Visual Arts

Two boys painting

Creating, Understanding, and Appreciating Art

Art is developed around the six formal components of design: color, line, form, shape, texture, and space. Students explore these concepts using many different kinds of materials and techniques through a variety of projects and experiences. Beyond acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary to create and respond to visual art, students explore the artistic achievements of cultures, past and present. The art curriculum is often integrated with other school subjects such as science, social science, and language arts.



Visual Arts in lower school is committed to celebrating diversity by embracing differences and valuing unique identities. The art studio is a place for students to explore themselves and connect to the community. In this program, students build an artistic mindset through the Studio Habits of Mind, developed by Harvard Project Zero researchers. This model fosters artistic thinking and emphasizes process over product. Children engage deeply and make their own meaning through the arts. Contemporary artists are showcased and studied through the lens of an essential question, for example, how do artists make meaningful change? Rather than try to replicate famous artworks or styles, young artists instead find inspiration and an opportunity to explore different mediums while grappling with these questions.

During each studio session artists look (observe art or learn a new technique), make (conceptualize and create unique art), care (clean up their materials and our space), then share (reflect on their process or comment positively on the work of others). This routine remains consistent across grades, but the questions that are explored and the techniques that are taught vary in developmentally appropriate ways. Students from Pre-K through 4th grade get to shine in the art studio!



Westside’s Middle School Visual Arts Program focuses on building confidence and community through a project-based learning approach. Students are encouraged to express themselves in a variety of media, relying on their imaginations, resourcefulness, and creative problem-solving skills. In the middle school art room, students building on their understanding of art fundamentals by asking, "what is my individual artistic process and how does my creative output enrich my community?" 

In 5th and 6th grade, students take a deep dive into the diverse world of materials, artists, and techniques. Throughout the school year, students work through a variety of individual and collaborative projects, building on the idea that when we are intentional and thoughtful, art can help us learn about ourselves, build skills applicable to any part of our lives, and affect real change in the world around us. Students have a lot of freedom to adapt each project to their own passions, creative styles, and imaginations. 

7th and 8th grade students have the opportunity to exercise even more choice in their arts curriculum by choosing a different elective each semester. Classes become more specialized in a particular visual art form. These classes include Photography, Mixed Media 101, Filmmaking, and History + Design of Fashion. 

Additionally, the Middle School Visual Arts Program places an emphasis on sharing artwork with the community. Students exhibit their works throughout the year, including during their MS Arts Showcase, organized in conjunction with the Music and Theater Programs, and at the Museum of Museums on Capitol Hill, organized in conjunction with Westside’s Lower School Arts Department. For each of these shows, students learn about the role of curation and exhibiting in healthy arts communities and they take leadership roles in planning, installing, and showing each other’s works.

6th grade girl holding a handmade pink cowboy hat with tinsel
Kindergarteners with bens and paper