Creativity, Passion, and Talent On Display in AP Studio Art


A dress designed by Catherine King '19 intended to depict the heart chakra and its relationship with the "Astral body." Credit: WillisonArts Instagram.

Entering the art studio, the light shone upon the walls and tables, the paintings, the scattered colorful fabric. The studio easels holds up the canvases, a circle of beautiful images in a quiet room tucked away on the first floor of Reed.

The students in AP Studio Art have the independence to choose any topic, and use the medium of their choice to see their vision to its end. Students in the class have diverse interests, from fashion to photography to film-making.

On the studio door is a message on a tiny piece of paper saying “create yourself.” Tables are streaked with paint. The walls on all four sides are surrounded by sketches, paintings, photographs, sculptures, canvases, drawings, and various student projects.

The room has lights attached to the ceiling in columns for student use, a spiral staircase in the right-hand corner, aprons hanging on the side with shelves of canvases, clipboards, and other supplies right beside them. It’s a kind of lovely mess, a cozy creative space.

Natania Hume, the Head of the Art Department, is one of the teachers in charge of AP Studio Art; the class is co-taught with Mr. Hing and Ms. Staples. AP Studio Art runs for two trimesters, and students are eligible to take the class as long as they take a certain number of art classes. The AP board sets the structure for the class, while Hume writes the syllabus for it.

“We have people drawing and painting, and Catherine King is creating fashion, like sewing fabrics and making clothes,” Hume said. “And collage I guess, we have had people do, and there is a lot of film and photo going on. [Senior] Minh [Le] is doing a lot of film and [Senior] Katie [Han] is also.

The AP Board designs the first trimester as a way for students to be tested in different areas, while the second trimester allows students to create their own portfolios based on the theme of their choice.

“I think it’s a really great advanced art class because of the AP board stipulation about submitting so many pieces for their final portfolio review, which is instead of the exam,” Hume said. “It is a lot of pieces they require, so the pace is fast and it is quite rigorous. So I think that it’s good for kids, although you know AP classes are a little intense.”

On the day I showed up, the class was formally critiquing the work of seniors Amanda Shen, Catherine King, and Minh Le. Critiques occur about once a week.

One particular piece of Amanda’s expressed the importance of the Lunar New Year 2019, which is the year of the pig. Amanda’s project has two parts, an abstract painting which incorporates traditional symbols and Chinese characters, colors, and even the numbers of the year 2019 purposely disguised in the image. The second part of Amanda’s piece is her very own kaleidoscope with the different parts of the Lunar New year in tiny, miniature cutouts that magnify in the mirror in two-dimensional shapes.

Another of Amanda’s projects centers on how kids across the world experience childhood.

“I made an installation about childhood memories and then within the installation, I set different toys and pieces, like wooden blocks and shells and stuff, to make it look like a it’s a memory box,” Amanda said.

Catherine King ’19, took a different route. Her strengths and interests leaned towards the world of fashion, where she experiments with different types of fabric and how to express her ideas through a piece of clothing. She chose the topic of The Seven Layers Of the Aura as the inspiration for her trimester project.

“I choose [the Seven Layers] because I have been really interested in learning about the spiritual world, and I found this to be an amazing opportunity to interpret it,” Catherine said.

The Seven Layers of the Aura, according to, is the belief that the body has auras, each of which relates to a person’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

On a more practical level, Catherine said she chose fashion design because for the past seven years she has been sewing and designing clothes.

Minh Le is working with film, which he says offers him the “strongest ability to portray art.”

“My theme for this trimester is isolation,” said Minh. “I got it when I saw a mask Mr. Hing gave me; it was a blank white mask, which is pretty anonymous. I really love it. After talking about the mask, I realized it fit really well with the isolation theme.”

Minh said AP Studio Art has motivated him and his peers, and allowed them to see the world of art from a new set of eyes.

Wendy Staples, working alongside with Hume, commends the class for how self driven it is.

“I think it is really good that they are self motivated,” Staples said. “I think it is a really good practice for students especially if they are going to school for art, because they only get two weeks to work on these two major projects, and then come together for a critique. So instead of being led through a project, they decide what they are going to do, they figure out the materials, and they put it together.”