The arts expose us to the richness of the past, the wisdom of diverse cultures, and new ways of thinking, feeling, and acting. Theatre, music, and visual arts are the means by which we define and enrich our human experience. The arts fill our need for meaning, build bridges to past generations, transcend the challenges of the present, and allow us to conceive the future. Through the arts, we are able to reflect upon, appreciate, and change who we are, both as individuals and as members of a larger community. And because they are an inseparable part of our humanity, the arts are fundamental to any complete education.
The Fine Arts Program at SEM presents a comprehensive survey of the arts, and is designed to promote each student’s personal growth through artistic expression. Guided by the fine arts faculty, students examine the history and philosophy of artistic expression, and actively participate in art, music, theatre, and dance. Each girl is challenged to test her own limits, and to discover and explore her unique potential.
SEM students are required to take two foundations courses, which give them an understanding of the basic elements that define the arts and an appreciation of how they impact everyday life. After freshman year, students may choose from semester electives in the visual arts, music, or theatre. Our ultimate goal is to cultivate talent and inspire each girl to develop a lifelong appreciation of the fine arts.
Each trimester the best of student work in the visual arts become an art show. Twice a year the theater club stages a play in our Margaret L. Wendt black box theater. Both our theatre and photography classes and clubs also air their works in progress and final pieces on Instagram.
Department Chair: Susan Drozd
Course DescriptionsIncluding current electives, though not all elective courses are offered each year or trimester.
Foundations in Art
This course focuses on the appreciation and understanding of the art world through the study of historical and aesthetic aspects of art. Much time is spent visiting the renowned Albright-Knox Art Gallery, where collaboration includes weekly instruction by a gallery curator. Skills learned in the course are: observing works of art for understanding of thematic content and historical perspective, learning how to critique and articulate ideas relevant to masterworks, and exploring how to gather research in order to have a better appreciation of art. Time is devoted to discussing visual literacy as it relates to contemporary media (film, TV, Internet). Because so much of the information people are processing currently is in visual format, it is as important to be literate visually as it is to be verbally. These skills will encourage students to find enjoyment in visiting art museums and in the media world.
Art and Social Activism
This course shows students how artists have used their creative expression to build public awareness about social and humanitarian struggles all over the world. Students will observe different forms of art, such as performance art, street art, documentary photography, and films and installations. By looking at artists’ work and discussing its impact, students will gain an understanding of how the arts, and even one single artist, can make a difference in the world we live in.
Contemporary Women in Photography
This is a foundations course that covers women’s contributions to photography from the early 1900’s to the present. In this course students learn that women have played an equal and sometimes greater role in the history of photography than men. Students are required to take quizzes about each photographer and also be able to identify their work.
Theatre Styles I
This course covers theatre performance and various forms of theatrical entertainment through the eyes of the following playwrights: Brecht, Albee, and Beckett. Students will not only cover the playwright but also the historical and psychological aspects of the plays as well. Students will identify different styles and their origins by reading plays and seeing performances. Through these phases of entertainment, students will discover different performance pieces, theatres, and personalities.
Theater Styles II
This course covers theatre performance and various forms of theatrical entertainment through the eyes of the following playwrights: Miller, Williams, and O’Neill (playwrights subject to change dependent upon theatre season). Students will not only cover the playwright but also the historical and psychological aspects of the plays as well. Students will identify different styles and their origins by reading plays and seeing performances. Through these phases of entertainment students will discover different performance pieces, theatres, and personalities.
Theatre Styles III
This course covers theatre performance and various forms of theatrical entertainment through the eyes of the following playwrights: Mamet, Kushner, and Ruehl (playwrights subject to change dependent upon theatre season). Students will not only cover the playwright but also the historical and psychological aspects of the plays as well. Students will identify different styles and their origins by reading plays and seeing performances. Through these phases of entertainment students will discover different performance pieces, theatres, and personalities
Graphic and Print Design
This course teaches students about communication, traditional typography, advertising and print design. A brief history of print design is covered as well as how women are portrayed in advertising. Using industry standard design and layout software, students work on projects ranging from business logos/identities and public service announcements to simple design and layout of multi-page documents.
Mixed Media Mash-up
Students will have opportunities to work with and combine a wide variety of materials that are usually confined to a particular course. Rather than focus on one specific type of art (i.e. painting, drawing, color design), students will use media from all the studio arts courses in one art experience. Graphite, charcoal, pastels, oil crayons, acrylics, colored pencil, watercolor and collage would be employed. Reproductions of original paintings and drawings made by the student will be reproduced, recycled and reinvented into more images and combined folios. Projects will focus on: thematic (concept) development, finding original solutions to art problems, mastering various skills and techniques, compositional understanding (use of the elements and principles of art) and developing a critical eye (aesthetics). Digital Art and Illustration and Mixed-Media Mash-Up are scheduled at the same time in order to rotate students enrolled in both courses to allow for some collaborative work. This way both classes have the opportunity to incorporate both digital and hands-on skills and to interact with each other. Each class has its own separate projects, and credit is given for the class for which the student is registered.
Digital Art and Illustration
Students learn how to paint and draw using digital tools and several types of 2D applications in the Mac lab. Digital Art and Illustration and Mixed-Media Mash-Up are scheduled at the same time in order to rotate students enrolled in both courses to allow for some collaborative work. This way both classes have the opportunity to incorporate both digital and hands-on skills and to interact with each other. Each class has its own separate projects, and credit is given for the class for which the student is registered.
Digital Third Dimension
Students will create and design 3D models, artwork and environments in this class using several different software applications. When possible, artwork will also be printed out and used to create 3 dimensional art pieces, such as dioramas, mobiles, books and simple sculptures.
“Outside the Box” 3D Design
This is a non-traditional sculpture course using unusual material in a three dimensional format: paper (origami), duct tape, copy art, found objects (plastic containers, packing materials, markers, paint, string, stickies, yarn, etc.). Themes might include signage, telling a story, making a political statement, or simply decorating and celebrating a space. Some works may be site specific.
“Pictorial Design” 2D Design
Design is the study of pictorial composition, the language of art for all visual arts media. Projects revolve around the study of the elements of art and how they are organized in compositions (the principles of design). Painting and drawing media are used. Both black / white and color concepts are explored. This course provides the basic knowledge necessary to navigate all the other studio and digital arts courses.
Poetry in Motion
This digital class will concentrate on creating art that moves! Stop-motion and fractal animation, video-making and editing, combining text with images, narration, sound and motion graphics will be covered. Students will make video art to be viewed on screen as well as online.
“Dem Bones” Perspectives in Drawing
More individualized approaches and solutions to drawing problems (using skills gained in the first course) are emphasized in the Perspectives in Drawing course. This year the theme will be human anatomy and grid systems as a source of inspiration. The focus will be on inventive and conceptual drawing. Additional materials will be incorporated into this course (materials such as: paint, markers, colored pencil, pastel and/or oil crayons).
This introductory course allows students to explore the basic tenets of painting. Students learn about design and composition, as well as how a painting evolves from the first brush stroke to completion. Each project begins with gathering resource materials and thumbnail sketches, which encourage the exploration of a variety of ways to solve a problem. Time is spent observing masterworks in order to gain a better understanding of assignments.
After students have completed Basic Painting, Advanced Painting gives students the opportunity to experiment with a particular medium and focus on themes of personal interest while applying the skills they learned in Basic Painting.
Intro to Acting
This course introduces students to basic acting skills, including improvisation, script and character analysis, characterization and to develop concentration in public performance.
Intro to Acting Shakespeare
This course introduces students to the keys of “unlocking” Shakespeare’s language through performance. Tools such as language, sound, meaning, and rhythm will help students to better understand, interpret and perform Shakespeare. We will use acting skills, including improvisation, script and character analysis, and characterization. This class will also help to develop concentration in public performance.
Advanced Acting Shakespeare
Pre-Requisite – Intro to Acting Shakespeare
This course builds upon the skills learned in Intro to Acting Shakespeare. Students actively “unlock” Shakespeare’s language through performance, using more scene work, play analysis and viewing of performances either live or in the classroom.
Theatrical Production Class
This course provides students with a hands-on experience incorporating all aspects of theatre production. By creating publicity, covering box office and budgeting, building props and costumes, and focusing lights, students have the opportunity to draw on skills learned in math, English, history, computer, and design while developing new skills in sewing and construction. This class will be working on producing Buffalo Seminary’s fall play.
Intro to Photography
Prerequisite for all other photography classes
Students learn proper composition of photos as they begin shooting digitally and working in Photoshop. Basic camera operation, understanding film and developing negatives and prints is covered before students shoot their first roll of film, and then learn basic darkroom skills.
Advanced Film Photography
This is a fine art/advanced photography class. Students go back into the darkroom and work at perfecting shooting film and printing in the darkroom. Each project requires not only a black and white print but also an alternative process. Students are expected to try solarizing, hand coloring, Holga cameras, dyeing and toning, collaging and making photo based 3D projects.
Photography & Mixed Media
In this advanced photography class, students use their digital photography to create art by: manipulating work in Photoshop, printing on various types of mediums, using scanners, collaging, assembling 3-dimensional pieces and enhancing their work with other art materials.