens in here, but it’s so much more than that,” Draine said.