High School Art Projects that Students LOVE!

High School Art Projects that Students LOVE!

Do you ever get “that” look from your high school students when you present a project to them? You know what I mean, the deer in the headlights look. Art projects need to challenge the students in design and technique while engaging their interests. This in itself can be challenging for an art teacher to tackle.

These four high school art projects have proven to be successful at challenging and engaging the students (you know the kids like a project when they ask if they can do it again!).

Beyond the Border

Medium: Watercolor & India Ink Project

Create a 2D mixed media art piece that explores the expansion of the main subject matter that is in the inner rectangle branching into  the border around it-going beyond the border. The main subject should remain in color, but everything else turns black & white outside the main rectangle… FULL Lesson

Ceramics Roll-A-Beast Animal Sculptures

Medium: Ceramics

Body Features determined by Rolling the Dice!

FUN, FUN, FUN!! Create a fantasy creature that has unique body features determined by rolling dice, then create the creature in ceramics.  After choosing 6 predetermined animal parts that you want to include in the project & assign each part to a number (ex:1=Wings/feathers, 2=fangs/tusks, 3=tentacles, 4=fins/scales, 5=fur, 6=horns/antlers/claws). Keep the list a surprise until everyone had a chance to roll the dice…  FULL Lesson

Motorcycle Mixed-Media Art Lesson High School

Creating dynamic compositions in high school art.

Providing interesting subject matter for planning & creating compositions is important for art teachers to do. I had envisioned doing this mixed media motorcycle art project for several years & was so grateful to find someone who was willing to bring their motorcycle up to our school so my high school students could draw it! I wanted something to really challenge & provide a super interesting subject to teach composition to my high school art class… FULL Lesson

Watercolor Pouring and Masking Portrait Art Lesson

Medium: Watercolors

Are you or your students super tight when it comes to painting? I know I am!! Trying to loosen up a “tight” painter is HARD to do-it takes practice, trial & error. This HS art painting lesson is a great exercise in loosening up and letting go of control. Students will review positive and negative space. The will use a photo editing program to transform a portrait to show high contrast values (black or white only). They will experiment with different watercolor techniques such as pouring, masking and splattering.

All of the lessons are accompanied by ART TECHNIQUE lessons-see my Shop for Lesson Plans & Worksheets

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10 Art Project Ideas For High School Students

Art is a form of expression that can communicate emotions, ideas, and stories in a powerful way. It is a creative outlet that allows individuals to explore their imaginations and communicate their unique perspectives. For high school students, art can be a valuable tool for developing critical thinking skills, fostering self-expression, and enhancing their overall educational experience. 

Since being good at art might be on most high schooler’s bucket list, hence, in this article, we will explore 10 art project ideas for high school students that are both engaging and educational. So, let’s dive in and discover how art can stimulate the mind and enrich the high school experience! 

Creative art project ideas for high school students

Here are some creative ideas for your next art project with hints on how to begin your work or utilize the same creative aspects for your art competitions or for summer programs .

1. Mixed Media Self-Portrait

 Create a self-portrait using mixed media such as paint, markers, and collage materials Begin with a drawing of yourself on canvas or paper. Then, add texture, color, and character to your self-portrait with paint, markers, and collage materials. Make a unique and intriguing mixed-media piece by combining various materials.

2. Recycled Sculpture

Design and create a sculpture using found or recycled  For your sculpture materials, collect found items such as cardboard, plastic bottles, and tin cans. Attach the items together with hot glue, wire, or other fasteners to create a one-of-a-kind, three-dimensional piece. Enhance the figure with paint or other materials

3. Landscape or Cityscape Painting

Landscape or Cityscape Painting:

Paint a series of landscape or cityscape pieces inspired by your local environment. Go for a walk around your neighborhood and photograph intriguing landscapes or cityscapes. Make a sequence of paintings based on those photos. To catch the essence of the scene, play around with color and brushstrokes.

4. Digital Art

Digital Art

Experiment with digital art forms, such as digital painting or photo manipulation. Paint a series of landscape or cityscape pieces inspired by your local environment. Create a digital painting or manipulate a picture with digital art software or an app to create a one-of-a-kind piece of art. Experiment with various tools and methods to develop your own personal style.

5. Social Issue Art

 Create an art installation or mural around a social issue important to your school or community. Social Concern Create an art installation or mural to raise awareness of a social problem that is essential to you or your community. Use found items, paint, or other materials to create a piece that is both visually and emotionally impactful.

6. Printmaking

Printmaking

 Explore printmaking techniques, such as linocut, screen printing, or etching. Relief Printing is one of the techniques that involves carving a design into a block of wood, linoleum, or other materials, then rolling ink onto the raised surface and pressing it onto paper. Relief printing is a great technique for beginners and it can produce bold, graphic images with strong lines and textures.

7. Jewelry Design

Jewelry Design

Design and make your own jewelry using wire, beads, and other materials. Create your own one-of-a-kind jewelry items using wire, beads, and other materials. Experiment with various shapes and materials to develop your own personal style.

8. Story motion

Story motion

 Create a stop-motion animation or short film using puppets or miniatures. Create a story and create puppets or miniatures to bring your characters to life with stop-motion animation. Capture each frame with a camera or smartphone, then edit the frames together into a short film using stop-motion animation software.

9. Watercolor techniques

Watercolor techniques

Experiment with watercolor techniques, creating a series of abstract or representational pieces. Experiment with various watercolor methods such as wet-on-wet, dry brush, or lifting to create a series of abstract or representational pieces. To add depth and texture to your paintings, experiment with various colors and brushstrokes.

10. 3d collage and assemblage

Use found objects and mixed media to create a 3D collage or assemblage. Collect found items such as buttons, paper clips, and other small objects to use in a 3D collage or assemblage. Attach the items together with glue or other fasteners to create a one-of-a-kind, three-dimensional piece. Enhance the mosaic or assemblage with paint or other materials.

Art: Stimulating the high schooler’s mind and brain activity.

Art education in high schools is crucial for developing students’ creativity, critical thinking, communication, empathy, and self-esteem. It is a known fact that art opens the door to creativity for students! Yes, this makes stimulation in students’ minds and brains and offers space to express themselves through various mediums. 

Through art classes, students can learn to express themselves in new and innovative ways, explore different cultures and perspectives, and develop a deeper understanding of the world around them. 

Additionally, the process of creating art can be incredibly rewarding, helping students build confidence and self-esteem as they see their ideas come to life on paper or canvas. By encouraging high schoolers to engage with art, we can help them develop important life skills and prepare them for success both in their personal and professional lives.

Being a crucial life skill activity, art is not just a hobby, it is a valuable tool that can enhance high school students’ educational experiences in many ways. Choose any idea and start creating magic. Remember art is a self-expression not just a subject to explore.

Encouraging students to explore different mediums and techniques can help them discover their unique artistic voice and develop a lifelong appreciation for the arts. Art education not only enhances students’ critical thinking skills but also allows them to express their emotions and perspectives in a tangible and meaningful way.

high school art project prompts

Sananda Bhattacharya, Chief Editor of TheHighSchooler, is dedicated to enhancing operations and growth. With degrees in Literature and Asian Studies from Presidency University, Kolkata, she leverages her educational and innovative background to shape TheHighSchooler into a pivotal resource hub. Providing valuable insights, practical activities, and guidance on school life, graduation, scholarships, and more, Sananda’s leadership enriches the journey of high school students.

Explore a plethora of invaluable resources and insights tailored for high schoolers at TheHighSchooler, under the guidance of Sananda Bhattacharya’s expertise. You can follow her on Linkedin

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Six Inexpensive Sculpture Ideas to Start the Year

In a time where budgets are seemingly always being cut, many of us are looking for ideas that won’t slice into the precious few dollars we have available. So, if you’re waiting on your budget money to come in, or if you don’t have a budget at all, here are six sculpture ideas you can use to create some great projects without spending a lot of money.

sculpture1

Geometric Newspaper Sculpture

Photo 1

Materials Needed: Newspaper, Tape, Spray Paint (optional)

Newspaper is almost always easy to come across, and this lesson is always easy to present. We use rolled up newspaper, taped into small geometric shapes. Those geometric shapes are then combined and stacked to make a sculpture as tall as the person making it. If you’ve got some spray paint lying around, go for it, but these can look just fine au natural. I generally have students focus on a piece that is stable, looks good from all viewpoints, and accentuates the geometric aspects of the sculpture. (Tip: Triangles and pyramids are much more structurally sound than squares, rectangles, or cubes.)

Oaktag Sculpture

Photo 2

Materials Needed: Oaktag or similar material, Glue or Tape, Paint (optional)

You can use oaktag (tagboard), chipboard if you can find it, or even watercolor paper if it is thick enough. We begin with two squares taped or glued together in an ‘L’ shape for the base. Students add strips of different lengths, focusing on creating nonrepresentational sculptures featuring movement. Again, spray paint (or even acrylic) can enhance the look, but the sculpture itself can be successful with or without that addition.

Altered Books

Photo 3

Materials Needed: Old/Discarded Books from your Library or Thrift Store, Scissors/Exacto Knives, Glue

There are a million ways to do altered books, and a myriad of artists from which to draw inspiration. For the project to be truly sculptural, however, the pages need to be used to create three-dimensional forms. Two-dimensional aspects can be utilized, of course, but in this example the pages being formed into flowers are enough once the Barbie is added.  If students are having trouble figuring out how to alter pages, a list of prompts and possibilities can be helpful, as can a few extra books with which they can experiment.

Found Object Sculpture

Materials needed: anything your students can get their hands on.

We start with, well, whatever is around. I show my students work from Bart Vargas –a nationally known artist from my hometown of Omaha–and it gets them up and running with ideas. Between the limitless options with both materials and subject matter, this project can take on so many different shapes and forms. It’s very open-ended, so you could finish with just about anything once your students get their hands on the materials. If your students need some specific direction, animals and insects can be good places to start. We had, for example, a six foot long snake–coiled and ready to strike– made of Mountain Dew cans and hundreds of pieces of plastic silverware “borrowed” from the cafeteria.

Everyday Cardboard Items

Photo 4

Materials Needed: Cardboard, Glue, Paint (optional)

This is a great problem-solving exercise, because kids know what they need to make–and exactly how it should look–if their subject is a familiar object. All they have to figure out is how to get their work to that point using cardboard and glue. Claes Oldenburg is the obvious art history tie-in, and this project is a good challenge when you play with scale like he does. A contemporary artist creating these types of sculptures is Bartek Elsner , and my kids love seeing his work as well. Huge nail clippers, toothbrushes, or cameras can be really cool, as are small scale bikes and cars. If you want to avoid giant projects that take over your room, objects simply done to normal sizes, like the purse seen here, are always successful.

Functional Cardboard Furniture

Photo 5

Materials Needed: Cardboard, Glue or Hot Glue, Packing Tape

This is probably the most difficult of the six projects, and the most time consuming. We spend a lot of time talking about and experimenting with structure. I like to tell the story about my college days and having to build a box out of matboard that someone could stand on, just so students have an idea of the amount of work needed to make these pieces functional. After the strength of the structure is figured out–be it table, chair, couch, or otherwise–exterior treatment and aesthetics concerns are dealt with to finish off the project. If the project is done well enough, you may just have a cardboard couch that’s still in your art room four years after the fact 🙂

With these six projects up your sleeve, you’ll be well on your way to getting your students the 3D experiences they deserve, no matter what your budget looks like.

Tell us, what ideas could you add to the list? 

How do you push students with non-traditional materials ?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.

high school art project prompts

Timothy Bogatz

Tim Bogatz is AOEU’s Content & PD Event Manager and a former AOEU Writer and high school art educator. He focuses on creativity development, problem-solving, and higher-order thinking skills in the art room.

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6 Fun and Memorable Art Projects When You’re in High School

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High School Art Projects To Inspire And Create Lasting Memories

Art and teens go hand in hand. After all, high school is a time for self-discovery, and what is art if not a perfect platform for identity exploration and creative expression?

Engaging in creative projects allows teens to express their emotions, thoughts, and ideas in a safe and constructive way, promoting emotional and mental well-being. On top of this, art projects encourage problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and innovation – boosting teens’ self-esteem as they witness their creations take shape.

Whether you’re a parent looking for some fun art projects to help them unleash their imagination, or you’re in high school yourself and are searching for some unique ideas to make your youth more memorable; you’re in the right place. Here’s our ultimate list of awesome projects for your high school years.

High School Art Projects

1. design your own yearbook.

yearbook art project

One of the best ways to capture your high school years is to design your very own yearbook.

To get started, gather a team of creative classmates to collaborate on this project. Divide the responsibilities among the team so that everyone takes on a task that they like. Consider all the different jobs that this project entails, like: curating memorable photos, writing engaging content and sourcing the book itself.

Making a yearbook doesn’t have to involve a lot of cutting and sticking as you may have originally imagined. You can also explore online platforms like Mixbook , which offer customizable yearbook templates. You can pick a theme that perfectly captures your class’s personality and personalise your yearbook with just a few clicks. 

2. Make A Graphic Novel or Webcomic

graphic novel art project

Fans of graphic novels and digital artists may enjoy creating their own novels or webcomics. It’s a fun and creative exercise – especially for story lovers. Plus, it will result in a precious keepsake that will take you back to your school time in years to come.

Create a fun plot outline and develop engaging characters by basing them on your classmates. You can also weave in fun storylines based on the experiences you shared, whether it be your funniest moments or some drama that occurred. The entertaining part of this project is that it’s based on your own memories; a unique and original idea to capture your high school experience.

3. Create a Personal Art Journal

art journal project

Art journaling is a fantastic way to express your creativity while making a visual diary of your high school experience.

Find your art style by experimenting with different art supplies like markers, pastels, and ink to create unique textures and effects. Use mixed media techniques as well, such as sketching, collaging and watercolours, to capture your thoughts and memories. It’s a great way to express exactly how you feel in the present moment without having to exclusively use words. You may even find it useful when going through challenging emotions or trying to overcome creative blocks .

4. Create a Photo Series Project

photo series art project

Photos are a classic way to capture memories, so why not make a whole project out of it? Celebrate and remember your high school years by focusing on your surroundings and all the exciting moments with your friends. Simply use any camera you have kicking about or even the camera on your phone.

To make it more interesting, assign different themes to each month or week and challenge yourself to create a cohesive series of photos. Experiment with lighting, angles, and compositions to create beautiful and unique visual stories. Snap photos of your friends, capture silly moments, and anything else you find interesting. A single photo can speak volumes and goes a long way towards documenting your experiences.

5. Community Art Installation

community art installation project

Use your artistic skills to unite your community by organising an art installation where students and local artists can contribute unique artwork. This is one of the more ambitious and impressive high school art projects – so make sure you have a great team around you to pull it off.

Before starting the installation, reach out to local organisations or charities to collaborate on the project. Together, you can choose a theme that aligns with a cause you want to support, such as mental health awareness, inclusivity, or environmental preservation. It’s an excellent opportunity to create dialogue and foster a sense of unity through art. It will also provide a great learning opportunity and future employers will find it very impressive when they see it in your CV or portfolio . 

6. Recycled Art Sculptures

recycled art project

Go green and show the world the magic of upcycling! It can look fantastic and it’s good for the planet – a truly beneficial art project if you ask us!

Almost anything can be upcycled, so collect recyclable materials like cardboard, plastic bottles or old CDs, and turn them into unique sculptures. Using less precious materials can evoke a refreshing sense of experimentation as well, so use it to your advantage and get creative.

If you’re passionate about the environment, consider asking your friends to join in your project and invite a local environmental expert to speak about the importance of recycling and its impact on the planet. It’s a great chance to take this high school art project even further.

artist e-book

Why are high school art projects so beneficial?

In essence, your high school years are a perfect opportunity to explore and experiment, making memories that will last the test of time. Whether you’re creative or not – these project ideas provide a great foundation for yourself going forward. The skills acquired along the way, in conjunction with those happy, nostalgic experiences, should positively affect every creative endeavour in your adulthood – in one way or another.

WHAT HIGH SCHOOL ART PROJECTS HAVE YOU TRIED? LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW.

Also, don’t forget you can always share your art with us or tag us on Instagram – @darkyellowdot .

Thank you for reading and if you found this article useful, share it around, that makes us happy. To receive more posts like this and updates, join our mailing list, everyone is welcome.

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High School Painting And Drawing Projects

View exceptional high school painting and drawing projects by Art students from around the world. These fine art projects have been completed as part of a range of high school qualifications, such as GCSE, IGCSE, A Level, NCEA, IB and AP Visual Art. The projects are centred around drawing, painting and related media (including mixed media) and are accompanied by detailed discussion so that you can understand the ideas and processes explored.

If you have a drawing or painting project that you would like featured upon the Student Art Guide, please read our  submission guidelines .

Top in NZ A Level Art

Top in New Zealand 2021 (Cambridge A Level Art)

A Coursework project by Amanda Zheng, ACG Parnell College. Amanda achieved 95% for this project and was awarded Top in NZ for A Level Art.

IB Visual Arts 2016

The “Happy Homemaker”: IB Visual Arts Syllabus 2016

Awarded full marks: Exhibition Work, Comparative Study and Process Portfolio by Enrico Giori, St. Louis School of Milan (completed as part of the IB Visual Arts syllabus 2016).

AP Studio Art portfolio: 100%

AP Studio Art Drawing Portfolio: tips from a student who gained 100%

A selection of works and commentaries from Ratthamnoon Prakitpong, a graduate from Thai Chinese International School in Bangkok, Thailand. Ratthamnoon was one of sixteen students worldwide to receive a score of 100% on his AP Studio Art Drawing Portfolio in 2015.

A Level Art exam tips and advice

How to be successful and enjoy your A Level Art exam

Emily Fielding gained 100% for A Level Art, while studying at Kennet School, England. Emily shares tips and advice for students who are sitting the A2 Art exam.

high school art project prompts

Finding a voice through A Level Art & Design

This article features the A2 Coursework project of Emily Fielding, completed while studying Edexcel A Level Art and Design at Kennet School, England. Emily gained 100% (A*).

portraiture study: IB Art

Perceptions of Identity: IB Visual Arts

International Baccalaureate artwork by Iris Cheung from Sha Tin College, Hong Kong. Iris challenges perceptions of identity through paint and photography.

How to draw realistic eyes

How to draw realistic eyes within a high school Art project

Awesome A Level artwork by Elena Tomas Bort, completed at the Laude British School of Vila-real, Spain. Elena’s focuses upon how to draw eyes so that they reveal emotions and reflect messages about life.

Jim Dine art project

A* IGCSE Art and Design: Still Life and Paper Cranes

This coursework project was completed by Agnes Fung while studying CIE IGCSE Art and Design at Harrow International School, Hong Kong. Agnes gained an A* Grade (97%), focusing upon Painting and Related Media.

high school art project prompts

High school Art student paints three generations of her family

This article features the outstanding paintings and drawings of Sophie Cahill, completed as part of her A Level Personal Investigation in her final year of high school.

high school art project prompts

Art student gains huge social media following, launches career at high school

Kate Powell has shared her Art projects on social media platforms since she was fifteen years old. She has over 12,000 fans on Facebook and 34,000 followers on tumblr.

Final piece: IGCSE Art exam (A*)

IGCSE Art Exam: Street Patterns (A*)

Enrico Giori’s CIE IGCSE Art exam project, completed while studying Art and Design at St. Louis High School, Italy. Enrico was awarded 97% (A*) overall.

high school art project prompts

People in the City: Stunning IB Artwork

This article features the Higher Level Investigation Workbook IWB and Studio Work of Naomi Ng, completed as part of her IB Visual Arts Diploma Programme at Sha Tin College. Naomi gained Level 7 overall.

Mixed media artwork, IGCSE

CIE IGCSE Art and Design – Top in Spain

This IGCSE Art and Design Coursework project was completed by Olivia Williamson while studying at The Academy International School, Mallorca. Olivia specialised in Painting and Related Media and was awarded 99%; the highest result in Spain.

high school art project prompts

Phenomenal Fruit Drawings: AP Studio Art

These coloured pencil drawings were completed by Sucha Chantaprasopsuk, as part of her AP Studio Art Drawing qualification at Reavis High School. She was awarded full marks.

Contrast: CIE Art and Design

Contrast / Lock’n’keys: AS Level Art and Design

This CIE AS Level Art & Design examination and coursework project was produced by Hamad Ali of Cordoba School for A levels, Pakistan. Hamad Ali was awarded A* overall for A Level Art.

high school art project prompts

Awesome Character Drawings: AP Studio Art

Want to draw cartoons or fantasy illustrations as part of your high school Art project? This AP Studio Concentration project by Seokkyun Hong was awarded full marks. It is essential viewing for students and teachers alike.

GCSE art sketchbook example

The International GCSE Art project that you’ve been waiting for: Top in the World

This phenomenal IGCSE Art Coursework project gained 100% and was awarded Top in the World for the CIE October examination session.

high school art project prompts

A* GCSE Art Coursework: Sense of Place

This Edexcel GCSE Art Coursework project explores architectural spaces, daily life and routine. It was completed by Samantha Li and was awarded full marks.

high school art project prompts

An A* GCSE Art Exam: Force

This GCSE Art exam was awarded full marks and explores a fantasy / spiritualistic interpretation of the topic ‘Force’. It was completed by Samantha Li, while studying at West Island School, Hong Kong.

First prep sheet: A Level Art

A Level Art: The Essence Of

A CIE A2 Level Art and Design project by Alice Ham, ACG Parnell College, New Zealand. It was awarded 99% (A*).

Mixed media IGCSE Art

Silhouettes and Landscapes: IGCSE Art Coursework (A*)

This is Enrico Giori’s IGCSE Art Coursework project, completed while studying at St. Louis High School, Italy. Enrico was awarded 97% overall for IGCSE Art

high school art project prompts

Paper Cuttings, Monoprints and Collagraphy: Exciting A Level Portraiture

This innovative A* portraiture project pushes the boundaries and uses modern technology such as laser cutters in a way that is exciting and rare among Painting / Fine Art students.

high school art project prompts

Top in the World: Stunning Self-Portraits by an A Level Art Student

This outstanding Painting and Related Media Coursework project was awarded Top in the World for the CIE examinations. It explores self-portraiture and ‘Identity’.

high school art project prompts

War: A Personal Connection (A Level Art)

Some themes can be difficult to explore first-hand. Ruth gained 100% for her Edexcel A Level Art (Unit 3) Coursework project exploring War.

high school art project prompts

Self Image: GCSE Art and Design

An A* AQA GCSE Art and Design exam project by Charlotte Cook. The project was based upon the theme of ‘Self Image’ and was completed at South Hunsley School, England, United Kingdom.

high school art project prompts

A contemporary approach to still life: A Level Art

This exemplary Painting and Related Media project was completed by Jiwon Im, while studying A Level Art and Design (CIE). Jiwon was awarded Top in the World for AS Art. She also gained NCEA Scholarship for a project using the same theme.

high school art project prompts

Vibrant Illustrations: An A* IGCSE Coursework Project

Superb, stylised illustrations by an IGCSE Art student: the result of experimental mark-making, imaginative exploration, attention to surface and learning from artist models.

high school art project prompts

A* IGCSE Art Coursework: Trinkets, Treasures and Memories

This outstanding International GCSE Art sketchbook and final piece by Nikau Hindin shows a personal interpretation of the theme ‘Trinkets, Treasures and Memories’.

Scholarship NCEA Level 3 Painting folio

The Impact of E-Waste: NCEA Painting

Michaela Barker’s outstanding NCEA Level 3 Painting folio, completed in her final year of high school at Waikato Diocesan School for Girls.

high school art project prompts

Drawing from Photographs: A High School Painting Project to Remember

This is the kind of high school painting project that makes you catch your breath: a portraiture based submission, awarded Top in New Zealand for 2011.

high school art project prompts

Crossing boundaries: the integration of mixed media, sculpture and photography within a Painting Project

Sometimes I discover Art projects that hold tremendous value as learning tools for students and teachers. This is one such project.

high school art project prompts

Ideas for Abstraction: A Top in the World International GCSE Art Exam

Those who are looking for ideas for their IGCSE or GCSE Art exam are likely to benefit immensely from analysing the artwork of talented Year 11 student Tarika Sabherwal.

high school art project prompts

An Iron and a Pile of Washing: A still life IGCSE Art Exam

This IGCSE Art exam is a response to the topic ‘An Iron with Clothes‘ and was awarded Top in the World for the October 2011 examination session.

high school art project prompts

100% IGCSE Art and Design: A comprehensive Coursework Project

This exceptional IGCSE Art Coursework Project was awarded 100% and Top in the World for the 2011 CIE October examination session.

high school art project prompts

Shells, Fish & Sea: An Exceptional International GCSE Art Sketchbook

This exquisite, finely-detailed A* IGCSE Art sketchbook was completed by Hania Cho in 2002, exploring a Coastal Environment theme.

high school art project prompts

Crustaceans and Natural Forms: A Beautiful International GCSE Art Exam

This IGCSE Art exam was a response to topic ‘Crustacean’ and was awarded an A* grade: beautiful exploration of natural forms.

pencil drawing portrait

Creative Approach to Portraiture: An Exciting A2 Coursework Project

This 91% A2 Coursework project was completed by Dave Watson, while studying AQA A Level Fine Art at Hereford Sixth Form College.

high school art project prompts

Distortion of Form: A Level Art Sketchbook, Preparation and Final Piece

This AQA A Level Fine Art was awarded 100%. It was completed by Claire Lynn, while she was a student at Carmel Sixth Form Catholic College.

high school art project prompts

Dark Matter: an award winning Coursework project

I have seen a lot of amazing A Level artwork over the years, but it has been a long time since I have encountered a project as inspirational as this: a huge, sprawling, charcoal and mixed media installation.

high school art project prompts

A Level Art Project: Obesity & Junk Food 98%

This outstanding A Level Art project explores a theme of junk food and obesity. It was produced by Nikau Hindin in 2009 and was awarded a final result of 98%.

high school art project prompts

NCEA Level 3 Painting Folio: The Shaping of Identity

Exploring identity and life choices, this surrealist NCEA Level 3 Painting folio gained an Excellence in 2010. It was completed by Bethan Powell, while studying at Whangaparaoa College.

high school art project prompts

NCEA Level 3 Painting Folio: Domestication of the Wild

This creative NCEA Level 3 Painting folio gained an Excellence in 2009. Using surrealist imagery, the project explores the notion of wild animals brought into our domesticated lives.

high school art project prompts

AS Art Exam: Paintings of Decaying Fruit 98%

This outstanding AS Art exam gained 98% in 2008. It explores the theme ‘suspension’: beautiful paintings of rotting fruit and vegetables hanging from string.

high school art project prompts

International GCSE Art Sketchbook: Natural Forms Coursework 98%

This outstanding IGCSE Art and Design Coursework project was completed by Manisha Mistry in 2003, while studying at ACG Strathallan College, Auckland, New Zealand.

high school art project prompts

International GCSE Art Sketchbook examples

Examples of sketchbook pages to inspire students who are working on a natural forms theme in their GCSE Art sketchbooks.

high school art project prompts

Vibrant Still Life: AS Level Art Coursework

Exploring a still life theme, this vibrant 93% AS Painting Coursework project was completed by Sarah Loh in 2003, while studying A Level Art & Design at ACG Strathallan College, New Zealand.

high school art project prompts

AS Level Art and Design Coursework: Abstract paintings of instruments 100%

This stunning AS Painting Coursework project, exploring an instruments theme, gained 100% in 2008.

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High school sketchbooks publication

Advanced Art AP® Studio Art TEN Drawing Projects High School Art Prompts

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Description

Art Lesson Creativity and Student Choice is endless with this bundle of advanced drawing prompts perfect for your Intermediate, Advanced and AP®Studio Art Students. This art project bundle is perfect for High School Art or Homeschool Art - in person or distance learning art. Artists get to choose the art materials and subject matter in these art prompts that challenge students to think outside the box.

Bundle Includes the following advanced project prompts:

  • Arbitrary Texture
  • Shoe Frenzy
  • Arbitrary Color Still Life
  • LePetit Orange
  • The Encounter
  • Family Portrait

This project bundle is a compilation of 10 AP® Studio Art Prompts, Critique Overview Processes, Peer Evaluation Project Specific Rubrics and Response Formats, Critique Ribbon Prompts (for guided oral critique), Parent-Student Contract, Complete Course/Process Overview and lots of student work examples.

***Also available in my shop is the Year Long No Stress No Prep AP® Studio Art Curriculum strictly geared toward developing a Sustained Investigation and Selected Works portfolio based on the NEW AP® STUDIO ART GUIDELINES as of 2019-20 - complete with SI Sketchbook development prompts, step-by-step teacher presentation on how to structure the course from the first day of school to digital submission. Perfect for 2D or 3D portfolios, this curriculum will keep your students creating while staying on track toward digital submission in May.

Watch your students' creativity shine as they take these prompts and apply their own personal interpretation to each prompt. The possibilities are endless!

Please go to mrstfoxresources.com and subscribe to my Sunday newsletter, "The Weekly Fabulousness" for teacher freebies and much more!

There are hundreds of examples of student work on both my Instagram @mrstfoxresources and my Pinterest MrsTFox Resources - be sure and check it out!

MrsTFox Resources is now on YouTube - please check out my FREE mini-workshop content on a variety of art subjects - Drawing, Painting, Classroom Management - for Art Educators complete with classroom resources (links to resources in video descriptions)

Don't forget to leave a review on this (or any) resource by logging into your TpT account - TpT is now giving credits toward future purchases for teacher feedback - yay! :)

All my best for a safe and productive school year,

Thank you for stopping by!

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Wasted Talent Inc

Art Project Ideas For High School Students For Better Grades

When it comes to art project ideas for high school, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind in order to create something that will really wow your teachers and help you get better grades .

Firstly, you need to make sure that your project is based on current world issues or trends . This could be anything from climate change to politics or wars.

By choosing a topic that is relevant to what is happening in the world right now, you will show your teachers that you have an understanding of current affairs and that you are able to express yourself and your concerns about world events through your artwork.

Secondly, you need to ensure that your project makes a statement . It should be clear from looking at your work what message you are trying to get across.

Remember, your artwork is your chance to show teachers your point of view on current world issues, so make sure that your project is powerful and thought-provoking.

Finally, don’t forget the basics. Even if your project is based on a current world issue, it still needs to meet all the requirements of a good art project.

This means that it should be well executed and presentable . So, make sure you put in the effort to create a high-quality piece of art that you can be proud of.

By following these tips, you will be sure to create an art project that will not only get you better grades but will also show your teachers that you are informed and engaged with the world around you.

When I was a high school student, the biggest mistake I made that prevented me from getting into a fine arts college was that I thought I knew better than my teachers and that skill alone was enough to get in.

I refused to address what teachers and college interview panels were looking for. At the time the biggest issue was the environment, oil spills, and the hole in the ozone layer.

Instead of making my art project about one of these, I chose to make an introspective statement on my mental state (I was probably ahead of the curve on that topic) and I thought I could wow them with my technical abilities.

Needless to say, I did not get into a fine arts college as I refused to play the game. What a wasted talent.

What are current world topics that you can create art about?

As a high school student looking for art project ideas, my suggestion is to pick one or more of the current topics that are trending in the world and make a statement for or against them.

You can take the view of being a contrarian or a supporter of the issue. Either way, try to make your artwork compelling rather than trying to troll a specific group.

Have a look at some of the current world topics to base your art project.

  • Climate change
  • Women’s rights
  • Mental health
  • LGBTQ rights
  • Animal rights
  • Natural disasters

These are only some of the topics you can choose from. You can be as creative as you want in how you portray your message through your artwork.

Be sure to put some thought into it and back up your ideas with research so that you can make a strong argument for or against the issue.

art project ideas

Document and write supporting evidence to back up your subject matter

Your artwork should make a statement and be thought-provoking. It should also be something that you are passionate about so that you can put your all into it but you also need to ensure you just did not jump on the bandwagon of the issue of the day and start doing some research.

Your research should show that you understand both sides of the story and be able to provide a well-rounded opinion.

It should also be visually appealing and interesting so that it will capture the attention of your teachers and classmates.

Remember, your art project is a reflection of you and your beliefs, so make sure that it is something that you are proud of.

Collect supporting visual references and put them into a portfolio

You should collect supporting visual references such as newspaper and magazine clippings, photos, and printed screenshots of online articles and put them into a portfolio so that you can have a solid starting point for your project.

When you have collected all of your references, it is time to start sketching out some ideas.

Your sketches do not have to be perfect but they should give you a good idea of what your project will look like. You should show that you have put some thought into the planning and execution of your art project.

Once you have a few sketches that you are happy with, it is time to start working on your project.

Create a rough version of your project first so that you can get an idea of the overall look and feel.

Decide on the appropriate medium for the topic you have chosen.

Some topics will work better in certain mediums than others.

For example, a political project may work well as a collage or a painting while a project about the environment may work better as a sculpture or an installation.

LGBTQ+ rights or Abortion rights may work better as a black and white photographic montage or mixed media .

Meet with your high school teacher and discuss your art project ideas

Before you start making your actual art project, I suggest you meet with your teacher and discuss your ideas, and how you plan to make your artwork and ask for their advice.

Check with them to ensure you are on the right track before you devote all those hours to your high school art project.

Your teacher will want to be involved so keep them involved.

After you have had your discussions and your teacher gives you the thumbs-up to proceed, you can start adding in the finer details and making sure that everything is perfect.

This is the most important part of your high school art project so make sure you do it justice.

Discuss your art project ideas with your high school teacher.

Create the masterpiece

Your artwork should be something that you are proud of and that you would want to display in your own home.

It should be a real masterpiece and something that will make people stop and stare in awe.

Take progress photos as proof you completed the work

Make sure you take progress photos along the way as your teacher will want to see these as proof that you have completed the work.

Even though my high school art project was not good enough for the art colleges, I actually sold my final year art project to a collector in Baltimore for $200.

She had come across a preliminary sketch I had made to show my teacher while visiting my hometown.

Because she was not allowed to approach me in person (as she was not affiliated with the school), my teacher managed the sale for me.

Great things can happen when you have a teacher on your side.

Remember, this is your opportunity to show off your talent and get better grades, so make the most of it!

Last words – Take your time

When implementing your art project idea for high school, do not try to rush your it – take your time and make sure that every element is perfect before moving on. This is one instance where taking your time will pay off in the end.

If you rush, it will show in your finished product, and you will not be happy with the results.

So, take your time, enjoy the process, and create something that you can be proud of. Good luck!

joseph colella bio wastedtalentinc

Joseph Colella (Joe Colella) is an Editor and Writer at WastedTalentInc. As a frustrated artist with over 40 years experience making art (who moonlights as a certified Business Analyst with over 20 years of experience in tech).

While Joseph holds a Diploma in Information Technology, in true wasted talent fashion he spent years applying for various Art degrees; from the Accademia di Belle Arti (Napoli), to failing to get into the Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) at the University of Western Sydney.

While he jokes about his failures at gaining formal art qualifications, as a self-taught artist he has had a fruitful career in business, technology and the arts making Art his full time source of income from the age of 18 until 25.

His goal is to attend the Julian Ashton School of Art at The Rocks Sydney when he retires from full time work. Joseph’s art has been sold to private collectors all over the world from the USA, Europe and Australasia.

He is a trusted source for reliable art advice and tutorials to copyright/fair use advice and is committed to helping his readers make informed decisions about making them a better artist.

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K to 12 in 10 Minutes – Done !

19 amazing art ideas for high school students.

he Student Art Guide is on the lookout for the best high school art teacher blogs, social media profiles and art education websites. Below is a list of the gems we have found.

high school art project prompts

The best art teacher blogs and personal websites

Developing nicely.

Developing Nicely  is a stunning blog by Chris Francis, UK Art teacher and Senior Leader at St Peter’s Catholic School, Bournemouth, England. The blog contains thought-provoking articles that are illustrated with creative, contemporary student artwork, such as the examples shown below by Beth. The site is a rich resource for GCSE and A Level Photography students in particular (these are qualifications studied by high school students in the UK) and is guaranteed to keep you engaged for hours. Highly recommended.

Art teacher blogs UK

Julia Stubbs

Julia Stubbs  is an Advanced Skills Teacher in Art and Design at William de Ferrers School, Essex, England. Her website features high quality OCR GCSE and A Level Art artwork, photographed comprehensively and listed with results. Exemplar material is available, as are teaching resources. The action paintings below are from Martin Reynolds’ Grade A, A2 Fine Art project. More of Martin’s project can be viewed  here .

A Level Art teacher blog

Ms. King’s AP Studio Art class

The website by AP Studio teacher Carrie King contains a superb collection of  teaching activities  for the Art students at Mt. Eden High school, Hayward, California, USA. The activities cover perspective, line drawing, the depiction of glass and metal objects, working in monochrome, figure drawing and still life arrangements; providing structured activities to help students complete the 12 AP Breadth pieces. Each assignment is accompanied by artwork from Carrie’s own students, such as the two examples below by Tiernan Kang (left) and Sikai Song.

AP breadth blog

The Artist And I

Feeda is an experienced high school art teacher, working at Tanarata International Schools, Kajang, Malaysia. Feeda’s students have achieved outstanding success, including Top in Malaysia for Cambridge IGCSE Art and Design, three years in a row.  Feeda’s blog  documents these projects, making them valuable learning opportunities for others. The image below is from a project that was awarded Top in Malaysia in 2016. More of this project can be viewed  here .

CIE Art teacher blog

Bolton School (Girls’ Division) Art Department Blog

Mrs Crowther’s blog  contains artwork from Bolton School, United Kingdom. It features A Level and GCSE artwork as well as projects by younger students. A Year 10 Art lesson from Bolton School is included within our article about  use of mixed media for painting students . The example below is from a  GCSE Art project .

GCSE Art teacher blog

Bartelart.com

Bartelart.com  is the home of Dr. Marvin Bartel, who has many decades of teaching experience, including over 30 years teaching in the Art Department at Goshen College, Indiana, United States. Marvin has Master and Doctor degrees in art education and is a consultant, lecturer and writer. His website contains superb essays about drawing, creativity and teaching art: many interconnected pages that will engage you for hours.

Photography Project

Photography Project  was created by UK Photography teacher Liam Smith and his students. The website contains tips and advice for GCSE and A Level Photography students, as well as examples of projects that were awarded high results. The image below captures a tintype image upon a broken mirror and is part of an 100%  A Level Photography project  exploring Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Photography teacher blog

Dan China  is a secondary school Art Adviser with a wealth of experience. His past roles include Ofsted Inspector and Chief Moderator / Examiner. He has worked on curriculum and assessment developments as well as revisions to examinations and assessment strategy. He has published a fantastic collection of student artwork Flickr, depicting some of the best A Level student work from Buckinghamshire schools (2007 – 2011).

Art teacher blogs UK

Art Teacher Social Media Profiles to Follow

Ferhan khan’s flickr.

Ferhan Khan  is an experienced high school Photography teacher from Doha College, Qatar. He has uploaded many outstanding A Level Photography and Art portfolios. These are shared in their entirety, with legible annotation and process documented, making these excellent learning tools. Students investigate exciting subject matter, explore contemporary editing techniques and stage innovative compositions, as shown in the work below by Beth Miseroy below. Some of the work by Ferhan’s has been featured on the Student Art Guide, such as Kareem Al Saady’s  100% AS Photography Coursework project .

High school art teacher Flickr profile

Monks’ Dyke Technology College’s Flickr

The Monks’ Dyke Technology College, which was in Lincolnshire, England, published a range of beautiful GCSE and A Level Art sketchbooks and final pieces from their Art Department (such as the A Level Fine Art sketchbook page below) on Flickr, with some exceptional Graphic Design, Fine Art and Photography submissions.

High school art teacher blogs UK

Fortismere Art Department Flickr

Fortismere, a secondary school based in North London, UK, has a thriving Art Department.  Their  Flickr gallery  contains an extensive collection of images, including A Level Photography, A Level Fine Art etc.

Fortismere Art Dept blog, UK

Sixth Form College Farnborough’s Instagram

This great  Instagram profile  has frequent posting of A Level artwork. This mixed media example is by A Level Art student George Punter.

Art teacher instagram profiles to follow

Websites for teachers of high school art and photography

Photo pedagogy.

Photo Pedagogy  is a website for high school photography teachers. It contains a comprehensive set of teaching resources, covering a wide range of topics, such as ‘threshold concepts’ and photo literacy. Photo Pedagogy was created by UK high school teachers and contains a collection of highly detailed photography lessons, many of which are accompanied by student examples. The images below are details from student responses to an  abstract forms lesson .

Website for teachers of photography

Lectures on Digital Photography by Marc Levoy

Marc Levoy  taught digital photography at Stanford for many years and now leads a team at Google. He has  uploaded every lecture  and made this freely available. The 18 lecture course is targeted at beginners and covers: lenses, optics, light, sensors, natural optical effects, perspective, depth of field, sampling, noise, image processing, editing, computational photography, history, famous photographers and composition. There is hours of footage, which includes include assignments for students. Videos are also available on Marc’s YouTube channel, with a full playlist of the lectures available  here .

Digital photography lectures

InThinking Visual Arts by Heather McReynolds

InThinking Visual Arts  is a website for International Baccalaureate Art teachers by Heather McReynolds, who has over 20 years of teaching and examining experience. Heather was previously Head of Art at the International School of Florence and now offers training and workshops for IB Art teachers, writes textbooks and shares knowledge via the InThinking Visual Arts website. Although this site is subscription based, there is enough free content to keep you busy for hours. Much of the material is relevant for teachers of any high school Art qualification. The image below is by Enrico Giori who has his  IB Visual Art project  featured on both the InThinking and the Student Art Guide.

IB Art teacher blog

AP Central Collegeboard website

Advanced Placement (AP) is a rigorous high school qualification offered to students in Canada and The United States. The College Board AP Central website has three great Art sections:  Drawing ,  2D Design  and  3D Design , which each include a link called ‘Drawing Portfolio with Student Samples and Scoring Guidelines’. These provide access to an excellent collection of student work (such as the beautiful fruit drawings pictured below by  Sucha Chantaprasopsuk  from Reavis High School), each accompanied by clear explanations for the marks they have received.

AP Studio Art blog

Top Art exhibition

The  Top Art exhibition  features some of the best NCEA Level 3 Photography, Design, Printmaking, Sculpture and Painting (this is the New Zealand equivalent of A2 Art & Design) produced by Year 13 New Zealand high school art students. An excellent source of inspiration for students and teachers.

Some Top Art students have been featured on the Student Art Guide, including work by  Bronte Heron  and  Grace Pickford  (work shown below).

High School Art blog

NZQA website

The  New Zealand Qualification Authority  (NZQA) publish fantastic resources to help high school art teachers and students. Of particular note are the exemplar material that is provided for Painting, Photography, Design, Sculpture or Printmaking. This student work is very similar to that which is required for A Level Art & Design and is a fantastic resource for high school Art students studying any qualification. Work of a range of ability levels is shown, along with superb annotation from the examiners. There is also a separate section of Scholarship exemplars (such as the superb example below) – the very best work from Year 13 high school students.

NCEA Art website

The Saatchi Gallery art prizes for schools

The Saatchi Gallery, London, runs major art competitions for high school students, as part of its education program. The winning and short-listed entries are available for viewing on their  website . Although only single artworks are exhibited from each student (as opposed to the complete bodies of work) the range and quality of work is excellent, making this website a great place for those seeking inspiration. The image below shows a shortlisted artwork by Libby Gervais, Churcher’s College, Petersfield, United Kingdom (image credit:  Petersfield Post ). You may also be interested in our collection of  art competitions for high school students .

Saatchigallery art prize website

Make a Mark Studios

middle school art projects

My Favorite Middle School Art Projects

After a decade of teaching high school art, I’ve recently moved to teaching middle school art. It’s a blast and there is truly NEVER a dull moment. Through some trial and error, I’ve learned that some projects are more engaging than others. Below are some of my favorite middle school art projects that have yielded engagement and great visual end products! The ideas below use a variety of art media and include a range of 2d and 3d art projects. I hope you enjoy! Feel free to comment below if you’d like to share some of your personal idea for successful middle school art projects.

#1- 3D Shadowbox Collages

Student goal: Use found collage images to create layers of depth inside a 3D foam core shadowbox. Click here for the full lesson of this 3d shadowbox collage project.

high school art project prompts

#2- Colored Light Self Portraits

Student goal: Use colored pencils on toned paper to draw a self portrait of yourself photographed with a colored light source (we used 3 light sources- red, blue and green bulbs). Click here for more information about this lesson using colored light sources.

high school art project prompts

A variation with a cropped composition on expressive eyes.

high school art project prompts

#3- Vortex Drawings

Student goal: Use a media of your choice to draw a vortex that shows depth, rhythm and movement. Click here for a full lesson on how to draw a variety of vortexes.

high school art project prompts

#4- Alien Point of View Perspective Drawings

Student goal: Use paint stix, oil pastels, or colored pencils to render an exaggerated “alien’s point of view” space drawing. Click here for free lesson a guided worksheet of this fun, alien perspective drawing.

high school art project prompts

#5- 1/2 Cartoon Face Digital Portraits

Student goal: With a photographed portrait, creatively divide the face in half and use digital drawing methods to stylize one side as a cartoon. Click here for free guided steps on how to do the 1/2 cartoon face portrait.

*This project was inspired by a viral challenge called #cartoonme. Lots of cool inspiration photos online!

half cartoon portrait

#6- Plaster Masks

Student goal: Using plaster strips upon a cardboard armature, create a wearable 3d mask. **In my class, we connected this to Hispanic heritage month and created Sugar Skull and Alebrije masks. We used this free template to create the armature for the mask.

high school art project prompts

#7- Elements of Art Project

Student goal: Divide one subject into seven sections. In each section, illustrate each of the elements of art using a variety of materials. For more information on this lesson including step by step directions, click here.

elements of art review project

#8- Monochromatic Posterized Portrait Paintings

Student goal: Using a portrait of your choice, create a monochromatic, posterized portrait. **We used this method (with the free webpased program Pixlr) to digitally posterize our photo references prior to drawing and painting them on canvas.

high school art project prompts

#9 Limited Color Scheme Landscapes

Student goal: Using a random color scheme of only 5 colors, create a composition of a landscape that shows a sense of space with foreground, mid ground and background. ** Click here to check out how I randomly assign students their 5 colors and their landscape setting. There is also a free guided video to show students how to begin this project.

high school art project prompts

#10 Surreal Collage Perspective Rooms

Student goal: Draw a room with accurate 1 point perspective techniques and add color to all sides of the room. Then, creatively incorporate surreal collage images into the room. Click here to check out my FREE guided step by step instructions on how to draw a 1 point perspective room interior.

high school art project prompts

#11- Open ended art challenges

Student goal: Using a random art challenge prompt (such as the #blendartchallenge) , artists will use a style and medium of their choice to compose a solution.

high school art project prompts

#12-Monster Dolls (inspired by kid drawings)

Student goal: Using a drawing of a monster from a young child for inspiration, create a hand sewn stuffed animal. Use a variety of materials including felt, cloth, yarn, buttons, and more!

high school art project prompts

#13- Wire Stocking Sculptures

Student goal: Using a block of wood as your base and a nylon stocking stretched over a manipulated wire hanger, create an interesting 3d form. Use acrylic paint to create a gradient of at least 3 colors.

This is a really popular project, if you are looking for step by step directions a quick google search of ‘wire stocking sculptures’ should get ya there!

high school art project prompts

#14- Dictionary Page Drawings

Student goal: Given a random dictionary page, find at last one word on the page to illustrate visually. Use a variety of art media to contrast your drawn image with the busy background. ** For more info on this lesson, check out this link here.

high school art project prompts

#15- Geometric Creatures

Student goal : On a watercolor wash background, draw a silhouette of a creature. Break your creature into polygonal shapes and add color with marker.

high school art project prompts

#16- Collaborative School Logo “Quilt” Drawings

Student goal: Create a quilted tile section of the school logo. Use a material of your choice and a style of your choice to show your individual personality. **Note, the entire logo is visually connected by the black lines.

high school art project prompts

#17- Faux Lined Paper Illusion Drawings

Student goal: On a white piece of paper, create a “faux” lined piece of paper with bending blue lines over a shaded pencil drawing. **My students used this awesome website by Julianna Kunstler to aid in our drawings. It was very helpful.

high school art project prompts

#19 Linoleum block printing

Student goal: Create high contrast prints using a hand carved linoleum block.

high school art project prompts

#20-Oil Pastel Dragon Eyes

Student goal: Use oil pastels to create a colorful drawing of dragon eye. Imply the texture of the scales through use of blending gradients. **Note- I am definitely not the teacher who created this idea, it’s pretty popular and oh-so-fun! I would love to credit whoever originally got this going, so let me know! My students used t his resource by Art by Ro to help us draw the dragon eyes.

high school art project prompts

#21- Line Drawing Landscapes-in-a-shape

Student goal: Create a landscape in a shape that shows a sense of depth. Explore a variety of line drawing techniques such as hatching and stippling to add texture and value. **Note, this lesson comes from this post from Cassie Stephens who was inspired by an artist named Jen Aranyi.

high school art project prompts

#22- ANYTHING op art!

Student goal: Choose from a choice board (I gave them lots of choices!), create an original op art drawing! **If you are interested in a fun op art drawing from Make a Mark Studios, check it out here! 🙂

high school art project prompts

#23 Art History Reproductions

Student goal: Analyzing the brushstrokes, colors, and composition, recreate a famous artwork. **We created ours on our ceiling tiles as our 8th grade legacy works. C lick here for tips we learned along the way for painting on ceiling tiles.

high school art project prompts

#24 Non Objective Abstract Art

Student goal: Use sharpie to draw a non objective abstract artwork with a variety of lines and shapes. Using oil pastels, color in the composition fully.

high school art project prompts

#25 3D Creature Heads

Student goal: Use recyclables to build an armature of a 3d fictional creature head of your own imagination. Use paper mache or plaster strips to finalize your head . For full lesson on how to do this, check out my blog post here—

high school art project prompts

#26 Glowing Light Bulb Drawing

Student goal: Use colored pencils on black paper to create the illusion of a glowing light bulb. For step by step guided tutorial and video, check out my full post here.

light bulb drawing

#27 Watercolor Mosaic

Student goal: Create a mosaic using cut tiles from a painted watercolor background. Explore either random polygonal tile shapes or a geometric repeated shape. For full lesson, check out my blog post here.

high school art project prompts

#28 2 point perspective graffiti wall

Student goal: Create a personalized graffiti tag on an illustrated 2 point perspective brick wall. For a FREE full guided drawing lesson of how to do this, check out my blog post here.

high school art project prompts

#27 Bauhaus Geometric Shape Paper Collages

Student goal: Create an asymmetrically balanced, geometric Bauhaus-inspired paper collage. For more info on this creative shape challenge, check out my blog post here.

high school art project prompts

#28 Mixed Media Abstract Art with EMPHASIS

Student goal: Create a mixed media abstract artwork that employs the principle of design EMPHASIS to create a defined focal point. For more info on this lesson, c heck out my blog post here.

high school art project prompts

#29 Hand Sewn Pop Tart Plushies!!

Student goal: Hand sew a pop art plushie inspired by contemporary felt artist, Lucy Sparrow! Step by step tutorial for how to sew a pop tart can be found here!

hand sewn pop tart

#30- Primary color, Pop Art Inspired Onomatopoeia Compositions!

Student goal: Create a composition of an onomatopoeia inspired by the pop artists using techniques such as ben day dots, primary color schemes, bold outlines, and more! Click here for the lesson on how to complete this Pop art project..

high school art project prompts

#31- Color wheel in an Eye

Student goal: Using only 3 primary colors of paint, create a color of 12 analogous colors in an iris of an eye. Click here for a step by step tutorial of how to create a color wheel in an eye.

color wheel eye

Thanks for checking out this blog post! Please  follow Make a Mark Studios on Facebook  to keep up with the latest posts! Thanks in advance!

-Stephanie Villiotis , creator of Make a Mark Studios

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2 Issue 2 : Local-Eyes!

Partizaning's first year - an exhibition in December at Vostochnaya Gallery showing a year's worth of projects. (Photo (c) Partizaning)

Partizaning's first year - an exhibition in December at Vostochnaya Gallery showing a year's worth of projects. (Photo (c) Partizaning)

Partizaning: participatory art, research and creative urban activism

Partizaning leverages artistic interventions in Moscow’s public spaces as tools for social research and transformation, blurring the boundaries between everyday life, urbanism, activism and art.

P artizaning (v): public art practices which strategically challenge, shape, and reinvent urban and social realities.

The last several years have witnessed increased visibility and importance given to DIY cultures and tactical urbanism in cities across the USA, Canada and Europe. This is partially as a response to the financial crisis and limited resources for city maintenance and development, and resistance to the forms of neoliberal urban development. Active, creative citizens have begun to address the inadequacies of government functions, using temporary, creative interventions to suggest alternative realities.

DIY cultures are not new: most recently, they have long existed in Latin America, parts of Asia and in the former USSR (as well as other parts of the world, at different points in time), where capital-led urbanism was not the norm and people lived in circumstances of scarcity. These DIY traditions have demonstrated people’s ingenuity as the best solution in times of necessity; people can invent and deftly make do, especially in the city.

The tactical urbanism movement – led mostly by planners and architects – has built on DIY action in a strategic struggle for bottom up or grassroots urban planning. The same phenomenon is referred to as ‘urban hacking’ in parts of Europe. But what all of these actions share are active resistance and citizen participation in the processes and developments in our cities.

Partizaning’s first documentation exhibition in Amsterdam. (Image (c) Partizaning)

In Russia, we are witnessing a form of strategic, bottom-up urbanism being led by artists who work in the streets and writers, rather than by architects and planners. Creative people are working in public spaces to express themselves and to create dialogues with authorities and with other citizens. In this article I discuss the work I am doing as a member of the project Partizaning, leveraging artistic interventions in public space as a tool for social research and transformation; blurring the boundaries between everyday life, urbanism, activism and art.

Our idea is not to propose a new form of DIY urbanism, but to transform the idea of a top-down, expert planned city into one where residents are active stakeholders in the place they live; a space where they have a right to lead the lives they choose. I explain how we connect the ideas of DIY-ism and participation, as well as how Partizaning is a strategy which is aligned, but different from, tactical urbanism and conventional social art practices by its connection of research and process of creation.

In Context: Urban Planning in Russia

Partizaning’s map of the Moscow Metro which promotes our ideas of affordability, pedestrianism and walkability. (Image (c) Partizaning)

Russian cities are unique, complex entities. Following the revolution in 1917, all Russian land was nationalized and socialized, transferred to State or local authorities. The houses once belonging to the bourgeoisie were divided into accommodation for the proletariat. The collapse of a traditional spatial order required new planning approaches. At the time, ideas of a ‘socialist city’ were debated in terms of the concepts of two groups: the urbanists and dis-urbanists. Dis-urbanists wanted to dissolve the difference between town and country, while Urbanists proposed a contained expansion and planning of existing cities. The Garden City, an idea that flourished in the West, also became a starting point for the Soviet suburb. All this was resolved by the top-down functional and central planning in the form of high-rise apartments with wide-ranging amenities like schools and clinics located nearby. These ‘microrayon’ structures continue to exist today and present just one aspect or challenge of contemporary urban living in Russian cities.

A game about urban tactics which we created and disseminated online and in print. (Photo (c) Partizaning)

After the collapse of the USSR, the country saw the growth of economy and a construction boom as a result of privatization. The Western model of a city and urban development began to take root; but after 20 years of post-Soviet development, most people still live in a reality which created by and for a centrally planned economy. How is this shift to a capital system possible without removing all ideals of social equity?

Reversing urban gentrification with a DIY platform and discussion in Dusseldorf. (Photo (c) Christian Ahlborn)

Russian cities as they now exist are struggling with remnants of Soviet-era urban planning and the development of a neoliberal form of the city. Although highly organized, these plans were not created for people to experience life in the city. Architects and bureaucratic planners promoted ideals like creating social equality through infrastructure and access. But ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union and subsequent privatization of space in the city, there have been many recurring urban issues worldwide, such as traffic, over-consumption and trash generation and resource overuse, each with an environmental impact.

So the idea of a ‘partizan’ re-emerges in this contemporary context of resistance and urban revolution. In Russian, the word means ‘guerrilla’ and the idea we promote is resistance to this form of urban development and engage people in the processes shaping their cities – advocating a sense of creative responsibility. With it, we are seeking to promote a new ideal and a new vision for cities – constructed by and for people, based on their explicit involvement and dialogues. Our work straddles the worlds of art and urbanism: we work in the city and with the public but use artistic venues as just one forum for sharing our ideas.

Partizaning: Participatory Urban Re-planning

The DIY mobile discussion platform to activate abandoned railway tracks in the city. (Photo (c) Partizaning)

The website Partizaning emerged at the end of 2011 as an online project documenting examples of urban interaction and participation, whether social, political, environmental or anything else. Meant to inspire people, we show examples of projects in the public realm as creative achievements of social transformation through DIY and participatory actions. The site is managed by an interdisciplinary group of artists and researchers in two languages, because we realized that the project resonates, not only in Russia but as an idea taking root in cities around the world. So we document projects and people who work with the language of art to transform urban contexts worldwide.

A Public mailbox which we installed in Troparevo Nikulino. (Photo (c) Partizaning)

Part of our goal is to reorient the city around people and their goals and ways of life, rather than around expertise and bureaucracy. We recognize the important role of creativity as commentary and suggestion, while advocating people’s involvement, because residents know the city best and sometimes just need the tools to participate, or to express or converse ideas about it. The problem with how cities have developed is that they are perceived as places of work instead of sites of play and living. If you think of the city as an extension of your home, it is different. You are more willing to plant trees, to clean up trash, to decorate it, to repair it. But this is not an idea that is widely held – people are generally confined to their homes, their cars, and are restricted in public space. Partizaning proposes the idea that unsanctioned repairs and improvements can collectively help to re-create a better city. We have done things like made DIY benches, painted crosswalks and created maps and signs that promote an alternate trajectory for the city.

Scans of the mail received during the Cooperative Urbanism project. (Image (c) Partizaning)

We are motivated by a conflation of art and urbanism and are inspired by the role of the Situationists and of street art and urban interventions which fall into the realm of revolutionary urban and social activism. In Russia and internationally, we engage in participatory processes based on research and culminating in interventions in public space. We think of these interventions more as a process and dialogue. Apart from projects, we try to promote creative grassroots urbanism and participation by giving lectures, presentations and conducting workshops in various cities. We also try to produce a bulletin which is occasionally printed as another format for people to interact with some of our ideas.

Cooperative Urbanism

Public surveys in Amsterdam during the Kunstvlaai Festival. (Photo (c) Partizaning)

In 2012, we did a project based on installing Public Mailboxes in outlying districts of Moscow. An experiment in the idea of collaboration and in the concept of cooperation in the city, we tried to get people to communicate their urban challenges and desires by leaving us anonymous mail. Our goal was to work with the idea of how people could reorganize their city from the bottom up and engage in processes that are generally impenetrable. What we found was that creating unsanctioned and unwatched forums in public space involved children and the elderly, who had varied and different suggestions and ways of using the mailboxes. As part of this project, the mail was scanned and shared with participating municipal authorities who could respond to people’s concerns – but the other part of the project was to encourage people to be the agents of urban change in their own neighbourhoods, particularly if they already knew the problem.

What Should Happen to Sint Nicolaas Lyceum?

In Amsterdam, as part of the Kunstvlaai Festival, we put up large format posters surveying residents in the district under transformation for insights about a building that was going to be demolished. We found people to be apathetic about future changes in their city and wanted to facilitate a public dialogue. This is another way in which we have sought to promote the idea of urban participation in varied contexts.

We are interested in how to facilitate and moderate user-oriented cities, promoting the belief that residents know best what they need and how they should behave in a moderated dialogue with other activists and experts. But one of the concerns and challenges we faces is truly involving overlooked and minorities in the city – voices that remain unheard and invisible, but are part of the urban fabric. In cities like St. Petersburg, Moscow, Amsterdam and Dusseldorf we find that our projects are invariably used by voices that don’t have forums for expression – or become taken over by those who seek to control the socially unaccepted.

Ultimately, as researchers, artists and urbanists, we find ourselves trying to use the language of art as a tool for inquiry to understand urban processes and facilitate a form of participation based on art and ideas of inclusion. To what extent we are successful can be debated, but as an experiment we believe that art in the city has a right to public space and interaction in the same way all urban residents do.

Shriya Malhotra is an urban researcher and intervention artist based in Moscow with Partizaning . She has an MA in Cities and Urbanization from the New School and collaborates on participatory art and process based projects that highlight the unseen or unusual aspects about cities and urban life.

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A Reminder About Catharsis: Oedipus Rex by Rimas Tuminas, A Co-production of the Vakhtangov Theatre and the National Theatre of Greece

The Russian-language press thoroughly covered Oedipus Rex by Rimas Tuminas after it opened in the ancient Greek city of Epidaurus (29 July 2016), and after its Russian premiere at the Vakhtangov Theatre in Moscow on the day of the company’s 95th anniversary (13 November 2016). Almost a similar “boom” in newspaper publications occurred in November 2013 after the opening of Eugene Onegin at the Vakhtangov; it seems that almost every Moscow periodical with an arts section published an article dedicated to this production.

Most recently the critics’ attention was once again drawn to Oedipus; the Vakhtangov Theatre revived this play—the last production by Tuminas in the 2016-7 season—to open its new season on 6 September 2017. Apparently, the life of this production is still very dynamic; from one performance to another, Oedipus changes tangibly and still has a strong impact on the audience, including those who saw it a number of times. The life of this production is worth remembering, discussing, and covering in the press, today and in the future. The goal of this article is modest: to share some of the impressions of a witness and participant of the creative process, from the emergence of the concept of Oedipus Rex to its performances in Russia.  

In fact, there were two productions of Oedipus Rex by Tuminas in 2016. The first one opened in July in ancient Epidaurus, and played there only twice, in compliance with the rules of the Summer Festival in Greece, then once in September, at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens (the second performance had to be cancelled because of the heavy rain). That Oedipus remained in Greece, preserved only in a video made by the National Theatre of Greece: it was shot on the day of the first premiere—29 July—with multiple cameras and edited by Greek filmmakers. This production might be revived in the future if the decision is made to show it again on the open stage of an ancient theatre, be it in Greece, Italy, Israel, or some other country. Within the orchestra of the theatre in Epidaurus, the production can be performed only twice: there have been almost no exceptions to this rule throughout the history of the Summer Festival in Greece. Perhaps the only exception was the legendary production of The Birds by Aristophanes directed by Karolos Koun: it was performed several times—in Epidaurus, and within the orchestra of the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens—because of its exceptional importance to the theatre culture of Greece.

The second Oedipus was created specifically for the stage of the Vakhtangov Theatre in the fall of 2016, prior to the Moscow premiere. It was this production that the Moscow and St. Petersburg audiences saw. Lots of things were added to the first Oedipus which opened in Epidaurus. Firstly, never before had a Russian theatre company opened a production within the ancient orchestra in order to perform the premiere there, in Greece, in front of an audience of thousands. Before 2016, the most notable performance by Russian actors on the stage of an ancient theatre was the Russian production of The Oresteia directed by Peter Stein which toured Epidaurus in 1994. However, The Oresteia was produced within the framework of the Chekhov International Festival at the Theatre of the Russian Army in Moscow; the ancient theatre space was not its essential element, but only an episode of its existence.

Secondly, never before had a production with Russian actors featured a Greek chorus. In the past, slightly different things happened; in 1961, in the Mayakovsky Theatre’s production of Medea directed by Nikolai Okhlopkov on the stage of Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, the role of Medea was several times performed by Greek actress Aspasia Papathanasiou, who came to Moscow specifically for that purpose. The current production of The Bacchae at the Electrotheatre Stanislavsky in Moscow is performed by Russian actors with the participation of the Greek director, Theodoros Terzopoulos, who in the final scene performs a Greek lament song.

Oedipus at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, Greece . Photo: Vahktangov Theatre.

The idea to invite a Greek chorus to participate in the production and to make Oedipus a joint project of the Vakhtangov Theatre and the National Theatre of Greece emerged immediately, during the initial discussions of the production in the winter of 2016. Of course, it certainly helped that 2016 was the year of Russia in Greece, and Greece in Russia. However, the main reason for bringing the Greeks and Russians together was different; Greek culture is the only one to be endowed with practical knowledge about the chorus in drama, and theatre in Russia or Lithuania has no source from which to draw this knowledge.

European drama actors started to perform within ancient orchestras as early as the late nineteenth century. The Comédie-Française actors were the first to try their hand at performing in an ancient Roman theatre at Orange in the South of France. Then, in 1911, at the arena of Circus Schumann in Berlin, Max Reinhardt produced his famous Oedipus, featuring a chorus of several hundred people. Later, in Italy and Greece they would hold festivals on ancient stages. However, regular work with the chorus within the orchestra started no earlier than in 1938 when celebrated Greek director Dimitris Rontiris, assistant and student of Max Reinhardt, was the first in Greece to direct a production in Epidaurus with actors of the Royal Theatre, which became the National Theatre of Greece. Performances by Greek actors in Epidaurus and Athens happened more and more often, and in 1954 they grew into a regular Summer Festival, where Greek companies would annually present ancient plays, and every year the chorus would perform within the orchestra.

Actually, what is the chorus? What is this group of 12 people who are collectively referring to themselves as “I,” not “we,” who are constantly present on stage—from time to time reacting to the actions of solo actors—and who in the breaks between episodes perform collective parts, sometimes taking the form of recitatives, songs, or even ecstatic exclamations?

That has been thoroughly discussed by the 20 th century scholars; however, in the National Theatre of Greece there is a practical concept of the chorus, drawn from ancient texts and tested in practice multiple times. The concept is passed from one director to another; actors are also familiar with it.  I learned about it from director and composer Thodoris Abazis, deputy artistic director of the theatre and creator of the choral parts in Oedipus Rex.

The chorus, according to this concept (and the chorus, in accordance with ancient rules, consisted of 12 or 15 people), is the audience, the members of which are allowed to go to the orchestra and act in compliance with the tradition, embodied in the text of the drama: to comment, evaluate, agree or disagree, answer, or actively react to every element of action. That is why the chorus’s conventional location during the work of solo actors is close to the seats of the audience, often along the orchestra’s curve, becoming, so to say, the first row of the auditorium. That is how the union of the chorus and the audience was marked.

The Greek Chorus. Photo: Valery Myasnikov.

The chorus’s words sound like statements, anticipating the audience’s reaction; the chorus “orchestrates” the audience’s mood and emotional experience, directing and amplifying them, plotting the vector of the their emotions, and harmonizing (i.e. putting into words and music) strong feelings, inspired by the action. In order to perform their parts between the episodes, the choreuts enter the orchestra, thus breaking away from the audience and facing it. Now the chorus talks to the audience directly, contemplating in front of it through songs and, of course, appealing to gods; in ancient times tragedy was performed only during sacred rituals, therefore the sacred images of gods (Dionysus, in the first place) were placed near the orchestra.

Of course, some skeptics might have reservations about this interpretation of the chorus as an audience member acting on stage. For instance, in the works of Euripides the majority of choruses are women whose origin is far from aristocratic (as well as in The Choephori by Aeschylus); it is hard to imagine that the Council of 500 in Athens, as well as other male audience members, could have been able to identify with these women. However, the fact that this concept is understood by the actors, accepted by the audience, and may be applied in practice in a variety of ways, has been proved many times by the productions of Greek companies on ancient stages.

In Oedipus the chorus, according to Sophocles, consists of male citizens of Thebes, feeling all the hardships of the terrible pestilence which befell the city. Therefore, in the production by Tuminas, during their first entrance they trudge, exhausted and holding onto each other; someone falls to the ground, breaking this sad row, but others instantly help him to get up, because the Thebans are used to such fainting.

For the costumes Tuminas drew on the aesthetic of “gangster” world, as if borrowed from the movies about the 1930s Chicago: black suits, waistcoats, white shirts, and fedora hats. All the choreuts are undoubtedly devoid of any gloss not only because there is pestilence in the city; for them these costumes are, so to say, casual. They are used to wearing them in everyday life.

“Chicago” as the aesthetic reference point for the chorus is a sudden insight of Tuminas which has proven itself totally right. First of all, the Greeks—bearded and emotional in a southern way—look very colorful in these costumes. Secondly, the aesthetic is justified by action; the chorus consists of Oedipus’s confidants, witnesses of all of his conversations, interrogations, meetings, as well as Oedipus himself—played by Victor Dobronravov. The King’s hot temper, fury, demands for absolute submission, and readiness to begin shouting at any minute to start a fight or sentence someone to death, sometimes resembles the “kings” of gangster world. However, the chorus can never serve as an instrument for the hero to realize his intentions; that is impossible in ancient tragedy.

Thus, on the one hand, the chorus is a part of Oedipus’s world; Coryphaeus, the character created by Vitalys Semenovs, is his constant confidant, often rather bold and straightforward. However, the concept of the chorus as a part of the bulk of the audience was also realized in the production; this was especially noticeable at the opening in Epidaurus.

When Oedipus appeared in his royal attire, the choreuts, shocked, would fall on the ground and listen to their king, sitting with their backs to the audience and forming a semicircle (similar to the semicircle of the orchestra), as if the first row of the auditorium had been transferred onto the stage. Prior to the final episode, the choreuts exited the stage, went towards the audience, and sat just a step from the first row, right on the stone floor of the theatre, following the curve of the orchestra, with small gaps between one another, to watch the final scenes.

Lyudmila Maksakova as Iokasta. Photo: Valery Myasnikov.

In the Moscow production of Oedipus this aspect of the chorus’s existence was less noticeable. Raised stage and portal arch divide the stage from the auditorium, therefore when the chorus falls on the floor in order to listen to the king’s solemn address to the city, this mise-en-scène no longer gives the audience a chance to feel the visual and emotional proximity to the chorus as fully as it did in Epidaurus. Prior to the final episode, the chorus went backstage, and not to the auditorium. This is the only way it could happen, because on the black box stage the laws for tragedy are different than on the open stage; here the action has to be more autonomous, wholesome, and condensed.

However, recalling the open and free interaction between the performers of the tragedy and its viewers in the ancient, open-air theatre, Tuminas begins the production at the Vakhtangov with house lights on. When the chorus enters the stage, some actors sit on the chairs, placed on the left and right along the wings, and look intently and curiously at the audience, as if making it clear that the portal arch is fully transparent and permeable, so that the look from the stage enters the auditorium as freely as the returned gaze. And when the lights in the house slowly dim, the actors continue hypnotizing the audience, appealing to its members as if they were “the citizens of Thebes,” so the members of the audience have a role in the production anyway.

Still, given the circumstances of the black box stage, instead of visually bringing together the chorus and the audience, the creators of the production put more effort into emotionally gripping the audience through the action of the chorus, which descends very easily from the stage to perform from the auditorium. We should admit that at the Vakhtangov Theatre this worked even better than within the orchestra in Epidaurus.

The strong emotional impact of the chorus in Oedipus is first of all determined by the fact that very powerful Greek actors have participated in it from the very beginning. It is not a secret that in Greek theatre culture, as once in the ancient world, the choreuts were never placed on the same level with solo actors; at that time the tragic contests (and awards) were only for solo actors and never for the chorus.

When in the National Theatre of Greece there was a casting call for the chorus of Oedipus, there were over 150 candidates for only 11 places. Eventually, the majority of the chorus participants could have been promoted to principal roles because of their maturity, high professional reputation, and enviable resume. However, they were motivated only by their enthusiasm for this joint Russian-Greek production, the Vakhtangov Theatre, and, of course, the director, Tuminas. (By the way, 4 of the 11 actors even spoke Russian because of their connection with Russian theatre schools). Many theatre people in Greece admitted that this was by far the strongest performance of the chorus in a tragedy that they could remember.

Rehearsal of Oedipus at the Vakhtangov Theatre, Moscow. Photo: Vahktangov Theatre.

The first time that the Russian actors could feel the impact of the choral parts in all its strength, was in Moscow, at the very beginning of the rehearsals on the small stage of the Vakhtangov Theatre in spring 2016, when Thodoris Abazis arrived and played a record that the chorus made during the rehearsals in Athens. And when in July joint rehearsals of the chorus and actors at the arena of the summer stadium in Athens started (where the National Theatre of Greece normally rehearses before opening a production on the open stage), Liudmila Maksakova said, half joking and half serious, “No doubt they will surpass us!”

Thodoris Abazis, who wrote the chorus’s parts, created a complex combination of declamation, recitation, melo-declamation, and singing (unisonant and part-singing) without using musical instruments or a sound record. This combination is based on the pace, set, first of all, by breathing. The impact of a rhythmic sound, in which one can distinctly hear the energetic and powerful breathing of a group, turned out to be very impressive; the phonetics and melodics of the Greek language helped a lot. The composer, similarly to the director, interpreted the tragedy as the place where all kinds of emotions manifested themselves: not only fear, sadness, and anxiety, but also joy, enlightenment, and triumph. The promise of the unilateral exultation is heard in the third choral song, in which the choreuts, praising Oedipus, are waiting for the prompt revealing of his birth; they have no doubts that he was born to one of the immortals.

That is how the genuinely Greek chorus of Oedipus Rex was born, the first Greek chorus in Russian theatre whose presence in the tragedy was instantly perceived by the Russian audience as a necessary, naturally legitimate, and integral element of the stage action—from the very first performances in Moscow.

Starting the rehearsals in Moscow, Tuminas suggested that the Vakhtangov actors should create interactions between one another through fight and exchange of “blows”—in words, gestures, and the state of mind—hence the particular emotional tension and overexcitement of almost every dialogue in Oedipus.

As early as in the first monologue of the Priest (Evgeny Kosyrev), when there is a plea to Oedipus to save Thebes, we can distinctly hear the notes of reproach addressed to Oedipus—where are you and why haven’t you yet done anything? And the first line of Oedipus after coming to the Priest: “Known, ah, known too well…” also reveals dissatisfaction and irritation. Anger, headiness, and propensity towards conflict have led him to kill his own father, to feud with the prophet Teiresias, and later with Creon.

As the famous saying of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus goes, “Character is destiny.” It probably means that, when man goes through the crucible of life, when the mind isn’t fast enough to follow statements and actions, then character takes over man (which also means passions, imposed by nature). Character sends the strongest life impulses; it leads man through life, thus mapping the line of fate. Victor Dobronravov captures this characteristic feature of Oedipus very precisely; an angry and heady temper has got the hold of his soul and adds belligerence to every conversation. That is how Sophocles saw Oedipus and that is the basis of his character in the production by Tuminas.

That is why, whenever Oedipus enters the stage (as he does in every episode), there is a collision, confrontation, or fight. His first opponent is the blind prophet Teiresias, who doesn’t want to reveal the truth about Oedipus instilled by Apollo. In this production, the role of Teiresias belongs to Evgeny Knyazev. I noticed that in the majority of performances of Oedipus Rex (in Epidaurus, Athens, Moscow, and St. Petersburg) the first applause of the audience is heard exactly after the first episode, when the confrontation between Oedipus and Teiresias reaches the boiling point; Oedipus is ready to stomp the rebellious prophet to death, in response drawing his ire, and is especially fearsome because the gods side with him. In fact, in Epidaurus it is uncommon to applaud before the end of the show. However, the audience inevitably applauded after the episode with Oedipus and Teiresias, and again after every episode, and after several appearances of the chorus.

The farther from Epidaurus, the more the character of Teiresias, created by Evgeny Knyazev, is filled with cunning, irony with a smirk, and pinch of madness—often present in depitions of prophets. This prophet managed to confuse everyone. At first he said that he was going to keep mum, and then suddenly he declared Oedipus the main culprit; at first he declared that he wanted to leave soon, and then, getting angry with Oedipus, delivered a long monologue in which one could hear either prophecy or condemnation. Eventually, he went away with a smirk, leaving Oedipus alone with the news, which may have come either from Apollo or from an insane old man.

The next confrontation is between Oedipus and Creon. The role of Creon is performed by Eldar Tramov, a young actor of the Vakhtangov Theatre studio. Tuminas is the first director to see in Creon not as a grown man or as a revered old man, but as a young man—a peer of Oedipus or someone even younger. Thus the potential for conflict has been maximized, as collision between peers, whose positions in the royal house are relatively equal, with fewer moderating forces than struggles between people with big age differences.

At the beginning of the play, Tramov’s Creon is the total opposite of Oedipus; he is lenient, weak-willed, enthusiastic, affectionate towards everybody and everything, and in adoration of his place in the royal house next to his sister Jocasta. Without lifting a finger, Creon can rule the city and enjoy the benefits of the royal house, and therefore is quite self-sufficient. That is how he looks when we first see him, on his way from Delphi, in the prologue. Here we can sense the brewing confrontation between him and Oedipus, which is not obvious but implied. Creon is laid-back and self-assured (Tuminas gave Tramov a clue that in Delphi they had already promised Creon that he would soon ascend to the throne); Oedipus is irritated by Creon’s mannerisms and even by the sheer presence of his wife’s brother. Like many kings, Oedipus suspects that his brother-in-law covets the throne.

In the second episode, Tramov conveys a sharp change in the manner of Creon’s behavior. It seems that for the first time the royal son does not look laid-back anymore, but rather fears that he is going to lose not only his position, but his life. He both believes and does not believe that he can die. Here he looks a bit like a holy fool; by hook or by crook he is holding onto his life, looking for support from everyone around him (the chorus, the audience) so that they could also persuade Oedipus that Creon is good and not guilty.

In the second to last episode, there is another collision, this time between the messenger from Corinth and the herdsman from Thebes. In Epidaurus and Athens, the Corinthian was performed by Valery Ushakov, and the Theban by Artur Ivanov; in Moscow, the cast of Oedipus was joined by Oleg Forostenko (the Corinthian) and Ruben Simonov (the Theban). I do not remember any other production where the director managed to reveal the war between the two messengers of Sophocles so convincingly, or where the actors conveyed it so impressively. The Theban wants to hide the truth about the baby with broken ankles, which the Corinthian is trying to reveal. The Theban knows that the truth will bring woe, the Corinthian is, on the contrary, positive that the truth will bring happiness to everyone and an award to him. The Theban has forever blamed himself for not being able to kill the baby (when asked why, he shouts in despair: “Through pity…”); the Corinthian, on the contrary, has always been happy as a result of his giving the baby to the house of the Corinthian king and deserving an award.

Only one character of the tragedy remains outside the battle: Jocasta, the wife and mother of Oedipus, a character created by Lyudmila Maksakova. When she first appears on stage (in the second and longest episode), Jocasta tries not to wage war, but to make peace between Oedipus and Creon.

In a conversation, Tuminas confessed that it is Jocasta who is the main character of his story. Jocasta is depicted as a strong and wise woman, mother, queen and patroness of the royal house, and the closest friend and advisor to her young husband and her young brother. Indeed, it is in Jocasta that Oedipus and Creon find strength and confidence; it is she who is the pillar of the kingdom.

Jocasta, in this production, is never happy, for she has suffered the utmost hardships which can befall a woman: the loss of a newborn child, the loss of her husband, the fatal disbelief in the justice of gods, and the suffering that from that disbelief. Only once does she utter an exclamation which sounds like an expression of happiness, when she hears that Polybus (whom Oedipus considered his father) died, which means that the prophecy about patricide failed. Yet even this exclamation is mixed with bitterness, for what can be joyful in the fact that the gods lie? Their lies put into question the very existence of truth in the human world. The conversation with the Corinthian herdsman has led her (earlier than Oedipus, because she is wiser) to the discovery of the terrible incestuous relationship—her marriage to a young husband which gave her temporary hope. This discovery was followed by the verdict—“Put to death!”—which she pronounced to herself. In listening to the ending of the herdsman’s monologue and bidding farewell to Oedipus by promising to be “silent evermore,” she immediately enforced the verdict without hesitation.

The composer for the production, Faustas Latenas, composed a splendid musical theme for Jocasta. It has beauty and yearning for flight, but at the same time, deep sadness and hopelessness, as if a man inhaled, flapped his wings and started towards the sky, but this was instantly followed by an exhale, accompanied by the understanding that the wings refused to fly, for there was not enough strength. One more flap—again no strength. Once in the performance this melody is performed by Oedipus; at the end of the chorus’s part following the second episode, he paces the stage, playing the saxophone, and the chorus picks up the tune. This happens right after a statement by the chorus that both in the royal house and Thebes there is disbelief in gods: “Apollo is forsook and faith grows cold.” Soon we will learn from Jocasta that it is Oedipus who is restless because he anticipates woe. Jocasta’s theme serves as the musical symbol of this premonition and becomes the theme for Oedipus, and the leitmotif of the entire production.  

Rehearsal of Oedipus at the Vahktangov Theatre, Moscow. Photo: Vahktangov Theatre.

Before singing along with Oedipus, the chorus members put on military helmets, covering their faces. The chorus’s helmets and their action of singing with Oedipus’s saxophone were both introduced specifically for the Moscow production. Helmets replace masks, behind which the choreuts seem to be hiding from their own disbelief and shame, from their own unwillingness to stay in the chorus and sing, addressing the gods, who, according to the kings, lie. A few seconds before the saxophone, the chorus angrily reproaches the tyrants for their pride in front of the gods, and the choreuts are almost ready to dissolve and leave the stage in order not to praise the proud men—a witty reaction by Tuminas to the line: “If sin like this to honor can aspire, why dance I still and lead the sacred choir?”. Then they sadly get back together, and in order not to become proud men themselves, put on their helmet-masks and start singing along with the tune played by Oedipus. The choreuts see disbelief in themselves; through them the whole city is filled with the mood of despair, anticipation of woe, shame, and a desire to hide from the gaze of heaven. The beautiful tune of Latenas reminds more of a former beauty of a life which will never return.

The music and sounds created by Latenas deserve special mention; they play an important part in the success of Oedipus Rex. It was noted long ago that Tuminas’s productions are musical, and musicality is their inner, essential feature. Director Tuminas and composer Latenas share this musicality of thinking; their long-term co-creation in theatre is not accidental. In Oedipus, as in their previous productions, all their meaningful accents are musical, the periods of stage action are similar to musical phrases, the dynamic of action is picked up by music, and the dramatic turning points are accentuated with the intrusion of a sound composition. Almost every sound on stage becomes an element of the show’s monolithic musical palette.

Two musical themes define Oedipus : first, the aforementioned theme for Jocasta, and second, the theme of the loud, “beastly” breathing of fate, taking an active part in the life of Oedipus and the members of his household.

The set designer of the production, Adomas Jacovskis, created an impressive physical embodiment of “the machine of fate,” a topic thoroughly covered by critics and journalists. It is a giant cylinder with small square holes along its surface, relating to a huge clock mechanism, a mammoth music box, or probably an execution machine that will crush flat everyone who is doomed to lie under it. The “beastly” breathing and heartbeat of this machine was shaped by Latenas into a powerful musical and rhythmic theme—exhaling smoke, restlessly swinging and at the end rolling towards the auditorium and almost reaching the footlights—which is heard more and more often as the show approaches its conclusion.

The image of an object of fate that rolls over the people is highly characteristic of the artistic world of Tuminas and Jacovskis. In 1997, in The Masquerade of the Small Theatre of Vilnius, the image of a growing snowball was introduced. It was supposed to crush the main character at the end. In 1998 in Oedipus in Vilnius that very “machine of fate” was also in action—a cylindrical pipe with square holes, but of a slightly different shape and smaller size than what was needed for the orchestra of Epidaurus and stage of the Vakhtangov Theatre, which are much larger spaces. In 2001, in Vilnius, at the National Theatre of Lithuania, Inspector General opened, in which a giant “church” with a small cupola flew over the stage. It was made in a simplified manner and therefore resembled blind pagan dolls; it was swiping away every trouble the people stirred, and moved towards them as a giant ghost, but they still failed to notice it.

Therefore, Oedipus Rex, from the scenographic point of view, is on one hand a reminiscence of the productions by Tuminas and Jacovskis from the turn of the twenty-first century. On the other hand, “the machine of fate,” embodied by a pipe, rolling towards the actors and audience, is an impressive symbol of doom in our time, as well as an object that fits into both the open stage and the black box stage.

In both Epidaurus and Athens, the technical conditions of the stages did not allow for the giant pipe “roll over” the first row of the audience, so that the whole auditorium could feel the doom heavily hanging over it. However, this worked marvelously on the Vakhtangov stage. Therefore, the ending of Oedipus became famous and already left a mark in the history of contemporary theatre: two girls in white dresses—Oedipus’s daughters, Antigone and Ismene—are trying to escape the terrifying roll, running towards the footlights and attempt to roll it in the direction of the backdrop, but it advances anyway. When the girls run away in fear, “the machine of fate” goes fully into effect; it freely rolls over the audience, swings, emanates smoke, breathes loudly, and one could hear a giant heart beating, which sounds either like a threat or like the guarantee of life.

This ending is the result of a wise insight that Tuminas had during the final rehearsals. According to the initial concept, the production was supposed to end with the famous moralizing speculation of Sophocles’s chorus:

Look ye, countrymen and Thebans, this is Oedipus the great, He who knew the Sphinx’s riddle and was mightiest in our state. Who of all our townsmen gazed not on his fame with envious eyes? Now, in what a sea of troubles sunk and overwhelmed he lies! Therefore wait to see life’s ending ere thou count one mortal blest; Wait till free from pain and sorrow he has gained his final rest.

During the rehearsals in Athens two last lines of this chorus part were edited out; eventually, before the very departure for Epidaurus, this whole chorus part was edited out. Our age does not accept direct moralizing, and Tuminas decided that a visual and sound image would do a much better job for the ending; the subsequent performances fully proved that. The last words before the ending of the Vakhtangov Oedipus are the king’s words about his daughters, addressed to Creon:

O leave them not to wander poor, unwed, Thy kin, nor let them share my low estate. O pity them so young…

The “machine of fate” brought Oedipus to stage twice: in the first episode, when he, solemnly put his hand on a staff and gave a loud promise to spare the city of abomination, and in the last episode, when Oedipus, broken by woe and turned into an old man, with both hands on the staff as his only support, delivered his farewell monologue before exile. Victor Dobronravov splendidly conveyed this change in Oedipus through the means of acting: from the stately king in full attire at the beginning (who seemed huge), to the frail old man in a canvas robe at the end. It seems that he has downsized two times, lost body volume, slumped and “shrunk” because of the hardships befalling him.

This very “machine of fate” brought towards the backdrop the characters who held onto it with one hand, as on a rack: Oedipus before the final monologue and the member of Oedipus’s household telling what happened in the house after Oedipus discovered Jocasta who had hanged herself.

Viktor Dobronravov as Oedipus. Photo: Valery Myasnikov.

Maksim Sevrinovsky, an actor of the Vakhtangov Theatre studio, plays Sophocles’ Messenger, interpreted by Tuminas as a member of Oedipus’s household. Normally, directors bring the Messenger to stage precisely at the moment when the audience needs to be told how Jocasta hanged herself and Oedipus stabbed out his eyes. In this production, the Messenger, who delivers the monologue at the end, appears at the very beginning of the show as a silent character. As the majority of Thebans, he is fatally ill, his face is covered with a bandage; he is a reminder of the pestilence that befell the city and is inevitably getting to the royal house. Sevrinovsky’s monologue, permeated with the feeling of horror caused by current events, is handled through the physical conveying of visual images that were witnessed by the Messenger; in describing how Jocasta hanged herself, he tightens the band near his neck; in speaking about the blinding of Oedipus he uses powerful and energetic gestures to show how Oedipus stabbed himself in the eyes multiple times. Closer to the ending of the monologue he removes the bandage and reveals huge, blind eyes in black caves. We can hear the loud, intermittent breathing of a man, who is inhaling for the last time before his death. This is an impressive precursor to the final monologue of blinded Oedipus.

Tuminas, as it is customary, introduced a number of characters, who were not among the original dramatis personae. Those include the Soldier (Pavel Yudin, actor of the Vakhtangov Theatre studio) and the Lady with the Wings (Ekaterina Simonova), who both live on the stage from the first moments of the production.

The Soldier is the instrument of Oedipus’s vindictive plans and threats: his endlessly faithful dog; the guard of his house, tirelessly running in circles (this running around the orchestra marked the beginning of the performance in Epidaurus); a threat to the enemies of Oedipus and participant in his bullying of Creon (Oedipus jokingly crowns the Soldier with Creon’s golden wreath when he wants to execute his brother in law); and eventually, the king’s most loyal subject, crying more than others, when the entire truth about Oedipus is revealed.

The director and actress created the character of the Lady with the Wings, inspired by the image of the Sphinx, which was defeated by Oedipus. According to the myth, Oedipus solved her riddle, thus facing deflecting threats from Thebes, and the Sphinx ended her life by jumping off a cliff. Tuminas, true to his manner of posing non-conventional questions to traditional tales (“and what if it did not happen this way…”), made an assumption that Sphinx had not died, instead becoming a captive and servant in Oedipus’s house, always accompanying the queen, Jocasta. As a result, they came up with an image of a girl with huge wings: raven-haired, with deep black eyes, and beautiful in a strange, exquisite way. She flaps her wings—at times black, at times white—but it is understood that she will never take off again. Because of that, her beauty is combined with sadness, as in Jocasta’s musical theme. Ekaterina Simonova’s movements are smooth and harmonious, as a ritual dance, but she often bends down in a gesture of submission, folding her wings behind the back. Here we see the image of power and beauty, going beyond all human capabilities, and yet defeated by man, living joylessly like the rest of the people in Oedipus’s house.

In Oedipus of the Small Theatre in Vilnius (1998) there was also a winged maiden. However, she was more like a small white angel and her image was more ironic than filled with sadness caused by beauty in captivity. Generally, in the Lithuanian production there was much more irony, laughter, and more props; they had a big figure of a tiger, and the manner of communication between the characters was closer to prose than to poetry.

The Lithuanian production had success, and performed in Russia, too, where it played at the Baltic House festival. This makes it especially interesting to compare the two versions of Oedipus in Vilnius and Moscow.

Firstly, the scenography of the Moscow production was “cleaner” and more reserved. Secondly (and perhaps most importantly), in Oedipus at the Vakhtangov there was much less irony than in the Lithuanian version; its structure has become simpler, it is now much more serious, in the tradition of classical tragedy.

Of course, even in this version there were moments when the director and actors found humor appropriate. For instance, for some reason Creon is late on his way back from Delphi, and the audience feels some kind of a funny fear—how long is the delay going to be? (They do not have to wait for long.) During the second episode, Creon, maddened by anticipation of execution, which Oedipus threatened him with, suddenly and desperately bursts into singing a popular Greek song about love “Eim’ aetos choris ftera / Choris agapi kai chara” (“I am an eagle without wings/ without love and joy”). Or the moment, when the chorus, condemning the tyrants and flying into a rage caused by righteous anger, suddenly leaves the stage, refusing to continue its performance. After hearing that, the audience in Epidaurus burst into laughter, because for a moment it seemed that the performance, which had sold 7000 tickets, could be suddenly interrupted before the ending.

These moments, however, do not distract from the most important thing: creators of the production managed to achieve the incredible seriousness and acuteness of tragedy—a seriousness unheard of and forgotten these days. In the era of the “post-” (postmodernism, postdramatism, postculture, metatheatre, etc.), it sometimes seems impossible to hold the audience’s attention without tricks, jokes, and laughs. The ancient tragedy of Oedipus, with its themes of human dignity, responsibility for crime, crisis of belief in the divine, helplessness of royal power in the face of conscience, frightening discoveries of truth about oneself, and heroism in self-knowledge, arouses compassion and fear, as Aristotle would put it, in an auditorium with 1100 seats.

Evgeny Knyazev as Tiresias. Photo: Valery Myasnikov.

Of course, a lot in the Moscow Oedipus was determined by the venue of the first performance in Epidaurus. The Moscow audience might get a sense that all the Vakhtangov actors play “with memory” of the magical land named the Argolis, with its sea, mixed with healing springs, the best oranges and olives in Greece, and with the thousands of audience members in the ancient theatre at twilight during the premiere. The Moscow Oedipus resonates far beyond the Vakhtangov theatre. The words of the actors leave the stage and go above beyond the walls, balconies, and gallery, in the direction of the place dedicated to the cult of Asclepius and Apollo, connected in our mind with material and spiritual catharsis. They play with memory of the most beautiful theatre in the world—the first theatre with an ideally round orchestra, erected in the sanctuary of Asclepius, it seems, specifically for the purpose of healing through visual harmony and magical energy.

And I will remember how, at the beginning of the performance in ancient Epidaurus, two laughing girls in white dresses were running against the background of the black forest—how, accompanied by the rumbling theme of fate, huge shadows of birds, carried on high poles by the choreuts, were flying above the ground and branches of trees—how the grove surrounding the theatre in Epidaurus, was alive with sound, because Tuminas and Latenas made a witty decision to put the speakers close to the trees behind the orchestra—and finally, how at the very end of Oedipus a complete blackout occurred. The only light reaching the people, was coming from the stars in the night skies: therefore all the thousands of people in the audience—in those several seconds of silence before the final applause—raised their heads up to the sky.

English translation by Anna Shulgat.

Dmitry Trubotchkin (Moscow, Russia) is Doctor of Sciences in Art Studies; Head of Department at the State Institute for Art Studies; Vice-rector and Chair of Art Studies and Humanities at the Higher School of Performing Arts; Professor of Theatre Studies at the Russian Institute of Theatre Arts (GITIS). He has published extensively (in Russian, English and Italian) and presented at conferences around the world on European classical theatre and on contemporary Russian theatre. His most recent monographs, in Russian, include: Ancient Greek Theatre (Moscow, 2016); Rimas Tuminas: Moscow Productions (Moscow, 2015).

European Stages, vol. 10, no. 1 (Fall 2017)

Editorial Board:

Marvin Carlson, Senior Editor, Founder

Krystyna Illakowicz, Co-Editor

Dominika Laster, Co-Editor

Kalina Stefanova, Co-Editor

Editorial Staff:

Taylor Culbert, Managing Editor

Nick Benacerraf, Editorial Assistant

Advisory Board:

Joshua Abrams Christopher Balme Maria Delgado Allen Kuharsky Bryce Lease Jennifer Parker-Starbuck Magda Romańska Laurence Senelick Daniele Vianello Phyllis Zatlin

Table of Contents:

  • The 2017 Avignon Festival: July 6 – 26, Witnessing Loss, Displacement, and Tears by Philippa Wehle
  • A Reminder About Catharsis: Oedipus Rex by Rimas Tuminas, A Co-Production of the Vakhtangov Theatre and the National Theatre of Greece by Dmitry Trubochkin
  • The Kunstenfestivaldesarts 2017 in Brussels by Manuel Garcia Martinez
  • A Female Psychodrama as Kitchen Sink Drama: Long Live Regina! in Budapest by Gabriella Schuller
  • Madrid’s Theatre Takes Inspiration from the Greeks by Maria Delgado
  • A (Self)Ironic Portrait of the Artist as a Present-Day Man by Maria Zărnescu
  • Throw The Baby Away With the Bath Water?: Lila, The Child Monster of The B*easts by Shastri Akella
  • Report from Switzerland by Marvin Carlson
  • A Cruel Theatricality: An Essay on Kjersti Horn’s Staging of the Kaos er Nabo Til Gud ( Chaos is the Neighbour of God ) by Eylem Ejder
  • Szabolcs Hajdu & the Theatre of Midlife Crisis: Self-Ironic Auto-Bio Aesthetics on Hungarian Stages by Herczog Noémi
  • Love Will Tear Us Apart (Again): Katie Mitchell Directs Genet’s Maids by Tom Cornford
  • 24th Edition of Sibiu International Theatre Festival: Spectacular and Memorable by Emiliya Ilieva
  • Almagro International Theatre Festival: Blending the Local, the National and the International by Maria Delgado
  • Jess Thom’s Not I & the Accessibility of Silence by Zoe Rose Kriegler-Wenk
  • Theatertreffen 2017: Days of Loops and Fog by Lily Kelting
  • War Remembered Onstage at Reims Stages Europe: Festival Report by Dominic Glynn

www.EuropeanStages.org

[email protected]

Martin E. Segal Theatre Center:

Frank Hentschker, Executive Director

Marvin Carlson, Director of Publications

Rebecca Sheahan, Managing Director

©2016 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center

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L.A. hotel’s homeless residents forced school to shut down, lawsuit says

Academy of Media Arts Principal Dana Hammond in the lobby area of the school.

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All across the Academy of Media Arts, there are signs of an active campus life.

School projects are still plastered on the walls; books are strewn on tables; apples sit uneaten in the cafeteria.

What is missing are the students — some 50 ninth- through 12th-graders, many from low-income Black and Latino families, who were forced to scramble after the private high school in downtown Los Angeles abruptly shut its doors Jan. 15.

The school occupied the first three floors of the L.A. Grand Hotel, which since 2021 has been used as temporary housing for hundreds of homeless Angelenos. The school’s founder, Dana Hammond, filed a breach of contract lawsuit in January against the building’s owner, claiming that the presence of so many homeless people made the campus unsafe, forcing it to close.

A syringe on the ground.

In an interview, he also blamed Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass for repeatedly extending the city’s lease at the property for her Inside Safe interim housing program.

“Human poop on sidewalk. The smell of urine across campus. Outburst from ‘Inside Safe’ tenants. Break-ins by ‘Inside Safe’ tenants. Drug paraphernalia found on campus. ‘Inside Safe’ tenants found in trash bins,” read comments left on a classroom whiteboard.

Asked about Hammond’s allegations, Clara Karger, a spokesperson for Bass, said in a statement that the city heightened security at the Grand by installing more fencing, conducting on-site visits to address the school’s concerns and collaborating with the academy’s security personnel to respond to urgent calls.

When Hammond signed the lease to move his school into the L.A. Grand in 2022, it was the culmination of nearly two decades of work.

His school, which began in a South Los Angeles church, now had its own space where the students could have access to state-of-the-art facilities.

After an aggressive recruiting campaign pushed the student body up to 250, a mass exodus began, dropping the enrollment to around 50. Hammond said that by mid-January, he was unable to pay the $100,000 monthly rent.

Reports compiled by school security and reviewed by The Times describe incidents involving the hotel’s residents, including a man threatening to fight security outside the school’s gate; a woman exposing herself to students at 9:30 a.m.; another woman lying completely naked behind the school, who threatened to “shoot and stab” a security officer when confronted; a man who broke into the school through the back.

Academy of Media Arts school principal Dana Hammond stands in the school's outdoor amphitheater.

“Our students’ lives were in jeopardy because of the Inside Safe residents,” Hammond said. “We’re not enemies of the homeless shelter, we just can’t put them in the same building as a high school.”

But records reviewed by The Times show that the school had long struggled with problems not directly connected to the homeless presence.

For years, the academy operated as a Los Angeles Unified School District charter school, which meant it received funding from the California Department of Education but maintained a level of autonomy over its operations. As a private school, the school obtained funding through donors and tuition.

The academy had been scrutinized by LAUSD for failing to meet academic standards as students fell behind in subjects such as math and English. The school also failed to do proper criminal background clearances for teachers and had seven different principals over a four-year period, according to LAUSD records.

“The charter school’s current academic performance levels are not meeting the academic needs of its students,” the LAUSD’s Charter School Division wrote in a “notice of violation” report on the Academy of Media Arts in April 2023.

While Hammond disputed the allegations, the school converted from charter to private later that year.

LAUSD officials did not respond to requests for comment on the district’s former relationship with the academy.

Hammond didn’t directly respond to The Times inquiry about the notice of violation, sharing instead a document from 2020 that detailed how the academy would address concerns over teacher credentialing.

In the lawsuit, Hammond claimed that the hotel’s owner said the homeless residents would be moved out soon after the school moved in. But that did not happen.

The hotel is owned by Chinese billionaire Wei Huang, whose real estate company, Shen Zhen New World I, was found guilty of fraud and bribery charges in connection with the corruption case involving disgraced former Councilmember José Huizar.

A judge fined Shen Zhen $4 million .

Huang was charged with bribery and fraud in the case. He fled the country after the FBI began executing search warrants in 2018 and is considered a fugitive by the U.S. attorney’s office.

“Huang repeatedly made false and misleading representations to suggest that the L.A. Grand Hotel would cease to be a homeless shelter in the near future, despite the fact that Huang had no intention of terminating the lucrative agreement,” wrote lawyers for Hammond and Dennis L. Smith, who hopes to open a nightclub on the roof of the hotel and joined Hammond in the lawsuit.

Russ Cox, a representative for Huang’s company and himself a defendant in the case, declined to comment.

Dennis L. Smith stands near a reflection of him.

Huang acquired the Grand in 2010, operating it as a four-star, 14-story hotel described on social media as an “urban oasis.”

In 2021, the Grand became a site for Project Roomkey, a federally funded program that provided shelter to unhoused people at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city has paid Shen Zhen more than $25 million since the academy opened at the site in 2022, according to city records.

“The mayor’s office does not condone the behavior of the fugitive owner of the Grand,” Karger, the mayor’s spokesperson, said in a statement to The Times.

The city continued operations with L.A. Grand — and added more residents — after Bass took office in late 2022, even with the academy already present at the building.

The city extended its lease to continue operating the shelter through the end of July. The extension will cost $20 million, including $13.9 million for the lease and food and $6.8 million for services, according to the city records.

The mayor’s office did not respond directly when asked by The Times whether it might seek further extensions beyond July 31. In a statement, Karger said the L.A. Grand’s residents are expected to begin moving to the Mayfair Hotel in May.

“The L.A. Grand has brought hundreds of unhoused individuals inside from the tough elements of living on the streets. The work continues to save lives every day,” Karger said.

Around the school the sidewalks are strewn with garbage, empty liquor bottles and even discarded syringes. The sign welcoming visitors to the Academy of Media Arts is graffitied over.

 Graffiti on a school sign, trash and an abandoned scooter in front of the Academy of Media Arts school.

“We moved from the church to the hotel, which I thought was a wonderful idea before I found out about the homeless shelter,” said Mary Tascian Williams, who worked at the school from June 2022 until it shut down.

Williams said she used to spend much of her day walking the floors making sure no one broke into the school.

On Jan. 10, an intruder broke into the school lobby just minutes after students had gone to lunch in a different part of the campus.

When approached by the security guard, the man said, “They are trying to kill me,” according to an school incident report.

It took numerous LAPD officers to subdue him, the report said.

Hammond said the episode left students afraid and him at a loss for how to protect the teens. On Jan. 12, Hammond and more than a dozen students went to a City Council meeting to speak about the problems.

A man walks up a stairwell.

He met with Councilmember Kevin de León, who spoke about the issue at the meeting and toured the school that night.

“The location raised legitimate and serious concerns for students, faculty, and staff, especially regarding breaches into the school by the residents of the Grand,” De León told The Times in a statement. “It was my hope in meeting with parents and administrators that we could avoid the school’s closure which has become a real tragedy for Black and Brown students and parents alike.”

At the hearing, De León questioned the mayor’s office on when it planned to exit the Grand and move Inside Safe participants into the Mayfair Hotel. Officials did not provide a timeline.

“When the mayor first took office in December 2022 we were very much aware there were security concerns, public safety concerns,” Lourdes Castro Ramírez, the mayor’s chief housing and homelessness officer, said at the council meeting. “There were immediate actions taken to increase security, bring in service providers. … I take their concerns very seriously and plan to follow up to better understand how to resolve these issues.”

Her comments came after three students cried at the council meeting. Others spoke about how much they loved the school and how sad they would be to lose it.

A security guard patrols the carpeted halls of the L.A. Grand Hotel.

“I’m not against the Inside Safe program. I want all the homeless people to have a safe place to live. But they can’t be doing that while my education and the education of my peers are at stake,” student Alex Hernandez said. “I feel threatened because this is very dangerous.”

Times staff writer David Zahniser contributed to this report.

More to Read

Los Angeles, CA - Portrait of Clifton Grant outside his new home at Hollywood Le Bon Hotel on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023, in Los Angeles, CA. Mayor Karen Bass is at the one-year mark with Inside Safe, an initiative that has moved 1,950 homeless people indoors over the past year. Grant now has a room at the Hollywood Le Bon Hotel, and says it's like he "won the lottery." (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Bass, one year in: Progress on homelessness but still a steep climb

Dec. 11, 2023

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 06: Mayor Karen Bass, accompanied by Richard J. Monocchio, left, HUD Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, and Los Angeles City Council members Nithya Raman, extreme left, Hugo Soto-Martinez and Bob Blumenfield, addresses a press conference on a city block cleaned from houseless persons on 6600 block of Selma Avenue on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023 in Los Angeles, CA. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Column: Is L.A. actually solving homelessness? The answer will start with perception, not reality

Dec. 10, 2023

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 06: Mayor Karen Bass, left, speaks Darnell Woods, a houseless person, after a press conference held on a city block cleaned from houseless persons on 6600 block of Selma Avenue on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023 in Los Angeles, CA. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Bass says L.A. has put 21,000 homeless people into interim housing. Here’s what that means

Dec. 7, 2023

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Noah Goldberg covers breaking news for the Los Angeles Times. He worked previously in New York City as the Brooklyn courts reporter for the New York Daily News, covering major criminal trials as well as working on enterprise stories. Before that, he was the criminal justice reporter for the Brooklyn Eagle.

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Angie Orellana Hernandez is a 2023-24 reporting fellow at the Los Angeles Times. She previously worked at The Times as an arts and entertainment intern. She graduated from USC, where she studied journalism and Spanish. Prior to joining The Times, she covered entertainment, as well as human interest, legal and crime stories at E! News. Her writing can also be found in USA Today, the Boston Globe, CNN and KCRA3.

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Nine new wax figures of American presidents are seen at Madame Tussauds in Washington, on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010. The attraction plans to open a new gallery featuring all 44 American president figures in the fall of 2010. Back row left to right are Andrew Jackson, Gerald Ford, James Garfield, William Henry Harrison, James Buchanan, Grover Cleveland, and Chester Alan Arthur. Front row are John Quincy Adams, left, and Andrew Johnson. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Alexander Mikhailovich Makhotkin

Biography and information.

Born in 1945 in Novosibirsk. He lives in Elektrostal, Moscow region. After high school he studied at the Art school "Memory of 1905" at the painting Department. In 1975 he graduated from the graphic faculty of the Moscow state art Institute. VI Surikov (workshop poster Professor N.. Ponomareva), where his teachers were artists P. Rayner, M. N. Aleksic, O. M. Savostyuk.

Since 1975 a permanent participant of Russian, all-Union and foreign exhibitions. Together with artists by PetroChina L. I. and A. I. Solopov created mural paintings to art exhibitions in Moscow Manege. Since 1975, a member of the Moscow regional organization of Union of artists of Russia.

In 1995 he transferred to the Moscow Union of artists (Association of graphic artists of easel painting).

The work of M. A. Makhotkina are in the State Russian Museum, in the collections of the artists 'Union of USSR, artists' Union of Russia, Ministry of culture, the Museum of A. Gerasimov, Michurinsk and other, as well as in private collections in Germany, England, France, Japan, South Korea, USA, Thailand etc. countries.

  • Learning Moscow Institute of fine arts named after V.I. Surikov Moscow regional art school of memory of 1905

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Two trees frame an orange and grey building.

Canadian teacher accused of selling students’ art on personal website

Parents in disbelief after students at Montreal’s Westwood junior high found their art for purchase on mugs, phone cases and clothes

A Canadian teacher is under fire for allegedly using his personal website to sell nearly 100 pieces of art created by students, prompting disbelief and anger from parents.

Students at Montreal’s Westwood junior high school made the chance discovery last night after searching out their art teacher’s website. On it they found their own art, available for purchase on coffee mugs, mobile phone cases and clothing.

“Imagine your 13 year-old son coming home from school today with a story that his art teacher is selling students’ artwork online at $94 per drawing without their prior knowledge!? That is completely insane,” parent Joel DeBellefeuille posted on social media . “I’m sure I’m not the only parent that wants answers.”

The teacher, identified as Mario Perron by CTV News, did not respond to the Guardian’s request for comment. On his website, the Montreal resident describes himself as a “life-long student of art” whose works appear in private collections in Canada, the US, Spain and Italy.

More than 90 works are still visible on the site , with the titles of many works – Julia’s Creepy Portrait, Charlotte’s Creepy Portrait – apparently referring to the names of students who created the art. As of Monday, the links to the art instead route to Perron’s paintings and the student art can no longer be purchased. Other social media accounts linked to Perron’s art have been taken down, including pages on Instagram and Facebook.

“I’m extremely disgusted with this person. It’s extremely, you know, it’s unbelievable,” Michael Bennett, who found work from both his daughters for sale, told CTV News. “Is [Perron] asking for these types of portraits to be done so it meets the market? I’m not quite sure on that aspect. However, I am not impressed at all with this person. I’m not impressed with the school, or the school board … [My daughters] feel cheated.”

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The school board said in a statement it was “aware of the situation and is taking these allegations very seriously”, adding an investigation was “underway” and the board would not comment.

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