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  • Penelope Morris

AP Studio Art Is Not A Typical AP Class

Earlier this month, as most AP students were scrambling to practice multiple choice questions or perfect their short-essay structure, the students taking AP Studio Art were putting the finishing touches on the artworks that they submitted to the College Board on May 5. Although the class is different from a typical AP course, the instructor, Jason Bulluck, believes it is just as valuable as high-level classes in other subjects.

“We should have APs across all the fields of human endeavor,” he explained, noting that Studio Art helps students express themselves and discover what they’re passionate about.

In a class so focused on creative expression, Mr. Bulluck structures the course by having the AP Studio Art students assist in instructing the Art Portfolio class, which takes place during the same period.

“Teaching is the best learning,” Mr. Bulluck said, and helping other students to learn certain concepts ultimately helps the Studio Art students improve as well.

In addition to assisting Portfolio students, the AP artists learn about the technical side of art — color theory and elements of art — and other concepts that help them build a strong portfolio to submit to the College Board. To structure their portfolio, students write several guiding questions that they explore in a series of fifteen works.

Mr. Bulluck likened these overarching thematic questions to Senior Project: “There’s a method of inquiry unique to the studio artist” that guides the production of work throughout the year.

Mr. Bulluck also pointed out that part of the appeal of the course is its accessibility. For one, there are no prerequisites for the course so any student interested in art can enroll. He added that, given the way that many people consume and interact with media nowadays, most students already have practiced art in some way on their own before enrolling in the course — for example, by doodling a favorite character from a show or by taking photos to post on social media.

“I think it’s the least frustrating [AP],” he said, although he acknowledged that it is advantageous if a student has a foundation in the arts already.

Despite its facilitation of creative expression, Mr. Bulluck did note some flaws in the AP course. Although the structure of the Studio Art class allows students to experiment with many different artistic mediums and styles, the grading criteria provided by the College Board can still be somewhat restrictive.

“The Board is pretty good at articulating what they mean by what they’re assessing … [but they’re] not really assessing for the broad sense of what you might look for in a maturing young artist.”

This poses a challenge for students because, even when they create high-quality work, a good score on the exam isn’t guaranteed. However, proving that AP scores aren’t everything, Mr. Bulluck noted that several Walls students have gotten “average” scores on the exam and proceeded to qualify for world-class art programs using the same portfolio.

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