New York City’s Urban Academy includes two art-related proficiencies in its requirements for graduation. “We try to make sure kids have a breadth of work in different areas,” says director Ann Cook, “a range of experiences through which they develop skills, attitudes, subject exposure, and ways of looking at ideas.” The actual courses emerge from the skills and interests of the Urban Academy faculty, and include workshops in play writing and production, film, poetry, photography, and chamber music.
Creative Arts. The candidate selects outstanding work completed in an area of the creative arts and presents, exhibits or publishes that work. The work selected for presentation must demonstrate growth over time in one of the following areas: art, photography, creative writing, drama, video, or computer design. Before any work is presented, the student and mentor must agree that the work demonstrates proficiency in the area selected. In addition, the student must analyze his or her own work and demonstrate an understanding of his or her strengths and weaknesses in the area. If a student has been working in an artistic area that Urban Academy does not offer, he or she with faculty approval may work with a member of the UA staff for at least one semester to develop the proficiency in the student’s area of artistic talent and skill. Students are expected to meet with a mentor to select an area in which to develop an exhibit. In this meeting they will discuss what the focus will be and how the work will proceed. Following this meeting, the student must submit a written proposal and receive approval in order to begin work.
Criticism. The candidate chooses an artistic piece that he or she does not like. The piece of art must be in a medium (e.g. painting, play, poem, film, building) that the student has studied in a course. The work of art must have documented artistic merit coming from a number of different sources. The student’s analysis must include interviews with a supporter of the piece (and detractors, if desired). The candidate will make a presentation to an audience of students and adults, which involves the audience in a process designed to help them understand the artistic piece selected.