New art class inspires students to think ‘Outside the Box’

Arts

Outside the Box is a new type of art class that has officially been added to the Course of Study for the 2018-19 school year. Creative arts teacher Katherine Burnett will be teaching the class, which will be available to all Upper School students who have taken Introduction to Studio Art, the prerequisite for all art classes at KO.

According to the course description, “Outside the Box is for students who want to venture beyond the traditional approaches of representation in art to discover new ways of interpreting and documenting the world they live in.”

Ms. Burnett will present the class with a theme or problem for each student to solve in a unique, artistic way.

Outside the Box will encourage students to expand beyond pencil and paper by providing them with an opportunity to experiment with photography, musical composition, filmmaking, acting, writing, science and sculpture. “The goal is to incorporate what everyone’s passion is,” said Ms. Burnett.

Students will also have more freedom in their work because they will not be restricted to using a specific medium. Freshman Sydney Smith admitted that art isn’t her best subject. “Sometimes it’s difficult for me to focus in a normal art class such as drawing because I’m not overly interested in what we’re doing,” said Sydney, “which is why I am interested in taking this class next year.”

Director of Academic Planning Carolyn Mckee said she agreed. “Kids are more involved when they have more skin in the game. Because it’s more meaningful, they can connect with it,” she said.

Ms. Burnett believes that art is everywhere, and she wants to share her passion with the KO community. “I like the idea of people understanding that art is so much more than just these single disciplines,” Ms. Burnett said. “This class is meant for everyone, even for kids who don’t necessarily think that they are ‘good at art.’” Senior Neil Hemnani said he thinks that oftentimes people have a narrow-minded view of what qualifies as art. “A lot of people have this singular view that your ability in art depends on your ability to draw or paint but they need to think bigger,” he said.

Outside the Box will be predominantly lead by students. Although it will incorporate strong conceptual components similar to the core academic classes, Outside the Box will put a greater focus on risk-taking, creativity and self-expression instead of on grades and deadlines.

“In school we are always taught to follow a rigid structure,” Neil said, “but Outside the Box will teach students big life lessons that we don’t necessarily learn while taking a math test.” Students will learn to observe the world around them while collaborating with their peers.

“This class emphasizes your ability to think, respond and work together,” Ms. Burnett said. Ms. Burnett might take students off campus to West Hartford’s Blue Back Square or simply around our own campus. KO has access to nature and bustling suburban life, a privilege that Ms. Burnett plans to take advantage of.

Ms. Burnett came up with this idea in the fall, and she has been working hard to turn it into a reality. “She’s very passionate about it,” Ms. McKee said. “I wasn’t skeptical because I know she will put a lot of effort into making this class a success.

A teacher creates a class because there is a need or an interest. Typically, I have found that there is a good response.” Ms. Burnett confided in multiple people during this process, faculty and students included. “Ms. McKee has a good sense of what fits, so bouncing my ideas off of her and getting her approval was huge,” Ms. Burnett said.

There aren’t many new classes being added for next year, and it’s been a long time since a class as been added to the art department. “It’s always exciting to expand the bounds of education and add new classes,” Ms. McKee said. Ms. Burnett is excited as well. “It’s in its first year, it’s in its beginning stages, and I am looking forward to watching it transform and develop,” Ms. Burnett said. She sees the class as a new opportunity for students and faculty alike. “There’s really so much you could do with this class,” Ms. Burnett said.

“When everyone comes together I am confident that the possibilities are endless.”
Students and their advisors are beginning to have course selection meetings, and Outside the Box is something to keep in mind. “I’m honestly sad that I’m graduating in the spring so I won’t be able to take the class next year,” Neil said. “I hope the returning students take advantage of this opportunity.”