Art Works Blog

Envision Arts Academy: "Art is no longer a luxury"

May 4, 2010
Oakland, California

Earlier this spring Rocco visited the Envision Academy of Arts and Technology as part of his Art Works tour to California. Art is one of  the key components of the curriculum at this small charter high schoolin Oakland. As noted on the school's website, "In a world that increasingly relies on design and creativity as a basis for success in nearly every profession, art is no longer a luxury or elective."

During the Chairman's visit, several students presented self-portaits created as part of a yearlong school project exploring the question, "Who am I?" The students worked on the self-portraits in both their visual arts and language arts classes. As arts education teacher Omar Bryan explained: "[Chuck Close's portraiture] inspired the students to  further their exploration of self  through the use of portraiture. Our essential question was 'How does a portrait inform the viewer  or tell facts about our lives?'

"Using their knowledge of scale, proportions, and the grid process, students first enlarged a photograph of themselves on a 14 x 17 inch sheet of Bristol paper. The second part of this large-scale portrait included a personal symbol, created in the first quarter of visual art, and a color scheme that reflects a metaphor about who they are. The final part of this exhibition piece was an artist statement. In this statement, students connected their personal symbol, short stories written in their  language arts class, and their color scheme to who they are socially, potentially, metaphorically, and creatively."

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Self Portrait and Artist Statement by Isais Garcia-Ramos

The importance of all my different representations of myself was best shown throughout my painting?s unique use of colors and blending values to create a distinct mood. The background is painted in different shades of orange to show how the outside world is always teaching me to find the strength to recreate myself in a better future. I am painted with many shades of blue to show how I am always trying to find a deep inner peace, but I?m not always easy on myself as I?d like to be. I?m always trying to find answers to my inner struggle and that is why I am looking up at my personal symbol in a thoughtful posture to show how I am always thinking of ways to better myself. The way all of these elements come together, despite their contrasts, is what I believe gives my painting its power and balance. This is who I am, and I?m very happy to be exactly me.

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Self Portrait and Artist Statement by Raquel Alvarez

My personal symbol represents these five functions of art: Social, educational, spiritual, personal, physical. The diagonal, vertical, and horizontal lines represent the different personalities of my friends. The dots and curves represent my love for poetry and my education. The right angles on the side of the circle represent my spirituality. It is symbolic of god?s open arms. The circle itself represents my family. The squiggle at the border represents an emotional rollercoaster. The blending of values represents dirt and my love for sports, specifically softball. This symbol tells facts about who I am and shows how different I am from others.

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 Self Portrait and Artist Statement by Trovaughn Ridgeway

The personal symbol included in this portrait was created so that I portray, visually, who I am personally, socially, spiritually, physically, and educationally. The curvy zigzag lines represent that there are two sides to my personality; calm and talkative. The stair shapes represent that I want to have a top-level education. The building shape says that I have an urban social class and urban spirit. My symbol looks sort of like a crown to show that I control what I do for myself. The details show that I have goals, and a relaxed personality. I understand and believe that the symbol is very important to this portrait.

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 Self Portrait and Artist Statement by Rebeca Lopez

One big part of my portrait is my symbol. In art class we created a symbol that represented who we are and we had to include the five functions of art: Social, educational, spiritual, personal, and physical. I used zigzag lines to represent my education. They show that I can get excited and nervous about school. I used curved lines to represent the physical and spiritual part of my life. They show my love of dancing and my belief in the trinity because I put three of them. Lastly, I used geometric and organic shapes to represent my family and friends for my social. I placed my symbol at the top of my portrait to show that it?s a big part of who I am. My symbol tells a lot about my faith so I decided to paint it blue because blue means spirituality. The reason I am looking up at my symbol is because I wanted to show that it?s something really important in my life and that I look up to and depend on my faith.

Read more about Rocco's California visit here and here.

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