Art is omnipresent at Dwight. Student artwork adorns the hallways and gallery spaces of our campus ― and shares pride of place alongside Dwight’s museum-quality collection of over 200 paintings, sculptures, etchings, thangkas, and more.
Against this amazingly vibrant backdrop, and from classroom to classroom, students learn about and create art within the context of the IB curriculum, while letting their imaginations roam free. With guidance from mentors, such as Timothy House Art Teacher Amanda Thompson, students unleash their inner Michelangelo or Picasso! A graduate of the London University and Rhode Island School of Design, Ms. Thompson shared her thoughts about teaching and how the artistic spark of genius is found in all her students, when we sat down to discuss all things art.
When did you first become interested in art? What or who inspired you?
My mum is an artist. She went to art school in Brighton in the 70s. I grew up around her and her artist friends in Brighton and London, and we spent a lot of time looking at and talking about art. I first became personally interested in creating art in London in the 80s. Many of my friends were in the music and fashion industries, and I started by creating large-scale paintings and collages in clubs and shops in Soho. It was all about transforming the space.
Is there one art form that you are most passionate about?
Tell us about your personal work. I am particularly enthralled by large-scale, interactive installations. Bill Viola, Olafur Eliasson, and Anish Kapoor are some of my favorite artists.
As for my personal work, I was trained as a painter, but I mainly make three-dimensional abstract work. My last solo show was in a 3,000-square-foot gallery in Williamsburg, where I showed a multimedia installation, using cast glass, resin, carved wood, and video. My goal is to continue to create installations ― to create spaces ― which take the viewer into another world.
How do you ignite the artistic spark of genius within your students?
The spark is in all of them. I am just the facilitator; my job is to make sure I don’t stand in their way. Having said that, each student has a different spark, so I believe, as their art teacher, it is my responsibility to introduce him or her to as many different art forms as possible. For example, we have units that focus on graphic design, others on sculpture or painting, and even one on engineering.
Can one teach "creativity”?
Yes, I believe you can. I think it’s important for students to be active in the decision-making process. If they are authentically invested in what they are learning or what they are making, they will become very creative. A large part of art class is spent asking questions, brainstorming ideas and solutions to problems, collaborating, and communicating ideas in new and innovative ways. Some of my best classes have started with a pile of materials and a problem to solve, with the creativity blossoming infinitely.
How is art taught differently in the IB curriculum?
I believe that the fundamental difference is in how the art curriculum is integrated with the rest of the curriculum. It is concept-based and skills are taught through the content, rather than in isolation. In this way, everything we do is relevant and interesting to students, and often generated by them. This keeps students motivated and allows them to take ownership of their own learning. I had a first-grader ask me to teach him how to draw a house in 3-D the other day, as he was in the middle of a unit on homes. I ended up teaching the whole class how to draw with a one-point perspective in the next class ― and we had a blast!
What makes Dwight's art program stand out from the crowd?
I think it’s pretty incredible to be a part of New Yor