|Visual Arts Philosophy|
Porter’s values outreach through the arts, and equally respects fine arts and crafts as expressive media. Visual Arts classes at Porter’s are small (about seven to 12 per class) and our Visual Arts department is a place where students are free to be themselves and articulate their visual expression. Working artists teach students to learn by doing and to grow as artists and individuals. The curriculum maintains the tradition of hands-on work while incorporating the latest technologies.
While an extensive range of courses is available, an exceptional student with a particular interest may design her own independent study.
Visual Art has been a strong part of the Porter's curriculum since 1843. Sarah Porter believed in art as a major area of education; she constructed impressive art facilities and drew fine artists to teach here. We continue to enrich the Farmington community with fine arts, crafts, and the most recent digital art forms.
This strong art tradition continues in our beautiful Olin Arts and Science Center, which was expanded and renovated 10 years ago. The building has a painting and ceramics studio, each with 25-foot ceilings and 500 feet of windows; a computer art lab with the most current programs and equipment; a multi-media studio for jewelry and textiles; and a photography studio and dark room. In our library, we have a film and video studio. Visual arts stimulate connections that further learning in other academic areas, because the arts nurture self-awareness and integration of disciplines.
With frequently changing shows in the Donaldson and Gilbert Galleries, the Daisy Café and the Wean Lounge, students are afforded the opportunity to exhibit their work alongside the work of professionals; Advanced Placement students each have their own shows during the spring semester and all levels of artistic achievement are represented in the galleries. Women artists often are featured as Visiting Artists, Gallery Artists, and mentors and, along with exhibiting artists, provide diverse perspectives and input to students by discussing student portfolios and presenting their own work.
Students go on to be enriched by their art experience at Porter’s, and each year several are recognized and honored by Connecticut and National Scholastic Art Awards. And each year, the students go on to colleges with outstanding art departments and to the finest art schools in the country. In 2007, Porter’s students enrolled at Rhode Island School of Design, the Chicago Art Institute, and Parsons School of Design.
Pottery students work in a well-ventilated studio furnished with nine electric wheels and one kick wheel. Limiting classes to a maximum of nine students allows each to receive individual attention. Students typically work in high-fire stoneware and porcelain clays that are purchased from an outside distributor and recycled in the studio with a Pugmill. The studio is equipped with both electric and gas kilns, which are used regularly. There also are opportunities for Raku and wood firings. All glazes are made in our glaze room.
Porter's is equipped with both a traditional black-and-white dark room, where students develop their own film and photographic prints, and a digital color studio where students may print from color slide or digital media. Students may choose their subject matter and are encouraged to develop their own style. Photo books and catalogs are available in the photo studio and the library to augment and inspire ideas. Students may work in traditional, experimental and conceptual processes depending on their skill level.
Textiles students learn concepts of color theory and design through quilting, printing and batik projects. In Textiles, students learn basic pattern making and sewing skills using the four sewing machines available in the classroom. Student projects include quilted pillows, batiked and shibori dyed scarves and lengths of fabric, tote bags and a skirt or dress.
Porter’s students have the opportunity to produce their own video projects -- from writing to mastering -- using three-chip digital cameras and zoom audio field recorders to record video, and audio and Final Cut Pro to edit and master. Students also score their productions, learning advanced techniques in GarageBand. The history of film and video is taught through screenings of works in class, which focus on the narrative, documentary and experimental genres to inspire students to develop their own unique voices. Yvonne Zhang '13 won a Gold Key award for her film "on "A" Day"
at the 2012 Connecticut Scholastic Art Competition.
Students in the Studio Art classes use a variety of painting media, often beginning with acrylic and casein and advancing to oil paint. Students prepare and work on a number of supports including paper, board, masonite and canvas and work at a large work table or at one of the 14 wooden easels in the beautiful painting studio, with a 25-foot ceiling and 500 feet of windows. The Digital Art Lab next door to the painting studio gives art students access to images that complement the abundant art books and catalog resources in the studio. Each student has her own paints, brushes and palette which she keeps on her own shelf.
Drawing is the basis for most of Porter’s Studio Art work. Thinking with the instrument at hand and mark-making are key to the experience of creating two dimensional media such as painting and printmaking. In class, Life Drawing sessions are often offered to enhance learning in the studio series. Only the finest quality archival materials are used in class; ebony and color pencil, vine and compressed charcoal, ink, and conte are among the favored media in the studio. Most AP Studio Art students submit their portfolios in the Drawing category.
In jewelry classes, students work with sterling silver, copper, and brass, and solder these metals with small propane torches. Porter’s jewelry studio has an assortment of basic jewelry making tools available, including a flexshaft, rolling mill and polishing machine. Students learn basic wire forming, forging, stone setting, and etching. In the process of each jewelry project, classes focus on learning skills, creative and resourceful design, and solving technical problems.
Porter’s has two etching presses in our Printmaking Studio. In Printmaking, students learn intaglio techniques, such as drypoint, hardground etching, aquatint and monotype. Using both thermal machine and wax paper stencils, students explore screenprinting. Printmaking is seen as a bridge between painting and drawing.
Art history is interdisciplinary by its very nature. The study of art history invites students to see the rich relationships among disciplines that had once been perceived as distinct. Today’s art history student brings her knowledge of world history, world religions, global economics, sociology, biography, literature, music, mathematics, and language to almost all of the images she studies. Art history truly requires students to understand the very nature of the changing world they are expected to shape upon graduation.
Art history has a long and storied history at Porter’s. In its earliest days, art history was more art appreciation as the ancestor of the modern slide projector, the“Magic Lantern,” cast black and white images onto small screens. Fewer works were studied as the three-inch square glass slides were expensive to make: only masterworks from the western world’s greatest artists were available. Slide projectors changed how the art history was taught, and the introduction of the newly created AP Art History course demanded that teachers cover more material.
Now, Porter's 21st-century art history classroom includes a digital projector, digital slideshows, and a constant tether to the Internet. Seemingly endless resources are available to current art history students, who must learn how to navigate the massive amount of available information for the most useful to their course of study as they strive to understand the great artistic works of generations prior.