December 2017 Newsletter
Art at Classical
By Sonia Richter ‘18
Photo by Jamiere Wilson ‘20
Classical High School has long been regarded as one of the top tier high schools in Rhode Island. With its diverse body of accomplished students and atmosphere of academic achievement, simply mentioning the name often prompts a degree of respect from most locals. We are the students that, despite lacking the resources of other suburban schools and spending our days in the concrete mass we call home, still earn some of the top standardized test scores and have nearly a 100% college acceptance rate. Yet, the artistic aspect of our school is often overlooked, and it’s about time it earned some much-deserved credit.
Funding for art education programs in Providence has fluctuated in the past 10 years. In 2011, Governor Lincoln Chaffee instituted new budget cuts that dramatically lessened art funding in public schools, despite the state-wide requirement of curriculums that include some “baseline art competency.” On a larger scale, President Trump has proposed further cuts, including the dissolving of bodies such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for National and Community Service. How then are art departments expected to stay afloat and continue to aid students in the creative development so vital for their future successes?
Chris Seminara is a relatively new addition to Classical’s art department, but a teacher who has already made huge strides in nurturing and expanding the artistic talent that often goes unnoticed through his art history, ceramics, and more advanced AP studio art classes: “I want the students to really be able to learn the materials and techniques through exploration rather than just holding their hand through it. It’s all about giving them the tools and experience where they can become successful on their own.” Seminara is a Rhode Island College graduate with a degree in fine arts. He worked as a student teacher at Ponaganset High School for a short time before being offered a job at Classical, and has found the experience entirely different: “I like working at a school in a more urban environment because students are more exposed to the newest trends and information, so classes with them are faster paced while their work is still very thought-out.”
Art education has been proven to have vast benefits towards a students learning experience; anywhere from sharpening critical and creative skills to lengthening attention span and developing memory retrieval helpful in other subject areas. Seminara believes the importance of art in high school curriculums lies in its ability to draw from all aspects of knowledge rather than focusing on one, compartmentalized subject. In his classes, he pushes students to synthesize different sources of information while working on projects such as drawing anatomy. “Creativity is essentially problem solving, it’s a muscle you can grow the more you work on it. Math in isolation won’t do you any good in the real world, you need to learn when to be able to utilize it, when it’s appropriate to bring in.”
Seminara hopes a more distinct art track will be made available in the future. This would potentially allow students to better develop basic skills prior to pursuing a higher level art class, such as the AP studio class offered to Classical seniors. Learning art basics earlier on allows more room for students to explore their aesthetic once they reach the AP art class. The lack of a more introductory course may be a minor issue, but hopefully one that will be addressed in Classical’s future classes as the art department cements its value within the school.
Seminara demonstrates a teaching style at Classical that truly illustrates the importance of art education as a whole: “I want to see students push their creativity. When I create an assignment it’s more loosely based on an overarching concept, so I’m proposing a problem or situation and having the students create a solution. If they’re thinking for themselves they’ll retain it much longer than if they’re just replicated something.” Essentially, this potential to express oneself while still absorbing useful skills and developing your own creativity is the value of art. Especially as young adults, the importance of incorporating art education into curriculums as well as maintaining funding for it is immeasurable. Classical’s art department is certainly not perfect, but will undoubtedly continue to develop and flourish with voices like Seminara leading the talented individuals Classical welcomes each year.