Many people think that you have to possess an innate artistic talent in order to pursue the arts, but the Visual Arts Department at Noble and Greenough School is quick to diffuse that stereotype. Visual arts courses at Nobles are designed for students of all levels of experience, from the student new to the world of the arts to the passionate art student. 

The department’s philosophy is that visual arts at Nobles is skilled- and work-based, meaning that all students can find success through hard work, guidance and critical feedback. Faculty encourages students to explore different media of art—drawing, painting, photography, ceramics or graphic design—to find what interests them most.

Kimmy Ganong ’13, a tri-varsity athlete who took Level I courses in drawing, painting and ceramics, discovered a passion to further her study in ceramics. “I had no idea how much I was going to enjoy ceramics and I really liked it,” she says. “It’s fun to start doing something that I didn’t think I would be interested in.” Kimmy admits it’s hard work now that she’s in AP, but she likes that ceramics breaks up her day between traditional academic classes and athletics.

Students in the Upper School are required to take at least one semester of visual arts, but Head of Visual Arts Betsy VanOot notes that about 85 percent of students take a second semester. The classes challenge students to develop new skills while also teaching the importance of failure through the learning process. VanOot says, “As a student, you’re asked to do your best and then put your work on the wall for all your peers and your teacher to give critical feedback. There’s a public nature to this kind of assessment that is very hard, but it develops analytical thinking and the ability to articulate one’s opinion and builds a culture of respect in the classroom.”

For students who wish to further their study in a specific concentration beyond Level I and Level II classes, AP courses are the way to go. Andrew Fai ’14, who is passionate about both ceramics and photography, is hoping to pursue both disciplines at the AP level. “I like them both and I know I want to dig deeper,” he says. Because his schedule is full with six classes this semester, Andrew is undertaking an independent study to prepare him for AP ceramics and AP photography in his junior and senior year, respectively.

AP courses are open to all students who have fulfilled Level II and Level III prerequisites. “Philosophically, we think it’s important to open up our highest level courses to anybody who is willing to take on the work and is eager to engage in that intense exploration,” says VanOot.

In addition to the traditional classes, students also have the option to explore visual arts in their Afternoon Program. Program options are currently offered for students with interests in curating an art gallery, photography or ceramics. Learn more about Nobles' Afternoon Program.

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