Proctor's dedication to integrating the arts into all aspects of student life has led to outstanding visual, performing and musical productions, as well as the graduation of professional artists in all mediums.
Three years ago, the Fine Arts Department began offering a one term Introduction to Arts course to complement the GROWTH curriculum required of all ninth graders. According to Intro to Arts teacher David Fleming, "One purpose of this class is to simply allow our 9th graders to have art. Prior to this program, most ninth graders did not have the opportunity otherwise, due to Learning Skills or other academic requirements."
The development of fundamental skills is one focus of the course, but Fleming mentions that, "Helping students learn to express themselves is even more important for us. When we were all young, we had zero difficulty with dancing, singing, painting, building, we were uninhibited by expectations of those around us. We push for freedom in our work as a class through self-portraits, collage, and other open ended projects."
This process ideally allows our youngest students to, as Fleming puts it, "momentarily escape the pressures of adolescence and safely engage in the invaluable journey of self-exploration, an endeavor every teenager desires, but one that is often difficult to navigate alone."
This fall, ninth graders are tackling the often dreaded and intimidating self portrait, but as Fleming comments, "When they learn that to draw what they actually see and not what they know it to be, they then will skip down the lane of accomplishment and happiness." Ninth graders are additionally exploring the endless opportunities with encaustic (an ancient form of art that can be traced back over 4,000 years involving the melting of beeswax with a traditional ingredient of damar resin) and sculpture. See some clips of this process and students' reactions to the work they completed in the video below:
Just down the path from the Wilkins Meeting House, Proctor's metal shop and forge is busy with a metal sculpture class that has similar goals to the Introduction to Art curriculum in its quest for self-exploration through art. Dave and some of his students shared their work in the following video:
Fleming feels fortunate to teach what he does, both with the freshmen art curriculum and the metal sculpture classes, "I hold the philosophy that, as with learning our native language, we all learned how to speak before we learned to read and write. I hold true to this with art. We all have an artist inside ourselves, and if we learn to speak visually first, then we can buckle down and learn the skills, the methods, to find a more complex visual voice. To be fully human, as the Renaissance taught us, we must strive to understand the sciences, math, language & rhetoric, and the arts. None of these are mutually exclusive nor should they ever be."
It is our hope that across Proctor's academic curriculum, students are having similar experiences to those in Introduction to Art and Metal Sculpture, where self-exploration leads to increased self-awareness.
The inclusion of 15 art courses for academic credit and 17 skills courses in the arts into the academic curriculum speaks to the importance placed upon the arts, but we believe that across all departments teachers are able to create experiences that generate a spark in students that leaves them seeking more.