Fine Arts Department Philosophy
The St. Ignatius Fine Arts Department continues to fulfill a long standing tradition in Jesuit Education from the earliest days of the Society of Jesus in the Ratio Studiorum: the expression of an individual human being's deepest experiences of God and creation. This creative process requires serious contemplation by the individual and a dialogue with others that stimulates further reflection on the truth of one's conclusions. Not only does the person express his/her life experiences by creating a work of art, but offers these creations for an audience to understand, appreciate, evaluate, and critique. Through the arts a student is challenged to expand beyond the self - spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually - when he/she becomes totally involved in the creative process of communicating on a deeper affective level through theater, painting, sculpture, photography, dance, music, and the collaboration of all the arts in theatrical production. The components of art education encompass: artistic perception, creative expression, historical and cultural context, and aesthetic valuing.
The department program strongly emphasizes that the arts can best be appreciated by an active involvement in the creative process rather than a purely informational approach. To involve the head and ignore the heart is to mislead a student's understanding of the art form and the discipline, diligence, humility and empathy necessary to and for an artist. So often modern Jesuit education centers on the mind, forgetting Ignatius' own prescription in the Spiritual Exercises that we must be of one mind and one heart with our Creator, that our faith relationship with Our Lord must be passionate, that we must find God in all things.
We educate not only our students in classes, but also the audience members who witness the incredible talents of our students. A concert, production, or exhibit reveals sides of our students unseen and unprobed in regular classes or activities, other parts of the soul of the student artist. This encourages students in the audience to take the chance to explore their own talents in future semesters/productions when they see the school community accept and celebrate student work. We also remind the faculty and parents of the aspirations, longings, passions and spiritual needs of the adolescent, so easily forgotten during the more difficult conflicts between teenager and authority figures.
Finally, the arts are not competitive arenas where one uses one's skills to defeat another; rather, the artist uses skills and talents to communicate, share, celebrate a mutual empathy and compassion for the human condition. So much of our world is based on competition (especially in modern American society, e.g. professional sports, politics), and so much of our society is geared towards violence, overpowering others. The fine arts do not stimulate this competitive urge, and therefore, provide a needed balance in a student's overall education.
Fine Arts Department Goals
I. OPEN TO GROWTH
Involvement in the creative process enhances a student's appreciation of God's unique gifts to him/herself as a special creation; furthermore, active participation in the creative process shows each individual that he/she has a special perspective and experience of the human condition. A successful experience of the arts in a supportive and nurturing environment greatly contributes to a strong self-concept -- a more open, vulnerable, and passionate communication of the self. The Fine Arts also require the artist to engage in a dialogue with an audience which stimulates the artist to revise work and/or expand understanding of self, the world and God.
- To enable students to come to an appreciation of God's unique gifts to each person as a special creation; furthermore, active participation in the creative process shows each individual that he/she has a special perspective and experience of the human condition.
- To empower students to express their deepest experiences spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually through an involvement in the creative process which demands confronting one's self, beliefs, values. This challenges one to self-acceptance and further growth, even more to an experience of God's power to transform through imagination, prayer, liturgies, sacraments, and community.
- To encourage and provide the opportunities for students to offer their creative work for an audience's understanding, appreciation, and evaluation, so that students understand that art is dialogue between peoples and not an end in itself.
- To accept constructive criticism as a gift and to learn that one's limitations stimulate creativity rather than detract from the artist's abilities. Students will also learn how to express honest and construction criticism to others that stimulates growth and supports further creation.
- To support other artists in their creative endeavors, especially to appreciate their fellow students who put themselves "on the line" in student activities, sports, academics, knowing the commitment and associated anxieties of sharing self with others in a public forum.
- To integrate professionalism ("integrity in the arts") in one's personal life; hence, to realize that one's life is a gift from God and, therefore, a work of art, creation and collaboration with the people of God.
- To make bold choices so that there is the opportunity for great success and great failure -- so that one is searching for and stretching in new artistic ways, not preserving the safety of already proven talents, for our greatest lessons as people and artists often come from our failures, not only from our successes.
II. ACADEMIC/ARTISTIC COMPETENCE
The department strongly emphasizes that the arts can only be appreciated by an active involvement in both the experiential and the academic study of the fine arts; hence, in fine arts courses there is both a content to be learned and skills to be developed, as well as attitudes to be formed and nurtured. Through field trips and campus presentations in the Arts in the City program, students learn an overview of the history of creative expression. A study of the past and how it influences the present is most important. A study of our present culture and how it reflects the values and morals, both positive and negative, is equally important for an Ignatian to become sensitive to the possibilities for needed change in our world. Finally, students also witness professional work by mainstream and experimental companies in the SF Bay Area through the Arts in the City field trips which exposes them to a high level of artistic integrity. This exposure to high standards of excellence and professionalism reinforces the need for an organized, systematic artistic process that does not merely rely on "inspiration."
- To demonstrate a cultural literacy in music, dance, visual arts and theater -- terminology, major movements, major artists, historical development.
- To understand the creative process: reflection, experimentation, practice, revision, presentation, further revision and reflection, performance/exhibition, dialogue and explication.
- To take pride of ownership of one's work and receive both positive and constructive criticism.
- To experience professional performances/exhibits while studying and/or creating in the classroom.
- To defend their critiques of student and/or professional artists demonstrating a clear criteria, a "why" based on a knowledge of the art form, the artistic intention, and the technical skills commonly accepted for that art.
- To understand the commercial/practical aspects of artistic work in our culture, the "business of show business" and how artists function in key areas of our society (and the tensions/pressures with which an artist contends.)
III. FAITH DIMENSION OF THE ARTIST
Hopefully, a student in our fine arts program will come to an appreciation not only of the creative process and particular art forms, but also a deeper understanding of the human being's natural ability to question self, experiences, relationships, values -- conflicts between desires and responsibilities -- and each human being's special place in creation along with his Creator. Whether a student experiences this through the performing/creative arts classes or by study in an appreciation course, we hope our students will enjoy and value the arts and their own talents for individual expression, imitation, reflection, and interpretation as thinking and feeling men and women for others.
- To discover the wonder of God's creation through a deeper understanding of their own creativity, especially learning to trust instinct and affect in the creation of a work of art.
- To foster a Christian community in the classes, productions, concerts and workshops by establishing a nurturing, supportive environment in which students can work, play, and pray together -- an atmosphere of cooperation, mutual discovery, and sharing of creative work -- where each student expands his/her strengths and confronts his/her weaknesses as a human being and an artist.
- To encounter God through others in the collaboration process, the sharing of one's talents and skills in the creation of a larger work, a production, where a community of artists mutually respects and celebrates each other and God not only through the work of art but through community prayer, play, and liturgy.
- To be humbled by the artist's power to move an audience, to transcend the human and offer an experience of the Divine, to serve as a prophet by stirring up indignation against social and moral evil, and therefore, the responsibility for the artist to search for truth, not to manipulate and reinforce outdated/inaccurate cultural myths.
- To memorialize created and eternal beauty through a knowledge of the classical and primitive works of the ages.
IV. AFFECTIVE GROWTH
The department fosters a Christian community in the productions/concerts and workshop classes by establishing a nurturing, supportive environment in which students can work, play and pray together -- an atmosphere of cooperation, mutual discovery, and sharing of creative work -- where each student expands his/her strengths and confronts his/her weaknesses as a human being and an artist. This is accomplished by a respect for the art form and the artist, a serious approach to work in rehearsals, workshops and performances, and high standards of cooperative/professional behavior, as well as through various social functions with the students and parents to make this spirit an actuality. Particular religious activities include Company Liturgies before productions on stage, community prayer and reflection, and support counseling during times of crisis.
- To gain a solidarity with the characters, movements, and cultural values of a work of art through not only an "academic" but also an "affective" experience of the work of art, either through a deeper appreciation or a direct creative experience.
- To accept and love others and self by working collaboratively, respecting others' talents as well as one's own unique perspective and creativity.
- To give and receive both praise and criticism for creative work, understanding the separate nature of the artist's work from the artist's self-worth.
- To become aware of God's activity in our lives -- through the supportive atmosphere of an artistic community, especially in times of difficulty and hardship.
- To show trust in others by displaying faith in the good intentions of others, peers and teachers, audience and fellow artists, which is to experience trust in our Creator.
- To become aware of one's personal fears, anxieties, and limited viewpoints; to accept the challenge to overcome, expand and/or change in order to become more fully human and alive.
V. MULTI-CULTURAL AND SOCIAL JUSTICE CONCERNS IN THE ARTS
Students need to become aware of their own personal growth and development within modern culture -- how fads, prejudices, stereotypes and commercialism often masquerade as "great popular art" while often reinforcing prejudice and stereotype which shapes the perceptions and values of society. Therefore, students need to experience and empathize with the emotional, cultural and economic conflicts of under-represented groups, as well as popular culture's frequent misrepresentation of gender roles and religious/moral values. They should also be able to recognize the roots of contemporary art through exposure to multi-cultural and multi-generational influences that shape our world and could further serve to join peoples together rather than pull peoples apart.
- To reflect on their own personal growth and development in our modern culture -- its diversity as well as its unity -- and how personal integrity and expression often conflicts with "modern cultural stereotypes/prejudices" as presented in media. Students need to be more empathetic with other human being's emotional, cultural, ethnic, and economic conflicts with the mainstream popular culture and confront this in their own work.
- To express artists and works from different social and cultural backgrounds and communities, especially the richness of the Asian-American, African-American and Latino arts groups in the Bay Area.
- To expose students to the created beauty and majesty of other societies and cultures, past and present, the "cultural heritage" that deserves to be memorialized, appreciated and passed forward to future generations.
- To become sensitive to the power of modern cultural icons and the moral consequences of misleading, misinforming, miseducating and mis-mythologizing, especially in matters of race, gender, religious and moral issues.
- To present productions, musical compositions, and visual art displays from a variety of periods and ethnic/cultural backgrounds, not merely mainstream works, so that the department is also educating the student, faculty and parent audiences as well as the student artists.
The arts, especially the production of plays, musicals, concerts and exhibits, allows students to demonstrate their skills as leaders -- men and women who offer their gifts and talents to enrich the community. Artistic expression is not merely to enhance the artist's ego. One cannot be a good artist if one cannot give; desire for reward or praise must be subordinated to the joy and pleasure, the edification and enhancement given to others.
The Fine Arts Program at St. Ignatius serves the school community in an educative way by presenting a variety of works, styles of productions, student creations and student interpretations of musical compositions. Our audiences, both students and parents, are exposed to good works on a frequent basis, allowing for a further appreciation of the arts and of student expression by the at-large school community.
Finally, in productions, students often are given leadership positions as docents, stage managers, designers, section leaders; it has long been the tradition and educational goal that once in performance (or exhibit), the faculty members take a back seat and the students run the production, learning to solve problems on the spot. There are no faculty members backstage giving orders or running any area of a production; there are no faculty members giving docent tours of student works. We believe this aspect of accepting responsibility and taking charge is most important for students.
- To encourage students to take responsibility for their creations and exhibit/perform them for public view whenever possible.
- To allow students to take on leadership positions in productions -- design, management, technical crews -- so they can develop poise, self-confidence, self-esteem and a sense of responsibility.
- To permit students to fail on projects so they can learn from their mistakes, whether this be in the rehearsal or studio process or even in performance when they put themselves on the line; but to offer them support and encouragement to understand that all artists make mistakes, and frequently the mistakes lead to better art.
- To continue the training and professionalism of career-focused students in the arts with challenging workshops, career/college counseling in their specific art form, and more leadership possibilities (e.g. one act play writing, directing, stage management, choreography, small musical ensemble groups and solo work, composition, design, exhibits/art contests, acting competitions) which challenge them with greater responsibility and knowledge of their art.