Maggie Betkowski ’21
This year’s Advanced Studio Art course continues its legacy as the apex of the Fine Arts curriculum at Mercersburg Academy. The only year-long art course offered at Mercersburg, Advanced Studio Art challenges eight of the eleventh grade’s best artists to develop and refine their skills.
Sydney Caretti, Director of Galleries and the teacher of this course, says, “Following the rigorous model of Advanced Placement Studio Art, the works crafted speak on technical merit, breadth of mediums explored, and depth in concentration to build a portfolio.”
The course is open only to upper-middlers through an intense application process in which the arts faculty must approve the admission of each artist to the course. It is aimed to prepare students for the college application process by helping create either a primary or supplemental portfolio in their senior year through the Voice and Vision course.
Studio Art is not for the faint of heart. Caretti says, “The class requires additional time and deeper, creative thinking to not merely engineer/render a work, but to create a work of art that is anchored in current culture as an expression of the artist in their time and voice.” Each artist must grapple with the large time commitment and artistic challenges expected in the course. “It is definitely way more demanding time-wise, and the projects are more specific therefore more challenging,” says Andrea Garza ‘22. “My favorite part is how demanding it is and how it pushes me to be super creative while also teaching me how to manage my own time. You can literally create wherever you want.” The learning experience is unmatched. Harriet Brown ‘22 says, “My favorite project had been a pink house that I painted. I stretched my own canvas, and it was based on a Slim Aarons photo which I love. I’m really proud of it.”
While the course is nothing short of intense, participants grow not only as artists but also as a tight-knit group. Brown says, “I love everything about the studio. My class is amazing, and the friends I’ve made there are just as great.” Garza agrees, saying, “What I have enjoyed about this class so far is how much I have been learning from my classmates, and how unique all of our different pieces are. I will miss the overall vibe of the class and how fun it is to go to the studio.” Former Advanced Studio Art student Jay Howley ‘21 says, “the little family we developed throughout the year is something so precious to me. Even as competitive or comparative the dynamic could be at times, there was always a great energy around the studio.”
While this year’s class has had only the spring term to develop their artistic voice, they have certainly grown as artists. Caretti says, “They already had a great alliance and have been pushing themselves and one another to produce refined and sound visual statements since day one.”
Garza says that her biggest takeaway from the course echoes one of Caretti’s greatest sentiments: “There are rules when creating art, but they can always be broken as long as you are aware and you are breaking them with a purpose!” Caretti says, “I feel so incredibly lucky that I don’t have to do this as my job but I get to do it! To be a slight, little blip on the artistic trajectory of so many of you is a true delight and honor.”