A Look at FPD’s AP Art Program

There is no denying that FPD artists produce gallery-worthy, stunning artwork. Each year we delight in seeing their creativity adorn the walls of our hallways and galleries. Some pieces take your breath away while others inspire a smile with their whimsicality. At the pinnacle of our art program are our AP Art Classes – 2D Design, 3D Design, and Drawing.

At the helm is Nancy Butler, FPD’s high school art teacher, and she will be the first to tell you that AP Art classes are not for the faint of heart. They are challenging courses that require dedication and commitment, but the end results are well worth the effort.

Challenging – But Worth It

Looking back on her senior year in AP Art, Breanna Williams notes, “Mrs. Butler keeps us on task and sets deadlines that don’t allow for play, but despite that, she keeps an easygoing and comfortable environment. I believe that this class has prepared me for college-level art because I have been exposed to many means of art and have worked under the pressure of deadlines and expectations.”

Senior Catherine Smith agrees, “Mrs. Butler’s teaching style really allows everyone who takes her class to succeed to the best of their ability. She takes the time to ask what you want to do, instead of telling you what to do! Mrs. Butler goes out of her way to really get to know us individually and have a relationship with us.”

Choosing a Concentration

In an AP art course, students work on a portfolio that will later be submitted to the College Board.  It contains three sections – Quality, Breadth, and Concentration

The concentration entails a student-selected theme around which all their pieces revolve. The purpose is for the student to demonstrate ability to work in a sustained way and to further develop and refine his or her own ideas instead of simply responding to a teacher-directed assignment. Each student is encouraged to find his or her own personal voice and style. Concentrations this year included family, culture, emotions, and travel among others.

“My concentration is based on the phrase, ‘An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break,’” says senior Josie Holcomb. “This is an old Chinese saying. My sister was adopted from China, so that’s how the idea started. All of my paintings have been based on Chinese culture and American culture.”

Likewise, senior Olsen Kate Jones chose a theme dear to her heart, Casa Hogar, an orphanage in Mexico at which she has served on several missions. To complete her project, she auctioned off her artwork at the First Presbyterian Church Missions Conference with proceeds going to her beloved orphanage.

AP Judges

At the end of the course, students submit their portfolio to a College Board panel of three to four experienced art teachers and college professors. Drawing and two-dimensional design students must include five actual pieces for the Quality section, while those in three-dimensional design must submit digital images of five pieces. For the Breadth portion, twelve pieces are required. Finally, a complete body of work showing cohesiveness is required for the Concentration.

The College Board judges score each section separately. If there are wide variations in those scores, the section is then submitted to another group until there is consensus.  The three sections are then averaged together for a final AP score.

Thoughts for Peers

As this year’s AP class looked toward the completion of their time in the FPD AP art program, several of the students offered a few suggestions for their peers considering the courses.

“You will spend a lot of time,” remarks Holcomb, “but it is great and I recommend everyone to take a few art classes at some time. Stay on top of your work and don’t get behind!”

“AP art is probably the most time-consuming class at FPD. If you have the commitment for the whole year, I would definitely suggest challenging yourself and take it,” concurs Smith. “The reward that comes with finishing a project is awesome.”