Part of The Academy’s approach for preparing students for college involves classes that directly parallel the types of projects and expectations they will experience as undergraduates. A perfect example of this is Gail Lake’s Portfolio Art class. Her description of the class demonstrates her strong commitment to helping her students get ready for what lies ahead: “Portfolio is an advanced course that invites students to creatively explore art while maximizing their potential within and outside the classroom. This course is designed to support and encourage students who are interested in pursuing Art at a higher level and require documentation of their high school art experience.”
Each week in Ms. Lake’s Portfolio class, students get to put down their books, put on music, and pick up a shading pencil or paintbrush. “This is my favorite class!” said Angela M. ‘20 as she entered the room. Classmate Madi C. ‘19 strongly agreed and shared: “I am always excited to work on my projects.” This is exactly the type of environment Ms. Lake is trying to cultivate in her classroom. “This is a no stress zone,” she said. “When you come here, we get to work and chat.”
While the students and Ms. Lake have a good time, everyone is also very serious about creating art. Knowing that these students are interested in studying art in college, Ms. Lake has structured her Portfolio Art class to include college-level projects. Her advanced students are working on several pieces right now, including two observational drawings from life and a painting based on the concept of upside down drawing. Inspired by Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards, Ms. Lake gave each student a line version (essentially a black and white outline) of a famous work of art upside down on the page. She only revealed about an inch of the image at a time and asked the students to draw what they saw without trying to name it or compare it.
Left to Right: Angela M. ‘20, Emma F. ‘19, Madi C. ‘19, and Molly G. ‘19
When Ms. Lake revealed the full image and turned it right side up, she said it was “like Christmas.” Her students agreed. Molly G.‘19 said, “The suspense was killing me! I had a hard time not saying “these are leaves” or labeling anything I saw.” Angela M.‘20 noted that she “felt very happy” when she finally got to see the full image. Madi C.‘19 “hated her first one” but then really loves the second one she is working on, which is one of Frida Kahlo’s self portraits. Ms. Lake also challenged the students to do this project on a large scale. Emma F.‘19, whose upside down image was a Modigliani piece, said, “I like working smaller and in watercolor so this is challenging and so different.” Finished pieces from this class and others will be displayed around the school.
Ms. Lake greatly appreciates working with students at The Academy. “I find the atmosphere and ambience here very inspiring,” she said. “I enjoy coming to class since the girls have so much enthusiasm about what they are doing.” She also finds the small, intimate class sizes helpful.
The Portfolio Art students have an exciting rest of the semester including more high-level projects, guest speakers, and field trips. A representative from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University is coming to class on October 11th to give a presentation. Then in early November, the class will be taking a field trip to Montserrat College of Art. Ms. Lake shared: “The goal of field trip is for students to experience college art classes and immerse themselves into what daily life as a student at an art college is like.” These young women and Ms. Lake are a great team who support each other in the artistic process.