Visual Art and Design

Joyfully drawing forth the artist in every student.

The visual are and design department strives to provide authentic, performance-based learning opportunities that celebrate each student’s abilities in creative expression.

"I have improved more than just my artistic skills in the Visual Arts programs at PC. Two of the most important skills that I picked up were not being afraid to completely start fresh, and having patience with myself. These skills have proven to reflect onto my academic life as well." Teddy Cavanagh, Class of 2020

Key Characteristics

The intention of our program is to extend and refine:

  • The creative imagination and aesthetic experience through a range of visual studies and studio opportunities.
  • Students’ understandings of visual and cultural literacy, while also developing facility in the use of visual language.
  • An awareness of the interconnectedness of the arts and design in our lives and as life-long learners.

Curricular Highlights

Traditional and contemporary techniques. Students may engage in art-making opportunities across a variety of media, ranging from the traditional (drawing, painting) to new and emerging technologies (textiles, digital design).

Integrative learning. The Visual Art and Design curriculum affords students opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration through the Junior Capstone and Senior Comprehensive projects, as well as through service learning work with the Center for Public Purpose.

Extracurriculars. A broad range of aesthetic opportunities are available to students within and beyond the stated curriculum. Visual Art and Design classes visit local workshops, maker spaces and museums to enrich the learning experience.

“We strive to extend the creative imagination of students through visual experiences.” Randy Granger, Visual Art teacher

Graduation Requirements


Students are required to take at least one semester of Visual Arts and Design. Only courses labeled as “Advanced” and AP have prerequisites. Generally, most classes are open to all students; please note that some courses do require previous skills, experience and/or pre-requisites.

Advanced Placement:

Advanced Placement courses in studio art, based on the recommendations of the College Board, are offered for qualified students. Submission of the 2D, Drawing, or 3D portfolio(s) to the College Board are required of those students enrolled in the AP Studio course. Prerequisite: successful completion of one Visual Art and Design Studio course, good academic standing and the permission of instructor.

Course List

All Year

AP Studio


AP Studio Art is designed for students who are seriously interested in visual art and design practices, have demonstrated capacity for mastery in the conceptual, compositional and technical dimensions of their work, and are capable of sustained commitment and creative independence. The College Board evaluates AP Studio Art portfolios on the bases of quality, concentration and breadth. Thus, the course will focus on technique across diverse media, employ various conceptual strategies, support individual interests and strengths, and build skills in at least one area: 2D design, drawing and/or painting.The course is consistent with the goals and curricula of foundational courses in college. Students will be required to submit at least one portfolio to the College Board for evaluation. Although AP Studio Art is recommended for students with passion for visual art and design, it will also be useful for students interested in architecture and engineering. All students are required to submit at least one portfolio to the College Board. Prerequisites: the successful completion of at least one of the basic Visual Arts and Design courses; good academic standing; permission of instructor prior to course selection; and review of student's portfolio. As with other AP courses, actual enrollment in this class is dependent on the successful completion of the summer work requirements.(11th, 12th grades)

One Semester

Observational Drawing

VA963, VA964

This course provides an introduction to the techniques and practice of observational drawing, along with an overview of the basic principles of two-dimensional design. Emphasis will be placed on the effective translation of three-dimensional forms onto two-dimensional picture planes and the intentional use of pictorial space. Contour line, figure-ground relationships, composition and perspective are among the concepts that will be addressed in daily drawing practices. Students will develop the basic perceptual skills necessary for observational drawing. Critical communication skills will be cultivated in the contexts of informal and formal critique. Students will refine their skills in handling the elements of composition and their abilities to perceive and discuss visual art with precision and clarity. (9th, 10th, 11th, 12th grades)


VA967, VA968

This course will introduce students to the fundamental hand-building techniques of pinching, coiling and slab building. Using these techniques, students will create a range of forms, varying from functional ware to sculptural forms, and experiment with a range of techniques to explore texture and surface decoration. Students will explore both historical and contemporary ceramics, which will offer inspiration and context for studio assignments. This course is an ideal introduction to experimenting with various hand-building techniques. Students who have successfully completed Ceramics may enroll in Advanced Ceramics (see VA968A).

Advanced Ceramics


In this course, students will learn the fundamental skills of wheel throwing. This will include centering clay on the wheel, the steps of throwing cylinder and bowl forms, and turning/trimming the bases of forms, as well as a variety of decorative and glazing techniques. At the completion of the course, students will have their own glazed pots and bowls to take home and use. Prerequisite: Successful completion of Ceramics. Space is limited due to available equipment necessary for the course.  


VA973, VA974

This course introduces students to techniques and processes, visual culture, history and the aesthetics of photography. Students will learn to use the manual controls on the digital SLR Nikon, develop basic digital editing skills in Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, and file management strategies in the context of creative photographic investigations. Participation in studio projects and critique and exposure to historic and contemporary photography will enhance students’ technical and conceptual abilities and their capacities to understand and discuss photography in aesthetic, cultural and technical dimensions. Students will be encouraged to play and experiment with processes and ideas, and will present their best work in both digital and print forms, in online venues and in exhibition. Cameras and paper are provided. (Lab fee $30) (9th, 10th, 11th, 12th grades)



This course is an introduction to the technical, formal and conceptual dimensions of painting. Students will work in a variety of media, including gouache, watercolor and oil paint on multiple surfaces, including canvas, wood and paper. Techniques of mural painting may also be introduced. The goals of the course include developing confidence in working with paint and ideas in representational and non-representational compositions, and sensitivity and skill in perceiving and handling color. Students will also develop their abilities to discuss the formal and conceptual aspects of painting, and gain experience in interpreting imagery and identifying meaningful subjects for their creative work. (9th, 10th, 11th, 12th grades)

Art and Social Justice


Think globally; act locally. Art and Social Justice is a multifaceted course designed around employing conceptual and visual art practices in the local community. The course will begin with an investigation of previous art works and projects that have influenced the social sphere. Participants will be introduced to fundamental art and design principles, and will then workshop their own ideas into tangible projects around social justice in a chosen community. The students and instructor, operating more as collaborator, facilitator and mentor than teacher, will work together to brainstorm ideas, navigate roadblocks and move towards solutions that positively affect the local community. Art and Social Justice is intended to not only build a strong foundation in art making, but also to deepen participants’ understanding and appreciation of the arts and the interdisciplinary and influential role the arts can play in our society. Students will gain a real-world perspective on the trials and tribulations of creating art in the social sphere while addressing real issues. Note: this course may require additional studio time outside of school hours. Prerequisite: students must have successfully completed one other VA credit, or receive approval from instructor. (11th, 12th grades)

Costume Design


This course is for students interested in the art, history and practice of costume design. Line, form, color, scale, texture, pattern, period costumes, functionality of stage, and the effects of stage lighting on fabric will be explored. Students will learn basic hand and machine sewing stitches and techniques, which can be applied to their daily lives. Students will research, design and build a costume for a character of her or his choice. No prior experience with fashion design, sewing or figure drawing is necessary – just a love of fashion and clothes from different periods and cultures with a passion to create art worn on stage. This course can be taken for either Performing Arts or for Visual Arts and Design credit. (9th, 10th, 11th, 12th grades)

2D Design/Mixed Media


This introductory course helps student generate creative ideas to work in various 2-dimensional media, including but not limited to drawing, printmaking and encaustics. Students will explore materials and techniques through a series of projects while considering the elements of art and principles of design. Through these exercises/projects student will begin to understand artmaking as a way of self-expression.

The Graphic Novel


Graphic novels combine storytelling, illustration, opinion and theory. The Graphic Novel class gives students the opportunity to put their ideas on paper as they create a world populated with their characters, words and ideas. This studio course is an introduction to the art of narrative illustration through sequential drawings. Character and plot development, point of view, drawing styles and media will be addressed. Students will have the opportunity to create characters, comic sequences and graphic short stories. A survey of graphic novels, compositional and sequential strategies, and visual approaches will offer points of reference and departure throughout the course. (9th, 10th, 11th, 12th grades).

Figure Drawing/Figure Sculpture

(1 UNIT)   SEMESTER 2                   

This class will focus on the human figure. Working with a costumed model, students will draw and sculpt developing an understanding of form through increased observation skills. This class offers a good foundation in the basics for beginners as well as challenges for more experienced artists. In-class discussions focus on how artists from the past and present have depicted the human figure.)

3D Design and Sculpture


This course provides students with an introduction to three-dimensional design and opportunities to work in a variety of media on figurative, abstract, architectural and non-objective forms of sculpture. Students will develop a working understanding of  3D design concepts such as balance, rhythm, scale, proportion, positive and negative space, and texture through exposure to contemporary and historical forms of sculpture and hands-on studio projects. The expressive qualities of material and form, as well as the significance of scale and context will be explored through studio projects and discussions. Hands-on experience with the physical opportunities and constraints of materials and structures will inform students’ design processes. Use of recycled materials and environmental concerns will be considered. Studio work, slideshows, discussion and critique are all integral to the course. (9th, 10th, 11th, 12 grades)