Lowman and art department implement supportive teaching philosophy

EMBRACE+CREATIVITY.+Fine+arts+department+chair+and+ceramics+teacher+Daryn+Lowman+works+with+a+piece+of+pottery+in+preparation+for+one+of+his+classes.+Lowmans+core+teaching+philosophy+includes+ideas+like+this+one%3A+it+is+important+to+be+open-minded+when+entering+the+stage+or+studio+because+that+is+when+you+truly+get+the+most+out+of+an+elective.

Ali Browne

EMBRACE CREATIVITY. Fine arts department chair and ceramics teacher Daryn Lowman works with a piece of pottery in preparation for one of his classes. Lowman’s core teaching philosophy includes ideas like this one: “it is important to be open-minded when entering the stage or studio because that is when you truly get the most out of an elective.”

Ali Browne, RubicOnline

With state-of-the-art facilities like the Huss Auditorium and endless mediums and resources available to students, whatever their passion may be, SPA fosters a community that values and supports artistic expression.

After experiencing modified art classes during hybrid and distanced learning, the faculty maintains a consistent teaching philosophy. They hope to inspire students to have a new appreciation for the art programs with face-to-face guidance and mentorship as they reintroduce the implications of in-person art electives.

“There’s an expansive variety of arts programs available [at SPA], and [each one] is [well-developed and designed]. Students like myself have ample opportunity to explore these programs in a way that enhances everyday school life and lets us express ourselves with the support of a wonderful staff,” said sophomore Oliver Zhu.

Fine arts department chair Daryn Lowman, who primarily works with students involved in ceramics and sculpture, finds that one of the best ways for the faculty to support students is by pushing them to challenge their previous knowledge and step out of their comfort zones.

“I believe it is important to be open-minded when entering the stage or studio because that is when you truly get the most out of an elective. For example, maybe a student had a definition of sculpture when they started for the first time, or maybe they didn’t know exactly how to define sculpture for themselves but hopefully, at the end [of the semester], they form an individual definition for this through their own successes and challenges in the class,” Lowman said.

As the faculty continues to push students to experience discomfort and learn from others when developing their artistic styles, they understand the importance of showcasing exemplary work. Every year, specifically in Honors Art Seminar, student-artists create a portfolio for the Scholastic Art competition. However, the value of this experience is not the awards but the process of creating a series of meaningful pieces and a thoughtful artist statement and having this work recognized by an outside perspective.

“The idea of students being able to hear another voice, rather than the instructor’s every so often, is really valuable. When somebody is coming in to look at the student’s work and talk about it with them, that’s the special moment because they don’t have the context, necessarily, where the student has come from or what was the project that was given, but they’re seeing it with fresh eyes, and they’re able to give an objective, and maybe subjective comments on the work,” Lowman said.

Students like myself have ample opportunity to explore these [art] programs in a way that enhances everyday school life and lets us express ourselves with the support of a wonderful staff.”

— Oliver Zhu

While embracing the unknown, experiencing discomfort in artistic expression, and rewarding students for their growth in the artistic process has always been an intentional focus in the art department, distance learning classes brought this to a new level last year. When reflecting on this experience, Lowman noted that in this time of global disruption, students truly rose to the occasion and strengthened their adaptability and flexibility, which have allowed them to be more receptive to guidance and collaborate in new ways this year.

At a college-prep school like SPA, students often find it difficult to prioritize or participate in the arts over rigorous STEM classes when the upper school schedules leave room for just two electives in addition to the core curriculum classes. When she was completing course requests last spring, ninth-grader Aarushi Bahadur struggled to choose between electives. “I had such a hard time deciding what electives to pick because there were so many options. I wish I had about four more slots because there were a bunch of things and art classes I wanted to try and not enough time or space in my schedule,” she said.

Lowman urges those facing this challenge or who have trouble seeing the arts and academics on equal footing to understand the many parallels between the problem-solving and process-driven parts of STEM classes and the design phases of art. “We are so driven to work with technology and applications that really remove us from understanding what material intelligence is,” he said. In this sense, Lowman encourages those who may identify as mathematicians, scientists, or historians to bring the foundations of those classes into the art wing and see how art can build on academics.

The faculty and their supportive teaching philosophy make SPA’s art programs unique and truly impactful for students. Learning to express oneself with a variety of mediums and techniques can help reconnect with one’s emotions and creativity, which teachers like Lowman hope to show those experimenting with art, whether for the first time or in a more advanced class.