Open Senior Studio

Brooklyn Dilley, Print Editor

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Last year, Willow Applegate ‘20 sat in advisory and began to plan her classes for senior year. Going through the course handbook, Applegate found a class called Open Senior Studio. Reading the description, she knew this was the perfect chance for her to work on her art portfolio and prepare for her future as a hopeful tattoo artist. Applegate went to sign up for the class, only to find that it was no longer being offered. She immediately went to speak to her counselor about how to possibly get into the class, as there were no other art classes that would be nearly as helpful as Open Senior Studio. After a long process of speaking with Principal Ryan Woods, her counselor, and art teacher Emily Phillips, Applegate was finally approved to do an independent study with Phillips in place of Open Senior Studio.

Open Senior Studio was a class offered to students wanting to build up their art portfolio, taught most recently by Phillips. In the class, students had the ability to make their own curriculum, write their own rubrics, set deadlines, and spend the time working on an individual project of their choice. The teacher acted as a facilitator, helping the students when they needed it and making sure everyone was working hard and grading themselves properly. As of this year, Open Senior Studio is no longer being offered to students. 

In the past, Phillips has had a wide variety of projects done by students, and even had students win major prizes at the Burbs Art Show. “We had a lot of really unique art projects going on,” Phillips said. “One student was doing special effects makeup and drag, and we would do drag shows which was really cool. I had a student who brought her spinning wheel in and she spun her own yarn and knitted this gorgeous shawl, and that also won a big prize at the art show. She would dye her own wool. And we’d have everything from photography, drawing, painting, a lot of clay and sculpture, just a really wide range. And that made critiques pretty cool because we would come together and show a huge variety of work. One student was working on music videos for his band. All sorts of cool stuff.”

Applegate plans on becoming a tattoo artist, and has used her time in Open Senior Studio to learn different art styles and build her portfolio. “I want to expand my knowledge of artistic styles, and knowing the histories of them,” Applegate said. “So I’ve tried old school traditional style and Irezumi, the Japanese style you see for tattoos. I’ve done some color theory research to know more about what colors look best where and why. I’ve done some colored pencil and pencil black and white work. Some realism work, and I’m hoping to do more in general to expand before finals.”

In a class with such a wide range of topics covered, it is hard to have standardized testing, especially with finals. “That’s one thing cool that Ms. Phillips did for me,” Applegate said. “Since there’s not technically a final for this class and she knows I want to be a tattoo artist, she’s having my final be designing a tattoo sleeve. So that’s my final, and I think it’s really cool that she’s helping me out that way.” 

Open Senior Studio was cancelled after the art teachers approached administration about offering Drawing 2 and Clay 3 to students who wanted to go the next step with their learning. “So you have to do the math,” Woods said. “If you’re proposing a new course and everyone is already teaching a full schedule, something has to go away. So it’s a numbers game. And if I remember right, I believe the conversation we had was that Senior Open Studio had basically become Clay 3. Ninety-some percent of the kids in there were clay students who were wanting to keep going. Maybe one student was not a clay student. And I think in the teacher’s mind, she just wanted to teach Clay 3 instead of having all these individual projects. They were having a hard time maintaining all the different things kids were doing.”

While the class is not being offered to students at the moment, it would be possible to bring it back in the future. “That’d be a conversation,” Woods said. “If students were coming to the teachers and saying they really need Open Studio and what it would look like…The class still exists, it was board approved years ago and we ran it. So it’s not like it’s just gone, it’s just one we aren’t offering because we know it’s too full. If [the teachers] came to us and said, ‘Hey we want to offer this class again,’ and they had a plan for how it would fit into what the offerings already are, we’d definitely consider it…But yeah, we always consider when our teachers come to us with ideas, especially when it’s about our students’ wants. That’s how a lot of things happen.”