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The Student News Site of Buckingham Browne & Nichols School

The Vanguard

The Student News Site of Buckingham Browne & Nichols School

The Vanguard

Arts Department shakes up offerings with new semester-long courses

Shift meant to increase ‘flexibility to explore different arts’

As students submitting their course selections leafed through the 2023-24 Program Planning Guide in early April, they encountered a plethora of new arts offerings, which include trimester-long and semester-long courses previously only available to freshmen, in addition to the traditional yearlong courses.

Among the new classes are Sound and Vision, Ceramics: Elements and Principles of Design, Drawing and Mixed Media, Theater Arts: Acting and Directing, Theater Arts: The Art of Presentation, Theater Arts: Playwrights of the Future, and Theater Arts: Shakespeare and the Stage.

The changes are a part of the Arts Department’s two-year transition to a program of entirely semester-long classes.

Upper School (US) Arts Department Head Laura Tangusso said the radical change was needed to make arts accessible for more students.

“The overall plan is to transition to primarily semester courses,” she said. “Because we feel that by having semester courses, it will allow more students flexibility to explore different arts within the same year if they want, as opposed to committing a whole year to one subject.”

In the current system, semester courses are primarily available only to freshmen.

Another part of the plan is to make the introductory-level semester courses, that were formerly only open to freshmen, open to all grades, which allows students to try different forms of art at any time through high school, Ms. Tangusso said.

The move to semester-long courses was in part prompted by students who wished they could have taken more arts classes but didn’t have the time in their schedule for a year-long course, Ms. Tangusso said.

“I would often get these comments that, ‘oh, I wish I could have done this or that,’” she said. A

nother addition to the Arts Department’s offerings will be an introductory level, semester-long ceramics course, which will be available to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. In previous years, students could only take this course as freshmen.

“I’m most excited about this course because since it’s a non-freshmen, semester-long, introductory course, more students can take the class, and I will have the opportunity to get to know and connect with more students,” US Ceramics Teacher Christian Tonsgard said.

While the Arts Department had been planning to offer semester-long courses three years ago, COVID derailed their plans. This fall, the department researched how other schools were re-envisioning their arts departments and went on a retreat to discuss their ideas for how to improve their own program. Next year’s addition of semester-long courses is only the first part of a two-phase plan. By the 2024-2025 school year, the department plans to convert all of its courses to semester-long ones.

Geneva Burkitt ’24, a visual artist, said she hopes these changes will encourage more students to explore the arts.

“The development into semester courses will attract more students to the Arts Department,” she said. “Especially to those students who are extremely involved in athletics and other extra-curriculars, they have opted out of arts courses because of time issues, so I think that the change will definitely allow for more time flexibility to those who need it.”

Film Teacher Christopher Gaines said the arts are highly valuable for adolescents.

“All our classes teach artistic skills, but beyond that, they [teach] communication, leadership, collaboration, and how to continue going in the face of obstacles,” he said.

Mr. Gaines emphasized the importance of arts in supporting students’ mental health.

“The arts can kind of be like a mini vacation from the academic overload that BB&N students feel they have,” Mr. Gaines said.

The arts curriculum significantly adds to one’s academic experience and so should be widely available to all students, Drawing and Painting Teacher Marguerite White said.

“In the arts you learn how to do an entirely different kind of problem solving,” Ms. White said. “You don’t just solve a problem, as in many academic classes—you have to invent the problem, then find a solution.”

She also believes that the arts are important in engaging with the world, she said.

“By studying art, you are freeing up your mind to be a lot more flexible, to understand the world in wider ways, and to look closer and to pay attention,” she said.


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About the Contributor
Douglas Zhang
Douglas Zhang, Digital Media Editor
I'm Douglas, the Digital Media editor of Volume 53! I enjoy playing the violin, walking along the Charles, and also visiting family all over the world! Whatever you see on our Youtube Channel, Instagram, and Website, I'm behind the scenes of all that!

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