Make Room for Art

Who needs art? What’s the point of learning about the functions of line, shape, color and space, when you could be taking another math or history course, which would probably look better to colleges anyway? And why bother to learn to read music if you’re not going to grow up to be a concert pianist or a composer? This attitude toward taking art and music at Andover is narrow-minded at best. But, while this mindset does exist on campus, it is not the only reason that students do not fully take advantage of the art and music classes offered. Instead, the problem lies in the rigidity of the required sequence of courses. All entering freshmen must take a yearlong course in either art or music, followed by Music 200 or Art 250. Only then are the students allowed to take electives in those subjects. At this point, usually Upper year, many kids just don’t have the time or inclination to add a creative class to their heavy academic load. Art and music can seem like a waste of time or a luxury to students who are overly focused on grades and extracurriculars, and, as a result, the students place more “practical” classes first. By the time they graduate, the students have fulfilled only the bare minimum of art and music. A second problem is that the Art 250 class is currently filled with Seniors who need the credit to graduate, which means Lowers and Uppers can’t get in. So lowerclassmen have to wait until their Senior year to take the requirement, and the circle perpetuates itself. While the Art Department is discussing adding a section of Art 250 to deal with the demand, this is only a short term solution. Instead, the art and music requirement at Andover should be made more flexible. The department should alter the structure so that students can take certain electives without first having completed the current prerequisite. This would let students fit courses into their schedules more easily, so that they can pursue their creative passions without unnecessary waiting and class shuffling. Art and music should still be mandatory, but the student body would benefit greatly if the requirement were more flexible. If kids could take drawing, painting, or ceramics before Art 250, I’m sure many would jump at the chance. If music credits could be fulfilled by participating in band, orchestra, or chorus, students could take Music History, Intro to Composition, Jazz History, and others earlier in their Andover careers. Also, a new structure should recognize the fact that many students pursue music as an extracurricular. Right now, students very rarely receive credit for work that takes place outside of the classroom. The Theater Department is currently already taking steps in the right direction by considering letting Theater 520 fulfill the Theater 200 requirement. That is only fair, since students learn a great deal about theater by actually participating in a production. While the government has cut arts funding for public high schools, we Andover students have the opportunity to study drawing, painting, ceramics, photography, music theory, art history and any number of other specific art and music elective courses. The school provides studios, darkrooms, accomplished teachers and a computer lab complete with programs for editing videos or composing original sonatas and rock songs. With all these resources at our fingertips, it is really a shame that many Andover students graduate having completed only the diploma requirement in these subjects, and even that with reluctance. The problem is not that students at Phillips Academy are unimaginative, uncultured, or unappreciative of the arts. No – Andover is still, as we are all so tired of hearing, home to “the best and the brightest” when it comes to music and visual studies. For proof of this statement, one need only wander the halls of the Elson Art Center, where student work is on display, or attend one of the many concerts that take place on the weekends. Andover students are motivated, and the creative potential is here. Only overly-strict requirements stand in the way. Therefore, the art and music departments should make their program more flexible so that students can pursue their potential to the fullest.