Visual Arts

Our visual arts program offers courses in drawing, painting, and ceramics to students at all levels of expertise. Students who complete introductory coursework in any of these disciplines (as well as photography and film)— may choose to further their study of that discipline by “majoring” in that discipline in the senior year. Majors take a full-credit Advanced Study course during the senior year that requires extensive, independent work and artistic production outside the classroom, with a goal of building an individual portfolio of ambitious original work.

In each fine arts discipline we teach, students are introduced to the core elements of the given language, and guided through a series of exercises that ensure them a basic fluency. We believe that any student can achieve this modest goal, regardless of prior experience or natural facility. Once our students have developed a familiarity with the building blocks of a visual art form, they are encouraged to embrace the process of gaining technical mastery, and to risk experimentation that might take them outside of their comfort zones. Each course is designed to offer progressively more challenging projects, with room for individual interpretation, so that both the beginning and experienced artist will find a tempo that both suits and challenges them.

Art history is also a key component to our studio arts curriculum. Whether students are creating ceramic vessels inspired by Native American traditions, oil paintings that are interpretative copies of French Impressionists’ work, or drawings inspired by famous twentieth century photography, we ask arts students to constantly engage with images from different cultures and understand the historical context from which a particular art form or style emerged.

The O'Brien Arts Center is home to the Warner Gallery, which holds student exhibitions three times a year, and visiting artist exhibitions four times per year. These visiting artist exhibitions give students a chance to interact with professional artists and to witness the ways in which the artistic disciplines we teach in our classrooms can be pursued in the wider world. When combined with close contact with established St. Andrew's faculty artists who are continually pursuing their own artistic practices, our intensive visual arts training allows the student grow in her artistic understanding, creative capabilities, and tendency toward free expression. Our master-apprentice teaching model for the visual arts allows our students to gain a strong sense of the arts as a means for investigating and celebrating the world in which they live.

Visual Arts Courses

Studio Art

Drawing 1



Students in this course work with a variety of media to create a visual language for describing natural form. Using charcoal, conte, and pastel, students render still-lifes, landscapes, and portraits with the goal of creating strong representational images.

Painting 1




In Painting 1, students work on on still-lifes, landscapes, and portraits, and in doing so learn how to use color as a means for describing light and form.

Multi-Media Explorations in the Visual Arts




This studio art course allows students to work in a variety of wet and dry media, including inkwash, watercolor, printmaking, and digital photography. Students experiment with compositional strategies for making original work and create personal images both by combining different media techniques and by launching a working series, for which they will investigate a given subject from various points of view. The class is team-taught by visual arts faculty, in separate and combined sessions.

Ceramics 1



This course introduces students to the many techniques of handbuilding and throwing functional clay forms on the pottery wheel. Beginning with the most basic handbuilding methods, students learn to control the form and refine the surface of clay vessels. Working with slabs of clay, they learn about transfer printing of underglazes and also make patterns to create repeatable shapes. Plaster-mixing, mold-making, figurative sculpture and the basics of glaze formulation are also introduced in this class.

Ceramics 2



This course encourages students to work more independently on the pottery wheel as well as in other techniques and styles within the clay studio. As they combine thrown and handbuilt techniques on the wheel, students add originality and complexity to their work. Testing and formulating glazes as well as experimenting with clay additives round out students’ experience and skills.

Advanced Study in Studio Art



This course is an intensive studio class designed for VI Form students interested in investigating advanced methods and concepts central to the visual arts. Students concentrate on hands-on studio work with individual faculty in one of the visual arts disciplines (painting, photography, sculpture, and film), and come together for lectures and discussions of contemporary issues in art, practical demonstrations, such as portfolio development, and critiques. Coordinated, thematic assignments stimulate comparative discussions among visual art disciplines as in an advanced fine arts seminar.

Art History



Surveying the history of art from Ancient Egypt to late 20th century America, this course aims to create an intellectual foundation allowing students to become more aware of the role art and architecture have in the growth of human societies. By studying specific historical periods and analyzing cultural contexts, students develop an appreciation for how a community’s buildings, sculptures, textiles, and paintings reflect the values, beliefs and worldview of its people. In addition to this generally chronological overview of artistic creations in Western culture, students also investigate non-western civilizations through the lens of cross-cultural contrasts: what, for example, does the Gothic Cathedral at Chartres (12th century France), have in common with the Great Stupa at Sanchi (1st century BCE India)? Explorations of history are guided by thematic categories ranging from themes of sacred architecture, to images of power and authority, to the changing role of narrative in art. Students write frequent short analytical papers and keep an art journal of both personal reflections and examples of art culled from various media. Text: Helen Gardner, Art Through the Ages.

Recent News & Exhibitions

"Secret Lives" of Faculty Featured in Gallery Show

On Friday, February 9, the Warner Art Gallery showcased the "Secret Lives" of faculty and staff at St. Andrew's. Arts Department Co-Chair and Warner Gallery Director John McGiff first had the idea for this type of gallery show approximately 15 years ago, prior to the O'Brien Arts Center being built. The show then was on a much smaller scale; however, was successful in creating what John referred to as "a sense of community that celebrated the adult population regardless of staff/faculty designations."

John's intention this year was even more ambitious. He noted, "This time around, it was important not just to underscore the working community of adults here, but to help the students look beyond the obvious roles we fill in our jobs to create the opportunity for them to be surprised by how multi-dimensional one's interests could become as one grows up. We also wanted to expand the definition of what a creative life might look like. How can one develop a creative practice that engages one with the outside world and commits one to being sharp, constantly developing a skill set and always looking to get better at this given practice? 'When you stop getting better, you stop being good' is a life attitude that many of us subscribe to in ways that are 'secret' or unknown to the community. We wanted to celebrate this power, have some fun and then break the mold a little."

The gallery show kicked off with a Chapel service in Engelhard Hall celebrating creativity and featuring a piano performance by facilities team member Joe Kalmbacher, a poetry reading by English faculty member Will Porter, and a musical theater performance of Sisters by Arts Department Co-Chair and Director of Theatre Program Ann Taylor, Director of Choral and Vocal Music Program Quinn Kerrane, and Director of Technology Peter Hoopes. Following the indoor performances, community members were invited outside to watch an ice carving demonstration by Chef Ray from Sage Dining Services and to view and discuss the restoration work facilities team member Jay Knight has completed on his 1966 Chevy Nova. Inside the gallery, the many talents of faculty and staff were on display through paintings, photography, sketches, wood carvings, model car building, ceramics, knitting, and quilting—and the list goes on.

The Secret Lives gallery show will remain open through Wednesday, February 28.

John McGiff's Chapel Talk

One of the experiences I've come to appreciate here, after meeting and working with so many persons—young, middle-road and beyond—is how I am constantly surprised by the hidden dimensions of the lives of our faculty, staff and students—where we've lived, how we spend our time away from here, what activities and practices we engage in to keep ourselves at least partially whole and balanced, and maybe even downright boisterous and crazy passionate about this gift of life we all share.

Because we live so closely with one another, two different social expectations tend to form. We both appreciate the multi-dimensional character of everyone here—adults are teachers, coaches, parents, advisers, and staff members; students are artists, athletes, scholars, and budding social citizens. We teach one another so much, but we are also mysteries to one another and tend to put each other in neat, understandable boxes to keep it all manageable and in check. Makes sense; makes our social landscape navigable. Oh yeah, that guy Joe Kalmbacher in the sunglasses and goatee in the white van, he delivers my Amazon Prime boxes to Central Receiving—but did you ever hear him play piano? And Ron Lindsey, he's an incredible electrician and good guy—but did you know that he races Suzuki Hyabuse motorcycles up to 170 miles an hour, plays pool better than Jackie Gleason in The Hustler, and could give Garry Kasparov fits on the chess board?

We humans are tricky to understand and appreciate, so we are dedicating this chapel today, and this current gallery exhibition to the "secret lives" of normal persons who have creative passions they pursue on their own because this brings them joy and fulfillment. This is the healthy, energized adult at play. These are examples of the curious child alive in adults that you know: these are your role models and outliers... This focus also begs the question of us all:

How do we spend our time when it opens up; what restores, renews, and connects us, roots us to being, in our bodies and imagination, glad to be here, alive and feeling creatively in motion. Not just that we are contributing to the social good but that we are investing in—and growing—ourselves and thereby benefiting the world around us with an uprising energy.

Spinning some complex shape on a 3D printer, planting and growing a garden, whittling a piece of wood, making a table, creating a forest dream space with discovered timber and stones, finding that one part of the newly made car engine that was screwing up the timing of everything else, and then fixing it, choosing the right tie, that perfect, marvelous hairband, having your heart stopped by a pitch of voice in a song, the particular riff of a guitar: we are all designers and purveyors of taste and beauty, everyone here, and many of us find happiness in regular hands-on acts that give us a sense of satisfaction which is the feeling of movement—super essential to the shark in all of us. Let us celebrate this drive and passion that is a human—nay, an animal—siren call with thousands of manifestations. We are all of us created and, by the virtue of this shared cosmic energy, we are creators, as well. This active principle drives everything we attempt. Let's embrace it and celebrate its flowering in our community.

For more info on the visual arts at SAS, contact:

John McGiff

John McGiff

Arts Department Co-Chair, Warner Art Gallery Director, Drawing, Painting, Art History