Upon completion of the program, ChiArts visual arts students will have:

  • An intense foundation in multiple visual art media
  • A strong portfolio of original artworks exemplifying an engagement with technique, craftsmanship and concept
  • Experience in analyzing and making art from many cultures
  • An understanding of art history and its numerous styles
  • An ability to constructively criticize their own work and the works of others, both orally and in writing
  • An understanding of museum and gallery procedures
  • The ability to assemble, organize and maintain a professional art portfolio
  • Professional skills that will translate to numerous job fields or areas of advanced study
  • Ability to creatively problem solve
  • Public speaking skills
  • Experiences working with Chicago based arts professionals and institutions


Please note that the scope and sequence as well as course offerings may be subject to change.


According to Cennino Cennini (14th c.), the activity of drawing is “both the necessary foundation of practice for all and a natural inclination of the talented.” This foundation course introduces students to fundamental principles and methodologies, including basic elements of two-dimensional art (line, shape, value, texture and color) and its ingredients (subject, form and content). Drawing from direct observation will be emphasized as students learn skills of proportion and various spacial strategies, including perspective and foreshortening. Students will work primarily in charcoal as well as other wet and dry media. Drawing skills learned in the first semester will be augmented in the second semester by an introduction to basic color theory and use of more sophisticated compositions. Students will work from live models, still life, landscapes and imaginative imagery. Students will also use the sketchbook as a tool for technical experimentation and conceptual development. Individual and group critiques will be held regularly. Guest artists, field trips, readings/research and art history, as pertinent to each unit project, will be introduced.

DRAWING BY DESIGN / (1 credit, 3 hrs week)
Drawing by Design is an introduction to two-dimensional art, design and visual culture. In this foundation course, students will learn the Elements and Principles of Design, using this language as a tool of visual analysis and intelligent decision making in their own work. As a routine part of this class, students will dissect the formal properties of other artists’ work. Students will then apply this essential knowledge to the making of their own dynamic and complex pieces. Students will explore a variety of wet and dry media–including watercolor, blockprinting, collage and the like–in a series of multi-week unit projects. Students will learn to brainstorm and collect relevant source material, skills essential to the making of conceptually and compositionally strong work. Students will use their sketchbooks to develop ideas, complete assignments and explore on their own. Students will take part in at least one field trip per semester.

This course is designed to introduce students to the fundamental practices and theories of three-dimensional design and sculpture, including: elements and principles of design, construction and modeling in clay, observation through sight and touch, investigation of materiality and interpretation of form through abstraction. This course familiarizes students to the language of art. Each project will be followed by an in class critique, reflective writing by the student and critical feedback from the instructor.

This foundation course will provide a solid introduction to the medium of photography and its practice today. As students develop their visual skills and begin to “think in pictures,” they will learn about the essential features of a digital camera and how to control them. Students will be given an overview of the technical aspects of resolution, file formats and work flow. The bulk of the class will concentrate on the practice of photography as an art form, emphasizing the organization, function, manipulation and communication of visual ideas. Students will use tools such as digital cameras, Apple computers, Adobe Photoshop software, and Epson printers. Classes will be enriched by visits from practicing professional artists, field trips to galleries and an ongoing survey of the history of photography.


Building upon the first year, curriculum students will continue to navigate the integral fundamentals that make up the key component of visual training: drawing. The objective is to gain a higher level of competency in drawing from observation. Figurative work will be emphasized throughout the yearlong curriculum with references to experimental approaches and principles in the second semester. Students will have access to a live model for a number of weeks each semester.

Painting 1 is an introductory course covering the basic principles and techniques of the painting process. This course is designed as a two-semester studio practice and will be, primarily based, in the use of oil paint. Beginning painting fundamentals to be explored include: value, color theory, mixing paints, mediums and preparing/using various surfaces. In addition, students will learn a variety of water based oil techniques. All the while, the instructor will help each student engage strategies for conceptual development by working through individual painting problems and emphasizing personal meaning and relevance to contemporary culture.

This second year course explores the concepts, techniques and practice of contemporary sculpture. Its aim is to develop and build upon knowledge and technical skills acquired in the first year of Three Dimensional Design through a series of projects utilizing different sculptural materials as well as conceptual frameworks. The course will investigate what it means to make three-dimensional objects through class discussions, readings, slide presentations, projects, field trips and critiques. Studio time will begin with modeling the figure in clay through observation and transition later in the year to more experimental approaches to making objects. The class will question how the figure fits into the aesthetics of the Ancient Era, the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, the DIY movement and rave culture, to name a few. Students will continue to develop the skills to eloquently speak about their work and the work of their classmates while contextualizing what they make within the broader frame of contemporary culture.

All art exists in history. Every art piece is a product of materials, intentions, and outcomes that reflect a specific time and place. In Art History Studio I course, students will examine the historical developments that have shaped art since the Ancient times. Fall semester will focus of Greek and Roman Art, Medieval Times, and the Renaissance Period. At the end of the course, students will have sharpened their analytical and critical thinking skills by examining various art forms within a historical context. Lectures will feature slides of artwork, excerpts from literature, and relevant connections to Contemporary art-related issues and events. Drawing assignments will also be a component of this course, as students will draw inspiration from the past to be used in their own original artworks.

Graphic Design is one of the most important and powerful communication tools human beings have, used to promote, to protest, to beautify, etc. This course will introduce students to the world of Graphic Design though a set of projects that will challenge their visual problem solving skills and reinforce the formal principles of design. Students will be given a review of Adobe Photoshop and an introduction to Adobe Illustrator and new hands-on processes. Emphasis will be placed on typography, layout techniques and methods, storytelling, graphic reduction and conceptual development for specific audiences and clients. Real world design practices will be discussed and projects will push students beyond a simply theoretical application of the medium.


The junior year is the first half of a two-year AP studio curriculum, as approved by the College Board. In this course, students will build upon their technical and conceptual skills to make more complex, sophisticated work worthy of inclusion in an AP portfolio. Assignments will be structured to address the AP requirements of quality, breath and concentration. In the junior year, students will primarily focus on the breadth section, i.e. assignments that show a range of conceptual, technical, compositional and stylistic approaches through use of a range of media. Students will also begin to formulate their intended concentration topic to be explored senior year. Critique, research and slide presentations of relevant artists’ work will be featured in this course.

AP DRAWING AND PAINTING / (1 credit, 6 hrs week)
In the junior year, AP Year One, students will complete twelve breadth pieces. With each multi-week breadth project, students will build upon their skillful use of materials and knowledge of the Elements and Principles of Design as pertains to drawing and painting. Students will use a range of media and tools, including those of traditional drawing/painting as well as collage and printmaking. They will be encouraged to explore various styles and concepts, in the interest of self-discovery and to address the AP requirements of breadth. Furthermore, students will have guided freedom regarding choice of media and subject matter as they begin to consider their strengths and future intentions regarding the AP requirement of concentration. Juniors in AP Year One will complete extensive assignments in order to build a complex and worthwhile concentration topic and project schedule for use in AP Year Two.

Furthermore, in both AP years, students will continue to use their sketchbooks as an essential tool for assignments, brainstorming and gathering of source material. The vocabulary of art, including the Elements and Principles of Design, will be regularly used in writing as well as critiques; students will be expected to demonstrate familiarity and proper use of such terms in both the analysis of their own efforts as well as that of other students. Focus and hard work will be essential for success in this college-level course. Students will be increasingly called upon to both begin and complete projects outside of class. In all, students will be expected to challenge themselves to create high quality work that reflects a skillful approach to composition, concept and material.

AP SCULPTURE / (1 credit, 6 hrs week)
Advanced mixed media will explore the intersection between 2D and 3D design while ultimately contributing to the student’s AP 3D design portfolio. The class is designed to address a broad interpretation of 2D and 3D issues. Mass, volume, form, plane, light and texture will be reviewed and work will be articulated through both additive and subtractive processes. Students will make preparatory drawings and work both conceptually and intuitively.

We will be looking particularly at how 2D and 3D can be combined into single artworks. Projects will include architectural models, sculptural fashion design, installations, totem poles and dimensional painting. We will be using a wide range of materials that will include, but are not limited to, polystyrene foam, wood, canvas, paint, charcoal, plaster, fabric and found objects. Students will explore a wide range of themes, formal design problems and the study of ideas within social, political or economic concerns and direct observations and interpretations.

AP VISUAL COMMUNICATIONS / (1 credit, 6 hrs week)
Good design is beautiful enough for the gallery but is also used in everyday life by everyday people. In this way it can be both beautiful and practical. The principles of design (unit/variety, balance, emphasis, contrast, rhythm, repetition, proportion/scale, figure/ground relationships) can be articulated through the visual elements (line, shape, color, value, texture, space). They help guide designers in making decisions about how to organize an image on a picture plane in order to communicate content. Effective design is possible whether one uses representational or abstract approaches to art.

Design involves purposeful decision making about how to use the elements and principles of art in an integrative way. These ideas and how the audience interprets them is essential to successful design. As we develop the breadth and concentration portfolios in this two year course we will focus on the intersection between formal design and conceptual thought. Along the way we will learn a little about web design, get inspired by some of the greatest designers of all time and have many many critiques to make your work as strong as it can possibly be. We will also continue our use of Adobe Tools as the primary means of making design projects. Throughout this course students will work toward developing mastery in concept, composition and execution of 2D design.

AP DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY / (1 credit, 6 hrs week)
The AP Studio Art 2D Design: Digital Photography course is a two-year program designed around the creation of 2 final AP Portfolios: Breadth and Concentration. In the junior year students will work to master a variety of photographic skills and techniques by way of instructor defined assignments dealing with camera operations, exposure, lighting, digital file formatting, organization, digital darkroom/photoshop techniques, photo history and vernacular. In addition, students will study photographic genres, learning the visual language of each, ultimately creating original portait, landscape, still life, commercial and experimental works of their own. At the end of the junior year AP, students will come away with a skillfully rendered, diverse portfolio of at least 12 photographic works for their AP Breadth Portfolio. Another extremely important component of junior AP is the development of a compelling, complex and worthwhile concentration idea to explore in the Senior year of AP.

In both years of AP, students will create photographs with intention, constantly making both aesthetic decisions as well as conceptual ones. To assist with this challenging process, students will use their sketchbooks as an essential part of their artisitic practice. Sketchbooks are where students will work out ideas, gather source material, research, brainstorm, sketch and the like. The vocabulary of art will be integrated into all aspects of the course work, including writing, homework/assignments/assessments and critiques, as well as through the development of their own artist statements. Students will be expected to use this vocabulary in both the analysis of their own work as well as that of their fellow students. This is a college level course, from which students may attain college credit, therefore expectations will be very high, in terms of skill and technique as well as concept and the ability to organize and successfully time manage.

Professional development seminars are a vital support of a student’s application to college and potential career in the arts. Seminars are run twice monthly in the major class and led by the AP studio faculty. Sample topics include Researching College, Financial Literacy, Presenting Yourself in Writing, the Interview Process, Writing An Artist Statement, Composing Your Resume, Portfolio Development and Careers in the Arts. Students will complete research and assignments as part of each seminar. Also during this time, students will be visited by college representatives who will give presentations and review student portfolios. Lectures and visits by art professionals will be a relevant part of this course. In addition, students will use this time to further develop the thematic structure for their ongoing junior studio projects and to brainstorm their senior concentration topic.

DRAWING III / (3 hrs week)
In this course, students will strengthen their drawing skills by using more complex narratives/compositions in their work and by exploring the figure. In the second semester, students will work from a nude model, a centuries-old practice seen as integral to the development of every serious artist. Students will deepen their understanding of proportion and be introduced to strategies of anatomical drawing.

ART HISTORY II: MODERN TO CONTEMPORARY / (1 credit, 1.5 hrs week)
Art History is a field and discipline that studies specific time periods and cultures. People have always made things by hand to better understand life. In Art History Studio II course students will recognize the differences between Modernity, Postmodernity, and what is considered Contemporary art today. Lectures will feature slides of artwork, excerpts from literature, and relevant connections to current issues and events. Drawing assignments will also be a component of this course, as students will draw inspiration from the past to be used in their own original artworks.

JUNIOR ELECTIVE / (3 hrs week)

THE MURAL: HISTORY AND PRACTICE – The Mural: History and Practice explores the concepts, techniques and practice of murals as well as the history in public art. This course provides a forum for in-depth dialogue and exploration of students’ collaboration work within the contemporary context. Its aim is to develop and build on skills to eloquently speak and knowledge about the mural movement. Students propose individual sketches in order to develop final projects as a collaboration practice in consultation with the instructor. A total of 4 mural assignments (2 per semester) will be produced utilizing different materials in specific scenarios at the new ChiArts building. As a class we will investigate what it means to make a mural through class discussions, readings, slide presentations, sketches, field trips, studio visits and critiques. Preparatory sketches will be heavily emphasized and the class will question how the reading of a large format painting fits into the aesthetics, manifesto and philosophy of the 1920’s Mexican mural movement pioneers: Orozco, Rivera and Siqueiros to name a few. By the end of the course, students will understand the dynamic of the mural movement in contemporary public art as well as develop concepts and visual information to engage in mural experimentation.

3D MATERIAL STUDIES – The language of material precedes thought, informing the viewer’s relationship with an artwork at a fundamental level. Throughout the trajectory of this class we will investigate a wide variety of raw materials, exploring the poetic and concrete potentials of mixed media. This Junior-level course provides an introduction to choosing and using raw materials— students will explore a variety of conventional and unconventional media with a special emphasis on developing strong conceptual understanding and a sensitive use of craft. Students will practice the art of listening and responding to different material, letting it “speak” and direct the form of the work that follows. Aided by raw material exploration, research, selected readings and critical discussions, students will begin to polish and refine an approach to mixed media that will set the stage for a more critical and dynamic use of materials.

PHOTOMECHANICS – We will explore optical mechanics and the nature of light to conceptualize photography as a material that exists outside of traditional photographic practices. What we learn will put into perspective how we can use our knowledge of technologies past and present to gain a new understanding of how we choose to use our cameras, Photoshop, scanners, and printers as tools within a larger creative practice. Together we will expand our idea of what a photograph can be and learn how contemporary practitioners are retooling photography’s place in the art world.

TYPOGRAPHY – This advanced studio course will emphasize the art and technique of typography, and should act as a course to support both students who major in graphic design along with those who major in other media areas. Students will continue to investigate the principles of design (unit/variety, balance, emphasis, contrast, rhythm, repetition, proportion/scale, figure/ground relationships) which can be articulated through the visual elements (line, shape, color, value, texture, space). Students should come away with the ability to arrange type, select typefaces, point size, line length, line spacing, tracking, etc. and be able to creatively apply these arrangements in appropriate and interesting ways that have been developed through a conceptual lens.


The senior year is the second half of the AP curriculum, as approved by the College Board. Students will use this year to primarily focus upon the AP requirement of concentration, for which they are to present a cohesive body of work in the AP portfolio. A particular concentration topic, clearly developed in a proposal and statement, will be required for this course. Each student will devise his/her own syllabus calendar for each semester, setting goals and deadlines under the supervision of the instructor. Students will also choose the specific idea and composition for each work and the materials that best serve it. Written and verbal analysis will be instrumental to this course as students further research their concentration topics and participate in individual/group critiques. In the second semester, the students’ studio work will be juried and selected by the Visual Arts Department faculty for the final thesis show. Students will be responsible for the installation of their own work and will learn the appropriate methods.

In AP Painting and Drawing, Year Two, students will use their project schedule to complete twelve or more concentration pieces. This body of work is to reflect intelligent and considered choices regarding materials, style and composition as well as other pertinent design elements. Students will continue to investigate artists’ work that relates to their own, building a digital image board of such images and keeping notes.
In the second year of AP Digital Photography, students, for the most part, will be working on their own self defined, long term investigation and development of their Concentration. Each senior will create a work schedule, with the guidance of their instructor, which will ensure completion of at least 12 conceptually connected original pieces. While making the pictures, students will constantly investigate works by other artists who relate, on some level, to their own while engaging in continuous and related research, problem-solving and sketching.

This Senior Seminar will explore the professional practice of art making. The class is designed to provide students with the tools to write and speak about their artwork and to engage in a dialogue about the artwork they view. We will be concentrating on presenting work through the writing of artist statements, through the visual art portfolio, and through public speaking about the students’ own work as well as the work of local artists. We will be engaging specifically with how to research and apply to colleges and how to find tools so students are able to articulate their art practice and who they are as artists.

SENIOR ELECTIVES / (6 hrs week, split between two electives)

DIGITAL MEDIA – This is a senior level course with a focus on the intersection of art, media, the internet, and digital technologies. Students will explore notions of contemporary media practices that are centered on technical, formal, and conceptual applications. The course includes an extensive visual literacy component consisting of screenings, lectures, discussions, and readings. Technical topics include: digital imagery, printing, GIFs, stop-motion, and, video and sound editing. Students develop a rich digital portfolio that will propel them into 21st century art making practices and provide practical skills for an ever-increasingly digital world.
I work to create a communal, rigorous, supportive, and friendly environment in my classrooms. In this classroom I am asking you to be collaborative and respectful. The best kinds of creative environments are ones where everyone trusts one-another to be helpful and thoughtful.

WEARABLE SCULPTURE – This senior-level elective course introduces the students to fashion theory and practice as it relates to wearable sculpture. Students will first gain technical knowledge in machine and hand sewing techniques before applying these skills to their individual projects. Fashion theory concepts will also be covered in this course through selected readings and in-class discussions. (Clothing as: Communication, Protection, Modesty, Morality, etc.) The course will include a combination of slide lectures, presentations, sewing demonstrations, class discussions and historical research.

SEQUENTIAL ARTS – This senior­level course examines the theories of visual storytelling and the practice of bookmaking. Students will learn how to convey a narrative through visual and sequential means, and subjects such as pacing, shots, layouts, and typography will be incorporated into storytelling conventions previously explored in English classes. Through the close examination of graphic
novels, plays, and films, students will learn to obey (or defy) linguistic and visual conventions and to apply their own sensibilities into his/her narrative works.

CONTEMPORARY PRACTICES – This senior-level course will orient you to the recent history of contemporary art practices. It provides tools that will help you develop an informed contemporary practice. Through exposure to a broad range of media and contemporary working methods, it will prepare you for college-level thinking and art-making. Together we will develop artworks and address key ideas in contemporary visual culture. Together, we will use unit projects, creative research, selected readings, group presentations and critical discussions to accomplish both individual and collaborative learning goals.