New Exhibit | Pushing Forward the Department of Visual Arts / by Jacob Foran

On October 13th, our team of colleagues in the Visual Arts Department at Lakeside Upper School celebrated the first faculty exhibition in recent history.  After last year's visit from an outside consultant named Kim Sheridan (who strongly values visibility within the context of arts education), we decided to push forward by kicking the academic year off with a display of our own accomplishments as practicing artists.  Along with the polish, we also opened up with a bit of vulnerability, revealing to our students that we too face the gritty hurdles, challenges, and struggles that emerge throughout making an exhibition.  From collaborating with each other on staging the exhibit, to decision making of aesthetics, to drafting, editing, and rewriting artist statements, we showed it —after all, process is at the forefront of our everything in this profession. 

At Lakeside, we have a dynamic Visual Arts program that offers 9th-12th grade students the opportunity to explore up to 4-year tracks in Sculpture, Ceramics, Drawing & Painting, and Photography.  Students who fall in love with a specific medium and choose to take our advanced courses must produce a culminating exhibition prior to graduating.  While I’m clearly energetic about what our students accomplish, I’ve heard many guest artists compare our high school juniors and seniors to BFA college students.  It is no surprise coming from an esteemed private school that our kids are bright, motivated, and have multiple talents.  But what I love most about our arts program is that: 1) students develop a distinctive visual vocabulary and they build the chops to articulate their ideas. 2) Our students learn to ask really good questions, and in the best scenarios they learn to think like artists. The mindset.

The word creativity is at the forefront of almost all dialogue in higher education.  How does it happen?  Can you teach it?  Where does it come from?  While I have spent much of my early teaching career researching, exploring, and probing at these questions—and essentially being energized by them—it is quite difficult to articulate definitive answers. Yes you can teach how to access creativity.  It happens best in a studio environment where making is at the forefront.  What I also know is that building a faculty of educators who truly and deeply know creative process yields unbelievable student growth.  I love teaching, but I especially love working with my inspiring colleagues.   Putting together the first version of the Lakeside Faculty Exhibition has been nothing short of positive. It is just one new exhibit, but a big step in pushing forward the Department of Visual Arts.