With the bright winter sun shining through the wall-to-wall windows of O’Dowds art studio, Advanced Placement Art and Design students shuffle in and gather chairs in a semi-circle for their end-of-semester critiques - an opportunity to present their portfolios for peer review and feedback.
Students work throughout the yearlong course to create artwork for their portfolios. “The critique comes at the halfway point of the year,” shares Briana Loewinsohn, visual arts teacher and New York Times reviewed graphic novelist. “Students get a chance to show their peers how their art is developing and deepen their perspective on what they can work on during the second half of the year.”
Prior to this AP course, O’Dowd students have already taken a combination of drawing, painting, computer art, ceramics, and design classes. These prerequisites, in 9th-11th grades, prepare our students for a college level course which deeply investigates a number of more sophisticated art and design techniques.
Throughout the year, students use various media methods including photography, acrylic painting, watercolor, gouache painting, graphite, ink, colored pencil, collage, digital art, comic books, mixed media, ceramics, and charcoal. “The subject matter ranges from gender identity to childhood toys, mental health to sibling relationships, and the connection between humans and animals,” Loewinsohn remarks. “Students may also look at their cultural heritage, or their relationship to food or place.”
For many students, this is the first time they have experienced a formal critique of their work. For that reason, Loewinsohn intentionally organizes the experience to embolden students, acknowledging how much they’ve grown in the last few months. “The goal is to create a cohesive collection of works that develop a theme over time,” Loewinsohn says. “We are interested in digging deep on concepts. Students are encouraged to try ideas in multiple ways to see what different results might occur.”
After putting their heart and soul into their artistic expression, it can be overwhelming for students to present their work and open themselves up to feedback. But they always leave the experience feeling re-energized and ready to expand their portfolio in a new way.
”Hearing my classmates’ feedback was refreshing,” shares Gabriella Palladino ’24. “My portfolio is based on one of my favorite music albums, and I was able to see how people unfamiliar with the music could relate to the art. Some people gave me ideas on how to make it more accessible for people who didn't know the music.”
In the spring, students submit their portfolios to the AP Board for review - which include 15 images ranging from finished work to in-process pieces. “AP Art and Design has helped my creativity,” asserts Gabriella. “I’ve learned new artistic concepts for my work and will continue growing my portfolio.”