Upper School (6-8)
Art & Art History


Upper School art students at The Academy are provided with compelling material that excites and challenges their thinking. We dive far beneath the surface, and we study each famous artist, ancient civilization, or artistic concept in depth. Each grade level discovers a different portion of the art history timeline, and students gain new perspectives on material taught in other subjects, such as History and Latin. Students will make meaningful connections to areas of study in Art History by applying similar art-making techniques to their own practice in studio art. Students experience the work of both contemporary and historical artists through slideshow presentations, visual media, and research projects. They draw upon their own diverse experiences and make perceptive observations during our lively classroom discussions of art. Critique and self-reflection play an important role in artistic growth. Students practice providing constructive artistic critiques, and they learn to utilize feedback from others.
Lessons on contour line drawing, shading techniques, proportion and composition build the artistic foundation for students in all Upper School grades. Seeing the way light and shadow hit the objects they attempt to draw helps students to depict realism in their work. Each class studies aspects of color theory and color relationships. Common to all grade levels in Upper School are lessons on landscape, still life, and portraiture. All students work with acrylic paints to create vibrant self-portraits on canvas.
Working with recycled materials is an exercise in creative thinking. It’s also an opportunity to think about the waste stream and how we can better handle our discards to benefit the earth. Every alternate year, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students repurpose a wide range of recycled materials to make fashion outfits inspired by a famous artist, an art movement, or something from art history. Our recycled materials fashion show is a highly-anticipated community event.
6th graders ponder why human beings create art as their unit on Prehistory begins. Painting on real papyrus pages stokes enthusiasm for ancient Egyptian artistry. Majestic terracotta warrior figures from ancient China inspire an art lesson. 6th graders scrutinize
the genius of Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci in-depth. Claude Monet ushers in a study of Impressionism. 6th graders also relish in learning how to use a sewing machine to stitch their own individually-styled aprons that they wear in art class
7th graders study the art and architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. Madhubani or Mithila artwork from India is examined in great detail. 7th graders explore African textile art (Kente, Adinkra, Adire). 7th graders study Sandro Botticelli and make their own contemporary versions of his Renaissance masterpiece The Birth of Venus. 7th graders emulate the surreal and abstract work of Catalan artist Joan Miró.
8th Grade art studies begin in Mesoamerica with pre-Columbian cultures. Focus shifts to Roman and Byzantine mosaics. The Limbourg Brothers’ masterful illuminated manuscripts inspire and impress. The paintings and sculptures of Renaissance artist Michelangelo are explored in-depth. Students use watercolors to create artistic interpretations of The Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Japanese artist Hokusai. A study of the various art periods of Pablo Picasso rounds out the 8th grade art experience.
In addition to the art history aspect of the curriculum, contemporary artists such as Jean Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Yayoi Kusama, Joseph Cornell, Anne Albers, David Hockney, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, René Magritte, Isamu Noguchi, Wangechi Mutu, Cai Guo-Qiang, and Kehinde Wiley are featured, as time permits. Artwork comes alive during field trips to the de Young, the Asian Art Museum, SFMOMA, Oakland Museum of California, and the Berkeley Art Museum.