Sarah Porter believed in art as an essential component of a rigorous education as it nurtures self-awareness and the integration of disciplines. She constructed impressive art facilities and drew fine artists to teach at her school. Her vision continues today, with Porter’s maintaining the tradition of hands-on work while incorporating the latest technologies.
Olin Arts and Science Center features a painting and ceramics studio, each with 25-foot ceilings and 500 feet of windows; a computer art and video lab with the most current programs and equipment; and a photography classroom and darkroom.
Students exhibit their work throughout the year as groups and in one-person shows in our three galleries, the Nona Evans Room, Gilbert Gallery, and Donaldson Gallery where we also have shows by professional artists and by two of our Prescott Visiting Artists. Students in Advanced Interdisciplinary Seminar courses have individual shows during the spring semester, and female artists often are welcomed as visiting artists, gallery artists and mentors and offer feedback to students by discussing student portfolios.
Art Historical Studies at Porter’s introduces students to a range of issues, skills, and practices. The curriculum familiarizes students with the art of the past through formal and visual analysis within contextual and cultural frameworks and encourages students to challenge the traditional canon of Art History. The Museum Studies course offers students the opportunity to engage intellectually and creatively by closely examining current issues facing institutions locally and nationally. Through research of exhibitions and lectures with leading curators and museum professionals, students will focus on ways in which museums can highlight cross-cultural connections to show multiple perspectives and reposition the traditional art historical narrative. Art History and the Museum Studies course prepares students for careers in the arts and entrance to college programs in the field.
In our student-centered ceramic program, girls learn hand-building and wheel-throwing skills to make functional and sculptural pieces. After gaining foundational skills, students create projects to explore skills they want to develop and master. We work with stoneware and earthenware clay to create pieces in a beautiful, well-ventilated studio. We have nine electric wheels for honing throwing skills. Work is fired in two electric kilns and one gas kiln using a variety of glazes.
In the Digital Art Lab students create artwork using Adobe applications. They craft portfolios using Wacom drawing tablets, desktop computers, or their own laptops. Skill-based instruction, critiques, and access to current media converge in a working atmosphere that participates in the creative explorations of the neighboring studios and Photography lab in the Olin Arts and Science Building.
Drawing starts with a deep yet nuanced exploration of color and image. Then mark-making and form become more central in a process that includes printmaking and eventually leads to genre studies and culminates in an individual Sustained Inquiry, a portfolio that develops an idea.
Students learn how cinematic language is a powerful tool for self-expression. They produce short films using full frame 4K cameras with cine lenses, professional audio equipment, and Final Cut Pro X. We examine how cinematography, lighting, editing, sound design, and music are used to form meaning. We learn film history via screenings of narrative, documentary, and experimental works to inspire students to develop unique voices.
“Bad Morning” — produced by Frankie LeBow ’22 and Maggie Coyne ’22
Students in the Studio Art classes use a variety of painting media, beginning with acrylic and casein and advancing to oil paint. Students prepare 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, a space with 500 square feet of windows and a 25-foot ceiling.
Porter’s is equipped with a traditional black-and-white darkroom, where students develop their own film and prints, and a digital color studio where students print from color slide or digital media. Students choose their subjects and develop their own style. Photo books and catalogs are provided for inspiration. Students work in traditional, experimental, and conceptual processes depending on skill level.
Porter’s has a cast iron Charles Brand etching press in our Printmaking Studio. In Printmaking, students learn intaglio techniques, such as drypoint, hardground etching, aquatint, and monotype. Using wax paper stencils and various masking techniques, students explore screenprinting. Printmaking is seen as a bridge between painting and drawing.
Through the Performing Arts, students discover a place where they are at home with each other in taking on roles, creating choreography, and playing music. They develop confidence and skills that inform their studies and their lives and that, for some, become their calling. With exposure to professional actors, musicians, and dancers, students experience a wide cultural expanse of expressions and possibilities. Many Porter’s performances, from classics to student-created works, afford authentic opportunities for interdisciplinary creative work.
Dance is collaborative and creative. At Porter’s, the dancers are integral to this creation. They don’t just replicate movement — they also learn the functionality and structure behind the physical practice. Through rigorous training and opportunities to travel, learn, and perform, students gain a diverse foundation for their personal practice and overall appreciation for the Performing Arts. In this supportive yet demanding context, they find their artistic voice and confidence.
Theatre and film provide an opportunity for student actors and technical artists to investigate who they are and how they can best use their unique talents to positively shape the world. Through exploration of important dramatic literature and student work, the dramatic arts play a thriving role in our curriculum, while providing a rigorous, authentic, and fun way to foster personal growth and build confidence.
Musicians carry the ability to evoke the sublime. Through solo, chamber, and ensemble performance, and study in music theory, history, and composition, students gain the ability to move audiences. Via performance opportunities and partnerships with professionals, our students accomplish their musical goals, whether learning an instrument for the first time, or pursuing a career in music.