Visual arts are taught throughout the academic day by certified art instructor, Adam Shilling. These classes involve a variety of disciplines and media. Individual support and guidance is provided for students who are planning to attend art school and need to prepare an art portfolio.
Adam's Philosophy on Learning and Teaching Art
Art is a very loaded word, not only because of its applied and expressive qualities, but through art's strong existence throughout history and the world today. Art tells us a story of the past, present, and the future. And, art is the yoke to a powerful, healthy, and enriched society. By definition a yoke is something that couples or binds two or more things together. At Summit Prep I envision art as the binder to a well rounded education and overall therapeutic experience. Furthermore, this yoke does not only pull together our Summit community but it uses a universal language that connects humanity across the globe. Students at Summit Prep get a diverse and complex art education.
Art helps students think critically, analyze everything put before them, and allows them to operate on higher levels of thinking. The problem solving skills of a student who receives training in the arts are two-fold. They first allow a person to analyze an object or subject matter beyond the surface. And second, art allows the student to continually delve into cooperative learning experiences, where the student becomes teacher, as they explain art and their findings to the class through an evaluative critique. Ultimately, art is another tool to advance a student's ability to communicate. These newly acquired communication skills serve our classroom setting well, but more importantly they help a student to open up more to the entire Summit community. In turn, with access to these skills, art assists in boosting our students overall self-confidence and self-awareness.
The essence of being grounded in the arts is that they offer an individual the complete package. In the past, art education has helped civilizations to break through to the next stage of new growth. In the present, here at Summit, art gives students an added edge to their learning and a positive coping mechanism to deal with the joys and hardships of life. The future holds endless possibilities for students to use the fine arts as a tool for understanding themselves and those around them so they can achieve their personal best.
At Summit we are able to offer a broad range of fine arts courses. Those courses include Intro to Studio Art, Drawing I &II, Painting I&II, Sculpture, Ceramics, Photography, and Advanced Art Portfolio. Individual classes last the full block (semester) during the academic day and our worth 0.5 credit towards a high school diploma.
Our fine art program has evolved into a nice addition to our students overall education at Summit and can also be a positive light to unconventional students who do not excel in other academic areas. My grading is not based on a student's talent or ability when they start my classes but it is based on their present ability and the progress they are willing to make through the course of a block. I hold their overall effort and participation very highly. I am usually more concerned with how they process art over the product. If they put in hard work, attention, participation in discussion, and care as we learn about the arts - the product can become a reward. I also hold national and state standards for the fine arts at the highest level. With those standards as my guide, I am confident that I can give our students a great learning opportunity in the fine arts.
I am a working artist myself and have connections with several resources in the Flathead Valley and abroad to share with the students. Those resources include field trips to local art galleries and exhibits, visiting local artist's studios, and having artists visit the school to share their portfolios with the students. We also plan an annual field trip to the Missoula Art Museum and to our local Hockaday Museum of Art. As a University of Montana Alumni, we also visit the college campus to see a couple of their student galleries and walk through the Ceramics and Sculpture Department where I spent a lot of my time in college. The students have always really enjoyed our annual trip to Missoula to see the museum and college campus.
Musical arts are taught by singer, songwriter, and guitarist Tim Torgerson. Tim is a professional musician. He has been playing guitar for several years. He has written many songs and performs professionally throughout the Flathead Valley. Tim is Summit's Artist in Residence. Many of the student's at Summit Prep have had the opportunity to work with Tim either in group or private guitar lessons. Students often perform before an audience at talent shows and graduations. They also compose music on our 16-track digital keyboard/recorder. Arrangements are made for students interested in taking private voice or piano lessons.Tim brings more than just music to our campus. His gentle spirit and his willingness to listen has helped many students rekindle their passion for creativity and engagement.
Tim's thoughts on Music
Music is an important element in the glue that holds us together - individually and collectively. Without music much of what is held in our memory banks would just be cold, dry data in a sterile environment. Music and the arts work together to allow us to hold life closer to the heart. And without being connected at the heart we risk missing out on life. I have found that some students need a structured step by step approach while others need to step onto a fast track to rockin' the house. I love to see a student gain some momentum, go from one level to another and get excited about playing guitar. I have students who come to me after having played for years and even play sophisticated music but want to learn more about the theory behind what they're already doing and increase their musical vocabulary. At the same time many of my students are touching a guitar for the first time in our first lesson together ...Whatever the situation - it truly is ALL GOOD. In a practical day to day sense, the average person isn't going to play music on a professional basis ...but to relax with a fine instrument IS A BEAUTIFUL THING, even if all you can do is strum a few cords and enjoy the resonance. It can be the transition point between a rough day and a great evening.
Throughout the many facets of our program, students are offered several opportunities to express themselves through the arts. Expressive arts allows for deep self-exploration through various modalities - including, but not limited to visual art, movement, sound, music, storytelling, drama, writing and any combination thereof. In our culture art has tended to become something left for a few who possess a "special talent" and therefore have earned a right to practice their art. Yet reality is that each and every one of us is naturally creative. We may think we have disconnected from the creative source within us but with a bit of attention and intention, we all can re-establish and strengthen this connection. Our soul is born with the desire to give expression to its deepest purpose. Expressive Arts creates a space to allow for this expression.
This work is healing for anyone who is open and willing, and it can be especially beneficial for individuals who struggle with verbalizing or identifying their emotions or people who tend to "get stuck in their heads".
Expressive Arts can be used to explore any topics that might typically be explored in conventional "talk" therapy, such as emotional awareness and regulation, trauma, repairing relationships, self esteem/image, anxiety and depression, forgiveness, grief, cooperation, trust, etc. It is not necessary for the individuals to be "good at art" in order to benefit from this form of expression - the process, as opposed to the end result, is always of primary importance. The purpose or focus of the process is not to end up with a piece of work to be hung on a wall. Rather, the purpose of Expressive Arts is to provide a means of exploration to gain greater self awareness through exercises that emphasize self awareness, expression, and release through various modalities.
The saying "a picture can speak a thousand words" is an example of the power of images and symbols. Our dreams come to us in picture form; this is our primary language. Words and talking are a secondary process. We are a step removed from our internal world when we talk about it. When we move with it, drum it or express it through a visual means we connect to ourselves and others on a primary level. When we connect to our inner selves in this way our words then have the potential to become much more expressive of our true experience.
Expressive Arts allows for safe exploration of sometimes very painful experiences because the process never goes deeper than the participant is ready to go. There is no authority to "push back against" or to fear because the individual is in charge of the process and the realizations, whether in the form of an image, a poem, a song or a story, are coming from within.
Expressive Arts allows students to explore personal perspectives and feelings through therapeutically focused activities. Working with adolescents can be fraught with landmines if we attempt to approach them from a position of authority or "expertise". Expressive Arts provides one great way of working with students that allows them to be in charge of what happens. They are squarely in the driver's seat. There is an openness and willingness that happens during this process that allows them to become curious.