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  • Robert Corwin

Importance of Art at Edgemont

In my experience, art classes were only for those who wanted to be there and engage with art. However, most students at Edgemont don’t embark on this challenge after ninth grade, possibly because there is no honors level incentive for students to take classes (with the exception of AP Art). On the other hand, those who chose to enroll are truly in it to develop their abilities, experiment with new mediums, and collaborate with others, giving the classroom a community or even familial feel.

One of the biggest advantages I’ve found of taking art classes is gaining skills that are applicable to all areas of my life, such as problem solving. Every week in my photography class, I am presented with a new problem or challenge to spend the week trying to solve. I’ve found this skill particularly handy in my AP Computer Science Principles class. At the end of each unit, we use the skills we’ve learned to code an app. There’s no one right answer, and it’s not just given to us.

While my Computer Science and Art classes have their requirements, I find myself most proud of my work when I photograph something rather unexpected or coded something my teacher hadn’t previously considered before.

Another parallel between the two classes is our ability to fail. What other classes are you encouraged to fail? If I coded apps without bugs or errors on the first try, I’d be on my way to study at MIT. The same goes for photography: How can I provoke more thinking with my photographs if I’m too scared my photograph will come out blurry? The process of debugging my code and hearing my peers’ and teachers’ feedback have helped me grow significantly as an artist and a programmer.

In other disciplines, it seems like it’s become “progressive” to have demonstrated learning in the form of a project rather than a test, but in art, we do this every day! What’s more, I like the fact that I’m able to explore my interests without taking the risk of a failing grade.

I also feel more confident in my collaboration skills, which have been significantly hindered by the pandemic. These skills are extremely valuable in the fields of coding, engineering, graphic and fashion design, cooking, and marketing.

Photography has been one of the most interdisciplinary classes I’ve taken at Edgemont. Not even halfway through the year, we’ve incorporated math, science, and history into our photography toolbox. For example, calculating the correct shutter speed, aperture. focal length, and the overall composition of a photograph using the “Rule of Thirds” relies on a basic foundation and understanding of math. In terms of science, we use photochemistry to develop our film by using chemicals to develop the film into negative images.

Finally, in our experimentation with many mediums of photography, we’ve explored the history of Anna Adkins and how she was one of the pioneers of photography and helped us to understand how our civilization evolved over the centuries (in her case, through the study of botany).

If photography alone encompasses many of the major disciplines our school puts the most emphasis on, why do we call art classes “electives” or “extracurriculars,” particularly given that art surrounds us in our clothes, books, and music? Fashion figures largely in how people express themselves on a daily basis. While fashion design involves a whole lot of creativity, applying this to current fashion trends requires a deep understanding of statistical analysis and other research.

“That's rock bottom, when this life makes you mad enough to kill, that's rock bottom, when you want something bad enough to steal, that's rock bottom, when you feel you have had it up to here, 'cause you mad enough to scream but you sad enough to tear.”

Art is shown throughout music production through rhythm, melody, harmony, and poetic lyrics. Lyrics can beautifully communicate emotions, political statements, and personal experiences. Take 2Pac’s “Keep Ya Head Up,” in which the artist sings “You know it’s funny when it rains it pours, they got money for wars, but can’t feed the poor” or Eminem’s “Rock Bottom,” in which he expresses, “That's rock bottom, when this life makes you mad enough to kill, that's rock bottom, when you want something bad enough to steal, that's rock bottom, when you feel you have had it up to here, 'cause you mad enough to scream but you sad enough to tear.”

In whatever form, art has the ability to have an impact on anyone regardless of age. What better way to refine this passion than through art education in our schools? I truly believe that the best way for teachers to better connect with their students and have a meaningful impact on them is through providing them with art education in all mediums across all disciplines. Not only does this broaden students’ horizons but may actually deepen their understanding of other subjects and lead to the discovery of a new passion.

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