Academics: Visual and Performing Arts

We encourage students to try a variety of classes – photography, ceramics, drawing, painting, music and theatre – in their freshman and sophomore years, thereby discovering a passion which they can pursue in greater depth during their years in the IB. We are committed to this variety of opportunities because we strongly believe that development of the creative potential is a crucial aspect of nurturing a well-rounded individual, and that the ability to understand, appreciate, enjoy and create art helps us achieve the life well-lived.


Jeff Perkins, a teacher of photo and ceramics at VVS for 33 years, says, “The students really do have freedom of expression; we encourage the freedom to make whatever you want to make. I always tell the kids ‘Making art is the only place where you are totally in charge of your life.’”

In the arts we put the philosophies of VVS and the IB into action by engaging students in the act of creation. The courses are designed to ignite passions, and then provide the skills needed for success. We strive for excellence in the arts, grounding our studies in an understanding of history, techniques, and practitioners from the discipline. We believe “arts literacy” is key to leading an exceptional life.

Introduction to Drawing is designed for beginning art students and offers a variety of approaches to freehand drawing. Projects include: drawing from still life, perspective drawing, oversize drawing, and abstract mark making. Each project culminates in a group critique which enables students to refine their visual vocabulary and learn to analyze, describe and interpret artwork.

Introduction to Painting introduces students to the basic tools, skills, and techniques used in oil painting, including studio safety, color theory, color mixing, and composition. After learning the basics, students will create work through a number of assignments, mostly representational works from life or from reference material. The last half of the trimester is dedicated to longer projects that tie into the course’s introduction to the history of painting.

Introduction to Ceramics focuses on learning basic throwing, hand building and glazing techniques. Students are taught how to wedge clay, center it, and form cylinders on the wheel. As the class progresses, they work on more difficult forms such as mugs, plates, lidded pieces, teapots and basic hand building techniques They learn how to glaze and fire these pieces, using both high fire and raku techniques. They will become proficient in both throwing and hand building.

Introduction to Photography students learn about the various parts of the camera and its operation in both manual and automatic modes. They learn how changes in the f-stop and the shutter speed affect the final image. They are given specific assignments, which allow them to use these effects artistically. They learn how to develop film in order to get a good quality negative, and how to make a beautiful black and white print with full tonal range. They are also introduced to the work of many famous photographers.

Introduction to Music is intended to introduce the student to fundamental concepts and the skills needed to be a well-rounded and knowledgeable musician and to prepare them for IB level courses. Concepts covered include instruments, sound, music rudiments, musicianship skills, listening, and music technology. The course is open to students regardless of previous experience. VVS has guitars, keyboards and percussion instruments available for use. Students wishing to study other instruments must provide them. Major assessment includes theory exam.

Introduction to Theatre students are introduced to the basics of theatre-making, largely through games and exercises designed to expand the uses of the body and voice and awareness of the aspects of performance as an actor and ensemble. Students are asked to participate fully in class and reflect on their experiences in a journal. Students will learn some aspects of production (lights, costuming, sound, stage management, etc.) and will employ these skills in helping to produce a short play, scene, skit or one-act at the end of the trimester.

IB Visual Arts SL & HL, 1 & 2: Drawing & Painting students work on assignments that explore different styles, techniques, and subjects, creating about one project each month. Throughout the course, students will record their studio progress and processes in their Investigation Work Books (IWB), which will also document their self-guided research into artists, art history, and techniques. In the second year, students work on independent projects, guided by their own interests. Throughout the course, students will be assessed on their improvement in technique, concepts, planning, pacing, research, and response to criticism. The course concludes with assessment of their IWBs and a final art show. No prior art experience is required.

IB Visual Arts SL & HL, 1 & 2: Ceramics students become competent in throwing, hand building and a variety of glazing techniques. They concentrate on throwing and hand building sculptural pieces or a combination of both. They will be taught advanced glazing and firing techniques including those for stoneware, raku and pit firing. They are also introduced to many ceramic artists’ works from different cultures. Each student will also have an investigative work book (IWB) to write in and record their journey through this class. It will contain ideas, sketches, photos, independent research and writings about the class.

IB Visual Arts SL & HL, 1 & 2: Photography students become competent in basic darkroom techniques and know how a 35mm camera works. They will learn advanced printing and toning techniques and have the opportunity to use different camera formats such as the 2-1/4 and the 4+5 view camera. They are introduced to the work of many famous photographers from different cultures. Each student will also have an investigative work book (IWB) to write in and record their journey through this class. It will contain ideas, sketches, photos, independent research, personal reflection and writings about the class.

IB Music SL & HL, 1 & 2 introduces the student to fundamental concepts and the skills needed to be a well-rounded and knowledgeable musician and to prepare for the IB exam. Concepts covered will be, Western classical music, Jazz, world music, instruments, sound, music rudiments, score reading, music analysis and musicianship skills. As well, extensive, broad-based listening will be required and basic music technology (MIDI and notation software) will be covered.

IB Theatre SL 1 & 2 is organized into the exploration of three categories of study and experience. Theatre in the Making focuses on the creation and experience of theatre through games and exercises which develop skills; Theatre in Production requires students to employ these skills in performance, and to learn about the “behind-the-scenes” and technical aspects of production; and Theatre in the World introduces students to theatre practices from diverse cultures and time periods, and may include incorporating some of these aspects into their own practices as theatre creators and performers. HL students are expected to take greater initiative in exploring their personal interests in theatre.