Denali increases support in the arts

By Mark Haiko

Denali Multimedia Editor

Art is the use of skills in pursuit of creative productions, with examples being drawing, written literature and video creation. This definition is quite broad, and, in concept, most things people use their imagination on can be considered art. Even with such a loose definition, Summit Public Schools: Denali has had problems with promoting art.

As highlighted by the article “Denali needs more art opportunities,” Denali had a large gap in arts representation. In the 2018-19 school year, there were only four art-based Expeditions (electives), while most core classes did not feature artistic projects. Whenever students walked through the hallways, there wasn’t anything promoting art clubs and there weren’t any pieces of art on the walls.

When asked if he believes art belongs in the school environment, Expeditions teacher Vincent Nelson answered, “I for sure do. I think that a lot of our passions revolve around art.” Mr. Nelson, who teaches Video Production and Screenwriting, also talked about how, through our passion, we can learn more things about ourselves and how art is a great pathway for this.

Art is a way for students to express their passions and creativity. At most schools, students who are passionate about art are given the chance to showcase their passion through electives and clubs. Denali does not always have the same types of programs.  Even so, through the years they have been expanding their arts programs, and many people believe that Denali is on the right track.

Through the 2019-20 school year, Denali has increased its promotion of art in many different ways. The main ways were including more visual and performing arts Expeditions courses, giving more freedom with independent study and allowing more art-based clubs to pop up.

Students are given directions in Intro to Video Production. PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Haiko

Expeditions increases art choices

Last year, Expeditions courses at Denali were far more limited, and getting a Visual and Performing Art credit was more difficult. Some arts classes, like Stage Combat (now known as Experimental Theater), were pending in their VPA certification. (Courses must be approved by the UC system to receive this designation; all California high school students need at least one VPA credit to graduate).

The 2018-19 Expeditions course catalog at Denali was quite limited in its offerings of VPAs, and, due to that, students had to participate in a VPA Expeditions course in a later year.

Last year there were only three teachers who taught arts classes, and, due to this, the types of art offered were really limited. The only multimedia-based art was Multimedia Political Journalism, while Creative Writing and Visual Arts focused on writing-based and drawn art, respectively. Stage Combat was the only performing art, which was retro-actively given a VPA credit at the start of this year.

This year Denali added a senior class, and, due to this increase in the total number of students at the high school, more Expeditions classes were added to the roster. Six new Expeditions courses have been added, with four of them being arts-based courses. This almost doubled the amount of arts Expeditions the school has.

Denali senior James Begole, was “very disappointed in the lack of choice in arts” last year, and was “pleased by the amount of Expeditions we have this year.” He said that “Denali didn’t have enough art opportunities, though this year you have more choices in terms of art Expeditions.” He believes that art at Denali is heading in a good direction, and he hopes that it keeps expanding. 

“I think that Summit is doing well in offering art, since they have drama, physical, and written art in Expeditions,” Denali sophomore Steven Johnson said. He is referencing the nine art Expeditions courses Denali now has, with four of them being visual art; four being written art; and one being performing art.

With the landscape of courses that Expeditions provides, Denali has improved in its art capabilities. Expeditions is a good way for students to express themselves and showcase their own ideas through art, instead of outright saying it.

Students learn stage fighting in Experimental Theater. PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Haiko

Independent Study gives students more choices

Independent Study was originally planned as a make-your-own Expeditions option designed for personal research projects. It was sometimes also used for working on AP course preparation, so that students would be ready for the AP tests that come near the end of the school year.

Many students have found new possibilities for their Independent Studies.  For example, Denali seniors James Begole, Leopold Chen and John Duroyan joined together to work on their art project “Dance of the Three Kingdoms.”

“Dance of the Three Kingdoms is a collaborative writing project based around three settings and different writing styles coming together to form an engaging narrative,” Duroyan said. Their project heavily revolves around being given the chance to use Independent Study time to work on their passion and flesh out their world.

Through Independent Study their group can work on their project the way they want to. “We outline our general settings, work out our characters and their backstories, at our own pace,” Duroyan said. What he is referring to is how, in Independent Study, students set their own pace and work as much as they need, without being on teacher-set deadlines.

Denali seniors John Duroyan, Leopold Chen and James Begole work on their Independent Studies PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Haiko

This is a project that they were working on in their free time, and it involves aspects of both creative writing and painting. With Independent Study, they were given an avenue to work on their art projects as their own Expeditions course.

“I especially like Independent Study and the structure of Expeditions, where you get to work on a lot of art-based projects where you can collect your arts and focus down on what you want to work on,” Chen said.

Independent Study helps students like Duroyan and Begole to work on their own art projects that they are passionate about without the restriction of a teacher setting the curriculum and agenda. Instead of forming their imagination into a mold that is given to them by the teacher, students get to make your their own passion-based project in the Independent Study.

Art-based clubs have increased in number

Clubs is an area where Denali has struggled the most to provide arts-based opportunities. In the 2018-19 school year, the arts made up only three of around 28 clubs. This was an extremely small amount, especially with the school providing very little art in core classes. The school was divided into volunteering clubs and technology clubs, with almost no representation for the arts of the school. 

This year, 11 of the 28 clubs are art-based, a large jump from the previous year’s three art clubs. These arts classes range from movie clubs to journalism and writing clubs. This year has seen a large increase in arts-based clubs.

Many different arts are represented in various clubs, such as Writer’s Club, which “strives to provide a relaxed and helpful environment for people who want to express their creativity through writing,” according to club co-founder Chen. Writer’s Club is an example of one of the clubs that popped up this year. It is also one of the clubs that adds diversity to the arts-based clubs.

Denali makes progress in art offerings for students

This year, Denali has improved its arts landscape and increased the amount of art that is being supported. Due to these changes, Denali has added more choices to the students’ pursuits in expanding their creativity.

FEATURED IMAGE (at top of post): This wall showcases a “temporary graffiti” art project in the Denali hallway. PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Haiko

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