New Art Elective Going Global

Isabel Owens, Opinion and Copy Editor

World Art, a new class proposed by art teacher Jill Langston in response to the Acalanes Union High School District’s request for single-semester class ideas, was adopted by the school board in December.

Teachers were encouraged to propose single-semester classes to Principal John Walker after the district mandated a semester-long unit of Health for sophomores. Though designed specifically to accommodate Health, World Art will be available next year for all grades.

“World Art is going to be a combination of global studies, going around the world and studying different cultures and different aspects of culture, and then instead of writing a paper about it or taking a test on it, we’re going to produce artwork. And artwork will include craft, design, and art,” said Langston.

“Aspects of culture” will first include religion, which the class will look at in depth. “For a lot of cultures, you have to understand the religion to be able to understand the culture – for example, Hinduism and all their gods and goddesses. So we’ll be looking at the different religions and then seeing some of the culture that comes out of that, whether it’s sometimes body adornment, sometimes it’s alters like Ofrendas [an offering during Dia de los Muertos] in Mexico or Puja [a prayer ritual] in India,” Langston said.

Langston proposed several course ideas to Walker. “We talked them over, and it seemed like World [Art] would be the best because, first of all, it could be taught by anybody. Any art teacher down the line could teach it. And it would also probably bring in new students that we don’t normally get. It wouldn’t be as specific as if I decided to do figure drawing for an entire semester,” she explained.

The class is designed so “anyone can try it,” said Langston. “I’ve been teaching art for 11 years, and I still love it, but it’s gonna be nice not to have to talk about shading a charcoal sphere or overlaps,” she added. “We’re really looking at being able to bring art in a new way to a large number of students.”

A former Modern World History teacher, Langston said part of the necessity of cultural education is to understand how the world is “blending” –both old with new and cultures with other cultures. “I also want to try and keep it balanced between traditional, historical, and contemporary, because I think there’s such a blend,” she said. “The way they call it in Hawaii, hapa, when you’re half. And everything’s half these days. Everything is a mixture, a hybrid, of everything else.”

Through food, television, music, or literature, “most of the stuff we do is enjoying cultures,” said Langston. “That’s the stuff that makes life fun,” she said.

“More and more our world is shrinking. And increasingly cultures are moving, not just to the US, but we’re moving to different places and we’re becoming more interconnected. And culture is fun. Exploring different cultures should be fun. I think it shouldn’t always be so academic, because it takes a little bit of the joy out of it,” she added.

The class is designed to give students a “different appreciation” of culture. “It’ll be fun and celebratory. It doesn’t mean there won’t be thinking. The thought is looking at these things and taking it and making it your own. So it’s not just copying it, it’s taking it and expanding it,” Langston said.

Langston’s Art 1, 2, 3 classes are currently preparing projects to publicize the class at Open House. Art 1 is learning about Mehndi, the Indian form of Henna dying. “We’re going to look at some other forms of pattern and design and then they’re going to combine it into their own design and apply it to their arm,” Langston said.

The students will be tattooing arms in the art room at Open House for free. “My goal is to have every 4th person at Campo with a Henna design of some sort. We’ll invite classes in so they can get Henna’d,” Langston said. “I might have classes just come in, and they can practice their Henna designs before Open House.”

Art 2 and 3 are creating light-up villages as part of a World Architecture unit. Some of the 2o projects include Inuit igloos, a South African village, a North African mud village, a Moroccan village, a Norse village, and Thai temples. The villages will be placed around campus for Open House.

Junior Hannah Eberhardt is creating a replica of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. “I’m making a base out of cardboard and waterproofing it. Then I’m going to paint it and light it up. I got the idea when we were researching different architecture styles in class, and I stumbled upon Frank Lloyd Wright, and I remembered how much I had loved Fallingwater when I visited it,” she said.

Langston’s TA, senior Annie Brewster, helped Langston put together slideshows to inform her classes about World Art. “It’s just cool because there’s a lot of classes where you can learn about different cultures but not where you can actually do something from the culture. You can research it and write about it, but it’s not the same as getting to do something,” Brewster said. “Who really is going to go and look at stuff on their own? Nobody. So I feel like this is a good way to educate people, but do it in a fun way. Everyone loves henna.”

Langston believes that creating art is an “equally valid” form of education. “More often in life you’re going to take something from a vacation or a cultural experience and it’s going to look a lot more like [art] than it will like writing a paper or taking an exam. So it’s going to be fun. I’m looking forward to it,” she said.