Briarcliff Schools

  • 45 Ingham Road Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510
  • 914.941.8880
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Briarcliff High School

  • 444 Pleasantville Road, Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510
  • 914.769.6299
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Briarcliff Middle School

  • 444 Pleasantville Road, Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510
  • 914.769.6343
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Todd Elementary School

  • 45 Ingham Road Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510
  • 914.941.8300
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Tier Two

Briarcliff Manor Union Free School District

The Visual Arts

 

Mission

Our mission is to give BMUF students the opportunity to pursue individual artistic excellence, and to initiate a  "lifelong quest that begins by developing a profound understanding and appreciation of the contributions made by the most innovative creators in the field". Our goal is to imbue in students intellectual curiosity and a willingness to experiment, while working through an idea in stages. Students shall recognize that the study of art history provides the basis for a visual 'dialogue' in which we can participate. 

 

Vision

The Department of Visual Arts at Briarcliff High School provides a sequential curriculum for students, early childhood through college level course work.  The program focuses on the arts as a springboard for creative thought across disciplines. We provide a comprehensive learning progression in the arts curriculum that is developmentally appropriate, cultivating a core set of skills and capacities that develop over time.

Critical thinking is stressed throughout.  As students expand their creative potential they develop an appreciation for methods and practices, as well as, the cultural models from which they are derived. In analyzing art, students of all ages draw evidence from 'Masterpieces' and as they develop they discover more in each work to support their understanding. This increases their ability to discuss and write about art.   With guidance, they recognize technical choices and observe artistic principles such as composition and color theory.  Students eventually learn to apply these principles to their own art making.

Over time, materials and methods become increasingly refined and complex. Students become more accomplished and demonstrate their ability to apply an artist's style or technique to their own original work understanding that there are multiple solutions to visual problems.

The art classroom offers a setting in which the student can reflect on oneself, one's interests, likes and dislikes. As well, students are guided to reflect on the 'world at large', studying social, political and economic contexts of works of art, giving the student a deeper understanding and the ability to make connections with other disciplines.

Todd Elementary, the Briarcliff Middle School and the Briarcliff High School instructors work as a team, collaborating regularly to provide our students with a strong vertical learning curriculum and experiences.

Roxanne Ritacco

What we are currently doing

Here is what we are currently doing to operationalize our mission across content areas K THROUGH 12:

  • Teaching high level curriculum at each grade level
  • Helping students acquire new skills and learn a variety of techniques
  • Offering students opportunities to work in a variety of media: Painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics, analog photography/wet darkroom, computer art (digital drawing, animation, stop-motion, Photoshop, Hyperstudio).
  • Helping students refine the skills and techniques that they have already acquired
  • Providing salient connections between the arts and other disciplines
  • Inspiring students with a broad range of cultural and historical references
  • Increasing awareness of opportunities in visual art related careers
  • Offering students opportunities to show their work outside of school
  • Offering students the opportunity to participate in the visual arts on the extra-curricular level (Art Honor Society, Art Club at the HS and MS)

The Importance of Visual Arts

One of the key indicators of a civilization's greatness can be found in its contribution and commitment to the Arts.  Where art flourishes we find an active, vital and potent society. Where it is ignored and suppressed we find a society in decline. 
    
Perhaps the most important aspect of the Arts in regard to society is it's capacity to extract the joy, sorrow, hilarity and trauma of everyday life and represent it synthetically, as a model for our contemplation. To be able to contemplate the human condition through the abstraction of its re-creation in the arts enables us to reconsider the circumstances of our lives in ways unlike any other.
    
Quite apart from the pleasure and fulfillment that we get from the arts as entertainment, there is a powerful intellectual component to the making of art which empowers us in very real but sometimes unforeseeable ways.  Paths through thought and ideation are uncovered by the mental activity engaged in the technical processes of art making. Navigation of these paths creates a familiarity with "speculative constructs" which are key to abstract thought.  We study higher mathematics, complaining all along that we will never use the knowledge in real life, nor ever become mathematicians and yet the value of its exercise of the mind's logical facilities is never doubted.  Art and particularly its technical study, incorporating application of  methods and manipulation to thought, is every bit as vital to the developing mind.  And, although we are not all destined to become artists and are not equally coordinated in regard to manual dexterity, none of us should be deprived of the navigational tools essential to a life rich with unexpected challenges. As Louis Pasteur said, "Chance favors the prepared mind."

Art class is not solely for the gifted student and the child with talent. It is for all of us and should be an integral part of an education.  There is no better strategy for success in this complicated world than one that includes a solid preparation in abstract thought. Indeed, the greatest challenges facing the world today need to be met with originality, creativity and a solid footing in critical thinking. Within the general curriculum of our school, the art program is designed to meet such needs head on.  Our approach is dedicated to the needs of all students. We acknowledge that there is a diversity of individuals at Briarcliff with a broad range of abilities and ambitions. Our goal is to offer guidance and preparation to all students and to help them to meet their own goals.
            
Many of us remember art class as a time of virtually directionless exploration of things vaguely associated with what was termed "self-expression." This pedigogical approach, one that is derived from the "natural" or "unfolding" method suggested by Rousseau and others, may not be the appropriate way to foster potent creative intelligence. Would a student learning to play a instrument be handed a violin with no direction other than a protective "musical environment." The rigors of practice, of knowing scales and positions and fingering - not to mention musical theory are expected of a decent education. Why must it be any different in the visual arts. 
           
An alternative to the "natural" method of art education is one that proactively trains, directs and challenges the art student to master basic skills. The thought behind this approach is that information of a much greater complexity can be imparted this way. The focus on technical exercise and the guidance as to how these techniques constitute the grammar of visual language, both now and historically, impact on the development of visual intelligence. This approach is the one favored by the art department of Briarcliff.
             
For the high school students wishing to pursue a deeper involvement with the arts we offer a sequential core curriculum which emphasizes the development of  basic foundation skills in Drawing, Painting, Sculpture and Design.  Highly motivated students may culminate their high school experience in a college level Advanced Placement Studio Art course, offered in both Painting and Drawing AP and Design AP (which includes photography).  The program continues to be enriched with opportunities for Exhibitions and competitions. Portfolios are the physical outcome for evaluation.
 
Our curriculum is also designed to allow those students whose major focus may not be art, to benefit from the skills fostered in our department:  brainstorming, problem solving and original thinking. It is our goal to further educational expertise and foster serious practices in the visual arts, yet we are also committed to providing an environment that is a haven for those individuals that may turn to the arts for a different type of support, (perhaps a refuge from competition and stress). Often the art room becomes home to a student experiencing emotional difficulties or academic struggles. The art process engages these individuals and often rewards them with success and an increased self- esteem. In contrast to the student attracted to performing under the footlights of a stage production or in the heightened athletic arena, the artist quietly performs with a steady persevering vision, a solitary mental activity that produces the greatest art. These students also need community support and acknowledgement.
    
Finally, in all Briarcliff students, we would like to infuse the understanding of the value of Fine Art.  We are living just outside of the Art Capital of the World.  When college students return home, the NYC galleries and museums will beckon them. Students given the opportunity to travel will realize that the "arts" will inform them most readily about the cultures they are experiencing.  Paintings are records of the workings of the mind, documents of the mind at work under the technical, social and political constraints of the times.  Paintings are emotional records filtered through the intellect, a primary experience of history. Art defines the times.

National Core Art Standards

Advocacy for Art Education

The Visual Arts: So much MORE than you can see!

 

Did you know that…

  • We live in a visual age. Most children or youth spend hours a day in front of screens composed of pictures and words. Making meaning from what we see is now more important than ever.
  • The arts provide jobs. 1.25 million Americans currently work in the visual arts. Jobs for artists and designers are predicted to increase by 43% by 2016.
  • Art education equips students to form mental images, which can be used to solve problems—an ability that chemists, engineers, and architects use to create models and that inventors use to think up new ideas.
  • Art education requires students to use their eyes and hands to give form to ideas generated in the brain—a discipline that Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel proved boosts brain power.
  • Art education teaches children that problems can have more than one solution and that questions can have more than one answer. A skill that experts agree is essential to those needed for the 21st century.
  • Art education teaches children to celebrate multiple perspectives. One of its large lessons is that there are many ways to see and interpret the world.
  • The arts make vivid the fact that neither words in their literal form, nor numbers, exhaust what we can know. The limits of our language do not define the limits of our cognition.
  • The arts help children to say what cannot be said. When children are invited to disclose what a work of art helps them feel they must reach into their poetic capacities to find the words that will do the job.

 

Like Other Subjects…

  • Like a foreign language, ART is a language that can be learned and understood. It is a form of communication that one can learn to read and speak through study and practice. We call this visual literacy.
  • Like English, ART has an established vocabulary and grammar. We call these the elements and principles of design. These fundamentals form the foundation for appreciating and producing works of art.
  • Like science, ART is based on a natural order and relationship of elements. These elements, such as line and color, have unique properties and can be explored in lab-like projects. Through experimentation, one can discover the nature and potential of art.
  • Like mathematics, ART possesses certain principles that are logical, time proven and provide constant guidelines to pictorial organization. It teaches skills like measurement, symmetry and three-dimensional construction in a hands-on manner. Concepts such as linear perspective and color theory are specific examples of how art is as analytical as it is emotional.
  • Like physical education, ART requires a sort of visual toning- -exercising one’s eyes earnestly and regularly. With practice, one’s abilities can be recognized, developed and mastered. A regular routine can lead to significant accomplishment. Gradual progress prevails over instant achievement.
  • Like social studies, ART promotes an awareness and understanding of people and cultures. Art reflects the ideas and ideals of societies, governments and religions. Art has been influenced by geography, war, natural resources and commerce. Art can help us understand past civilizations and define our identity for future generations. Art is a visual record of people in the world.
  • Like music, ART is based on the refinement of one of our senses. As music relates to how one listens and hears, art focuses on looking and seeing. In both disciplines, the perception of subtlety is essential to grasping variation and innovation. In music and art the greatest accomplishments are those in which subtlety and sensitivity are balanced with skill and creativity.

Faculty

John Brooks

Titles: Teacher
Locations: Briarcliff Middle School, Briarcliff High School
Departments: Art
Email:

Jessica Dubin

Titles: Teacher
Locations: Briarcliff Middle School, Briarcliff High School
Departments: Art
Email:

Taylor Reno

Titles: Teacher
Locations: Briarcliff High School
Departments: Art
Email:

Roxanne Ritacco

Titles: Teacher
Locations: Briarcliff High School
Departments: Art
Email:

Paul Villanueva

Titles: Teacher
Locations: Todd Elementary School
Departments: Art
Email: