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AP Art History Will Give Taft Artists a New Home

March 16, 2020

On Friday, February 21st at the AP-Honors Fair, it was officially announced that AP Art History will be offered as a class next year at Taft. This announcement caused quite a bit of excitement among students, especially because Taft has never had an art history course before. The class will be taught by Mrs. Cleary (a math and drawing teacher at the school) in room D224 and, according to the course catalog on the Taft website, will “help students cultivate their understanding of art history through analyzing works of art and placing them in historical context”.
Although this may have appeared to be a sudden move on the part of the administration and Taft faculty “I had been thinking about teaching the course for about three or four years, and I started researching it in the past few months.” said Mrs. Cleary. Eventually, she approached Mr.Tapia (the assistant principal) with the proposal to start a class and was told that if there was a certain interest and enough students signed up for the class at the AP Fair, then “we could open up a section, and get the books for it”.

Sure enough, there were about 50 signatures at the Fair, which were more than enough to open up a section at Taft. Of course, this wasn’t counting students who may have been on the fence about signing up for the class. If it was, Mrs.Cleary suspects the number of signatures would have been noticeably larger.
But getting an AP class approved is no easy feat. Ms. Pasmyn, a counselor at Taft, explains that the process is extremely involved. In order to even teach a subject, an instructor must have a specific credential in their desired subject. Some teachers may get multiple teaching credentials for the sole purpose of being able to teach a variety of subjects. In Mrs.Cleary’s case, she has the credential to teach both math and art courses to students, making her one of the few teachers on campus who could even offer to teach AP Art History. Once the right teacher is chosen, they must undergo a training process to learn the material for the AP test before submitting a syllabus to the College Board to be approved on the UC course list. Without this stamp of approval, the class will be marked as general ed, and won’t qualify for the added .25 bonus to a student’s GPA.

As such, the course will be taught to appropriately prepare students for the AP test in spring, but in such a way as to make it enjoyable and interactive for the students. The class will be covering periods from “Stone Age art to Contemporary while covering various parts throughout the world.” Mrs. Cleary said. The College Board recommends coverage of a vastly diverse array of art. This includes Greek art, Roman art, African art and even art from the Pacific! The hope is that students can place art in “historical context as they explore concepts like culture and cultural interactions, theories and interpretations of art, the impact of materials, processes, and techniques on art and art making”.

AP Art History has already generated some buzz amongst students at Taft. Prior to this, the art classes offered, although plentiful, did not offer the kind of enriching educational aspect that AP Art History can provide. The class has the ability to help students build and develop art appreciation in an environment specifically built to do so in. Many of those who signed up have high hopes that the class will be a success. One such student who was especially excited to hear the news that the class was being opened was Julia Spencer, a junior at Taft. “It’s something I’ve been interested in for a while and it would be very beneficial to take the class now in high school then in college when it’s more expensive.” Julia said. She wishes to gain a deeper understanding of different cultures historically and how they have expressed themselves over time through art and can’t wait to experience the class.

Mrs. Cleary is excited to share the history of art to her students, and recommends anyone who is interested in developing their art education and understanding to join her!

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