Art Ex

By Megan Butt

In many ways, joining the Tam News as a freshman has been both a blessing and a curse: it has been an opportunity to strengthen my writing skills, in addition to my regular English classes, as well as a place to meet new people with whom I share a common interest. However, my choice has more blatantly been a curse in that as a junior, I am only now completing my visual arts graduation requirement in the Art Explorations class.

I was raised in a family of Broadway fanatics, dancers, singers, and amateur artists. For the record, I am both incapable of acting, dancing, and singing, all reasons why I did not elect to participate in CTE or Tam’s choir in order to complete my graduation requirement.

Despite my refusal to partake in these activities, I do have a great interest and appreciation for them, which I expected to be slightly supplemented or at least engaged by my enrollment in Art Ex. They weren’t.

Art Explorations isn’t a class I hate going to. Rather, it’s a class in which I am acutely aware of what I could be doing instead. Nonetheless, I am fortunate enough to have my best friend there with me. Like me, my friend is invested in the Tam News as a freshman and put off the art requirement until later.

Three days a week we walk up the steps to the ceramics building, musing what the day’s class will entail. Maybe we’ll get to use clay or maybe we’ll be stuck drawing a variation of the same face 16 different times (yes that was an actual assignment).

We sit in a corner, surrounded by very loud freshmen, who, don’t get me wrong, are wildly entertaining (Many of the Tam News’s “Heard in the Hallways” are unknowingly collected from them).

The class generally starts off with the teacher telling us all to put away our phones. I think she knows that we won’t, so they remain on our tables for approximately one minute, only to be picked up again, until we are told to put them away once more. This cycle continues for the duration of the class period.

When we aren’t on our phones, we are working or “busy working.” The projects we complete in Art Ex resemble that of art projects I may have done in elementary school, such as the hammer I created out of wire or the color wheel collage made from magazine clippings. Although we complete them begrudgingly, the assignments are not ones through which I feel I am learning about the fundamentals of art or developing a deeper appreciation for the arts. They aren’t even assignments I find fun.

At the end of the first semester my portfolio consisted of papers with swirls of ink on them, a few pastel drawings of squashes, and a sketch that I believe is meant to resemble a pine cone.

The only presentations I remember from the first semester include one about ancient Japanese paintings and a slideshow about quilts. I did learn how to draw lines and make boxes with a vantage point, so I could draw buildings with perspective. Correction: I was supposed to learn how to do that, but I don’t think I could do even that if I was asked to.

I have the utmost respect for my art teacher and her patience with our rowdy class, but it seems as though even she has succumbed to Art Ex’s reputation as a washed, and arguably pointless class. I think she is very conscious of how little effort most students put in and feels that there isn’t much she can do to put forth a better energy for students to respond to. In turn, none of the students feel that the class is worth our time.

I don’t hate Art Ex, I just resent it. A class that is supposed to be fun and engaging, has sparked laziness and an increased need to complain, within me.

There has never been an art assignment in my class that I have felt genuine enthusiasm for or felt the need to put legitimate effort into.

I’m not saying that Art Ex should be an intensely laborious or arduous class, but if we are required to be there in order to graduate, it only seems reasonable that we obtain the understanding and appreciation for art that the state expects us to, and have some fun while we’re at it. Because with every screech of a stool and every futile assignment I find myself wondering, “Why. Am. I. Here?”