The Shawnee Mission art department will face changes next year in an attempt to offer the same curriculum throughout the district. Several art classes will be combined and as a result, there will be fewer classes for students to choose from.
The decision to merge classes was made last year at a meeting between all of the art teachers in the district. Because East offers more art classes than most other high schools in the district, it was agreed that some classes would be merged. All of the high schools are scheduled to alter their art classes.
While some students believed the switch was due to budget cuts, in reality, it was made in an attempt to teach the same curriculum throughout the district so that the high schools will be more in sync.
“We’re teaching the same stuff, we’ve just condensed it down so that you as an artist will have a broader range in knowledge,” Wanda Simchuk, the Division Coordinator of Art said. “We’re trying to introduce more to you.”
Although there are fewer art classes in which to enroll, Simchuk believes there will be just as many classes to teach because the art classes are enrollment based–meaning that as long as the same amount of students sign up, there will be the same amount of classes to teach.
Simchuk’s only concern about the switch is that students won’t be fully aware of what’s happening to the art department, and they won’t sign up.
“We could lose numbers because if the students don’t understand why or how it’s changed, they might think ‘Well, I wanted to take Jewelry. I’m not taking Jewelry if it’s called Jewelry/Sculpture,” Simchuk said. “Hopefully we do a good job of promoting it and we’ll get a lot of kids in art classes.”
There are currently 14 art classes offered at East. Next year, after dividing some topics into other classes, there will only be eight. Next year, when the switch is enforced, the eight classes will be Drawing, Painting, Jewelry/Sculpture, Ceramics, Digital Design, Photo 1, Photo 2 and AP/IB/Studio art, Fibers, Watercolor and Printmaking will cease to be individual classes, and will instead be merged into the curriculums of other classes.
“We’re still teaching the same things, it’s just reorganized in a different way,” Simchuk said.
These “different ways” that Simchuk speaks of include offering different assignments for students. For example, in the painting class, students will have the choice to do assignments under the category of painting or watercolor.
Drawing and Ceramics will feature some Printmaking, Painting will include fibers and watercolor, and Jewelry/Sculpture will also include some fibers.
Students should not be under the impression that the new art department is forever changed. James Meara, who teaches Print Making, Commercial Art, Design and Introduction to Studio Art, does not think that the change will be a permanent one.
“It seems like we change stuff pretty frequently,” Meara said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if in two or three years we change it again.”
Simchuk believes the switch will help students in the long run when they are deciding what to study in college.
“It’ll help when you go to colleges and get it real narrowed down and decide ‘I’m going to be a painting major or jewelry major,” Simchuk said. “In high school you need a wide range of information. You need to be able to experience it all.”
The proposed changes have not been well received by some students.
Senior Sarah King, who is one of the co-presidents of the National Honor’s Art Society (NAHS), was upset when she first heard rumors last year about the switch.
“I’m still upset,” King said. “It’s taking away from kids who are really interested in one type of art.”
Junior Lauren Alvey is not optimistic about the future changes in the art department, attesting to the lack of variety.
“There will be a lack of variety and we won’t get as much variety in our forms of art,” Alvey said.
Senior Natalie Pierce, another co-president of the NAHS in addition to King and senior Amy Franklin, thinks that students won’t take the classes that they might have originally wanted to take due to the change. Another concern of hers is that there will bee too much material taught in one class.
“You sign up for Painting, but you’re going to do Fibers, too,” Pierce said. “A lot more material will be crammed into that class.”
Simchuk, who currently teaches Ceramics and Intro to Studio Art, likes teaching classes that are focused on one subject, and neither of the classes she teaches will be greatly affected. Her Ceramics class will teach some Fibers, but she doesn’t feel like this will alter her teaching methods too much.
Meara thinks that the art classes will be “more interesting” due to the merging of classes.
“It should make art classes more available to students,” Meara said. “Sometimes students get bored of just drawing, but we’re combining Drawing with Print Making, so students will do something other than draw.”
Simchuk feels that the switch will work for both the students and the staff.
“I think it’ll be fine,” Simchuk said. “I can’t say I really like it because I haven’t taught it yet, but think ultimately it’s going to be fine.”