Middle school can be a turbulent period of transition for many students. As the level of academic rigor increases, so does the need for moments of peace. For students enrolled in Jurupa Middle’s art classes, the act of creating art is soothing. “I feel very safe. I feel very calm,” shared Bella Acosta, seventh grade. “Art is something I do when I’m upset or nervous and it helps me feel better.”
Laila Giampietro, art teacher, facilitates this sense of calm by making self-reflection and quiet, independent work staples of the curriculum. “On Mondays, we always start with character development where we talk about a quote or they do some kind of self-reflection, which is to help them be happier in life and also help us get along and have a sense of unity in our class,” she said.
Project work occurs daily and is self-driven. Ms. Giampietro encourages exploration as students employ the elements of art. “It is a big contrast from all of their academic courses,” she said. “They get to choose how…to use the things that we’ve learned. I think that’s very empowering.”
The ability to self-guide makes it easier for students to pursue their individual passions. While Criss Alvarez enjoys making realistic art because he can compare it to things in the real world, Jonathan Perez prefers the patterns and depths of illusion art. Both seventh graders are able to develop their techniques by creating art they love. “I think that art provides…an opportunity to express yourself, to find your strengths, [and] make yourself proud,” shared Ms. Giampietro.
Each art student has a sketchbook to practice techniques such as shading, blending, depth, and perspective. Much of the focus is on drawing, though students also paint with watercolors, practice Sharpie art, and experiment with digital art. “I’ve learned how to do a lot of things I didn’t know how to do before,” said Bella.
Friday classes begin with an activity in which students discuss a famous piece of art, identifying important elements and principles that have been applied. Ms. Giampietro incorporates analysis into her class because she believes there is value in students understanding that professional art takes more than passion, but also skill. Recognizing that art is purposeful may result in a greater appreciation for it.
Studying art also helps students recognize it outside the classroom and understand how essential it is to daily life. Criss, who hopes to be an engineer when he is older, sees art in blueprints and architecture. Classmate Bella notices these things, too. “Art is something you see every day in almost everything and it’s a big part of making things,” said Bella. “Designs of things are art itself. Art is everywhere.”
Like many of her students, Ms. Giampietro began practicing art at a young age. Because of her own closeness to the subject, she is thrilled to help her students grow into confident, dedicated artists who appreciate beauty and its importance to the world. “I hope that they're proud of themselves more than anything,” she said. “That they get an emotional connection to [art] that they probably didn't have at the onset.”