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Jenny Choi

April 26, 2018

Hanson Pd. 2

Behold the Art Hallway

Many students navigate their way around Wootton by its vaguely categorized hallways:

Math, science, history, english, and lastly, art. Leading to an exit just by the main office, the art

rooms line the side of the farthest right hall of the school building. Whether or not a student

decides to enroll in a class that entails exiting 40 minutes later covered in dust or splattered with

paint, he or she will most likely pass by its large windows and showcased collections of works

amid their daily ritual of catching the bus or exploring shortcuts to their next period.

Year after year, some assignments placed behind the glass are no surprise, ranging from

the foundation’s abstract metal wire portraits to ceramics’ colorful animal sculptures. But despite

the usual routine of works, students still look up and examine those pieces, whether it be pointing

at familiar name tags or admiring interesting blends of pigments. Unlike the rest of the high

school environment, the art hallway presents the potential creative ability of every single student

apart from their academic careers. In effort to delve into the significance of and student’s

perspectives towards fine art and creative courses at Wootton, I entered Mrs. Duong’s Studio 1

class to observe and study..

To be honest, I did not come into this project with a clean slate; As a Junior who chose

the art route of the school’s Humanities and Arts program, I have come to find the art hallway a

comfortable second home during the school day. Having taken solely ceramics for my first two

and half years here at Wootton, I did not personally know Mrs. Duong until I stepped into her AP
Studio class. Though my familiarity with the art environment may result in many findings to

come to no surprise, I still wanted to do an in-depth investigation of my peers, whose perspective

of art may differ from mine, in an effort to come to a substantial conclusion of what value the art

hallway holds in the eyes of the Wootton community.

Thursday morning I entered the classroom before the first bell of the school day would

signal students to disperse their conversations and clear the hallway. It was 7:37 A.M. and two

students had already situated themselves at different tables. Within the next few minutes, the

tabletops were cleared of stools and replaced with a littering of backpacks and pencil cases. After

a collection of consent forms, a few from some who warily asked me questions about the study

to which I gave reassuring answers, Mrs. Duong had already begun to address the class about

their current project. They were still in the beginning steps of the printmaking process to which-

from what I was told by Mrs. Duong in preparation for my project- they were already introduced

to earlier that week. She had told me that alike Foundations, Studio 1 heavily stresses on teacher

guidance and implements “checks” throughout the process regarding techniques and mediums.

She expresses that although Studio 1 students learned the basics in their previous art class, they

are still at the stage where consistent advising is key and thus do not have as much freedom as

the students in AP, "who pretty much do things all on their own". Today she was expecting to

see completion of or progress on three sketches of their ideas. As the teacher glazed over the

basics of the technique, often referencing and pointing at the large posters on the wall, only half

the class seemed to lazily pay attention in silence, while the other half who didn’t, didn’t make a

sound either. It was still a bit dim outside: Early morning cleary wasn’t anyone’s time of day.
A student walks into the classroom five minutes deep into instruction but no one seems to

care or notice. It wasn’t until a little later that the teacher noticed him: “Oh! Diego I didn’t see

you come in- okay I’ll go mark you.” He takes a seat at the table on the left that occupies two

girls and three boys. Across from them on the right side of the room are five girls, and at the

back are two conjoined tables seating eight boys and one girl. It was no surprise that both

genders somewhat evenly populated the classroom: MCPS requires that all high school students

earn at least one art credit, and additionally, Studio art does not pose as a typically

gender-specific class, such as fashion.

Mrs. Duong expresses that the art requirement is important, and that “students should

take an art class.” Engaging in art stimulates the “right side of the brain” and also allows students

to attain creative abilities and a “different type of problem solving” just as important as the

solving skills integral in academics such as math. As an art student I completely agree, and was

interested to find that one student, Gina Li, who is a junior as well, also plans to enter college for

art, specifically fashion. Gina believes that "even if it wasn't required, I would still take art for all

four years."

I decided to observe the table on the left- what I would call "table one" for convenience.

While Diego, with his backpack still on his back, scrolled aimlessly on his phone, the others had

all of their materials out and had been in comfortable conversation. I recognized Jackson, a

senior who takes Studio 2 in my second period of AP Studio class. Being that I didn’t know the

rest, I assumed they were either sophomores or freshmen.

"There's more banana there than banana here," Jackson giggles as he points at the fake

fruit splayed across the table. Interrupting the previous conversation, Plaid, a girl with black
braided hair, looks down and sighs, "This sketch is kind of crap". Glasses, who sits at the head of

the table, leans on his elbow and stares at Plaid, giving her his full attention- "What is your

creative idea. Please Share." "Draw a potato", one suggests. Immediately Glasses yells,

"POTATOES ARE BEAUTIFUL. Don't you dare say anything bad about potatoes." Their

interaction subsides as Mrs. Duong approaches the table to remind Diego that she’d “like to see

[him] draw one to two things today.” He looks up from his phone and insists on using the

reference photo he has on it to draw his snake head and thus doesn't need to use the books behind

him as suggested. The teacher leaves but he doesn't go to work- judging from the resuming

scrolling motion of his fingers. The rest of the table seems to have progressed to another topic.

“Crew members follow spirit week?”

“IF YOU DON’T THEY WILL ATTACK YOU”

I look over to table two, the table on the right, and see a girl in a hooded grey jacket has

laid her head down on the table with her hood on and earbuds plugged in. Glasses suddenly looks

up from his phone and goes, “Nintendo got wrecked...NINTENDO GOT WRECKED”. Grey has

risen up from the dead and massages her dominant hand before hunching over and drawing.

Diego has his earplugs in and doesn’t engage with his talkative peers who chatter and draw

simultaneously. They talk about reptiles.

“I wanna get one of those little dragon things.”

“Yeah my chameleon-”

“YOU HAVE A CHAMELEON?”

Grey lays her head back down and spaces out. Jackson stops his drawing and looks at

Plaid’s paper.
I head over to the back table, called “table three” by custom. A group of boys are at one

end; Blue Shirt is passionately talking to Grey Shirt as Blonde silently draws and occasionally

looks at his phone, not yet aware of his fallen earphones on the floor beside him. On the other

stretch of the table Mrs. Duong assists a student with her drawing. She walks over and tells Grey

Shirt, “Matthew, I’d like to see one get done today.” He gets up and goes to the other side of the

room to opens a drawer to take out a new sheet of sketching paper. I follow Mrs. Duong back to

table one. She talks to Plaid about her idea- from which I could gather included a pizza. The

others listen and comfortably interrupt or make comments to themselves and each other.

“That’s all my children want for dinner.”

“What if-are we doing thin or thick crust?”

“EXTRA”

“Ahaha...SLOPPY sauce”

“I’m going to STUDY my pizza.”

At table two, Grey talks to Burgundy who has one earbud in her ear.

“Basically everyone had homework”

“The thing is, I go to church”

“I don’t think you can survive [your schedule]”

“Plus, I go to bible study on Wednesday...I want to go if I can stay awake, but I can’t stay

awake- that’s rude you know.”

Though I don’t know if they are familiar with each other outside of this class, it is

interesting how through conversation they were learning about those who sat around them, even

if they wouldn’t bother with that information once they stepped out of the door. Though age can
sometimes be an invisible barrier, it doesn’t stop from students to have casual conversation,

especially in an art class where instruction is not 24/7. Table two’s interaction may not be as

boisterous and flexible as table one’s, but that may be the reason the girls are seated where they

are. In my experience, when art classes lack strict seating regulation, students generally gravitate

towards certain people who have the same working habit or vibe. I asked Gina if she had signed

up for this class knowing that another friend was doing the same, but she simply laughed and

said, “Yeah no, I did it for the class. Besides, it’s nice to make new friends.”

Back at table one, I enter in mid-conversation.

“Pizza wings”, Plaid blurts out.

“That’s kind of cannibalistic.”

“That’s okay, you’re telling your story.”

I couldn’t help but be fascinated by their conversations. Especially have a similar sense

of humour, I had to often stifle my laughs. Some way or another they transitioned into talking

about coffee. But before much could carry on, glasses yells in a vague Indian accent,

“SAL-A-MANDA MAN” twice. Everyone is drawing: Even if their pencils graze slowly over

the paper and whether or not their efforts are doubtedly the best, they are still working. Several

phones are laid on the table but are left alone. Jackson once again stops drawing and arruptly

looks up.

“I really like the Komodo.”

“Yeah they’re like really spiky.”

The next day I came in early once again. It's Friday morning and the day of the pep rally.

As tradition, students are to wear their class colors- a reason to why I am dressed 90% in blue.
Like the day before, two students have already organized themselves before the rest begin to

shuffle in. As if the pep rally schedule and it being Friday somehow lifted off the stress off of

their shoulders, the students fill in the tables in low and excited chatter. “How Far I’ll Go” from

the animation ​Moana b​ egins to play from the announcement speakers and students collectively

murmur.

“Why are they playing this song?”

“This is Moana”

“I actually like Moana, my favorite part of the movie is…”

I sat near table one, especially eager to hear what they would say today. While the others

were not yet in what I like call “art mode”, Jackson speaks up and points at his thin sweater

hoodie, stating that, “This is my school spirit”. It is brown. At 7:45, Mrs. Duong comes into the

room and sits behind her desk to turn on the computer. Across the room at table three, I see Blue

Jacket and Stripes talking. Jackson seems to be talking about a past experience. “She tried to kiss

me...I think she was experienced.” Mrs. Duong stands up and raises her voice to address the

class, stating that “some of you guys are very loud...I want to see your sketches finished”.

Chatter ensues but the volume lowers a bit in response. I hear Jackson laugh and say “she’s

telling us to shut up-it’s because I’m gay, isn’t it?” He then goes on to talk about pda. Realizing

my lengthy time at table one, I follow Mrs. Duong to the back of the room intent to observe

table three. On one end sits Blue Jacket and Stripes who talk to each other, and Red Sweater-the

only girl at the table. Red Sweater looks at her phone, her brightness is high enough that I can

recognize that it is her reference photo. Slightly hunched over and face stern, she concentrates on

her drawing. The other two boys have their materials out but have not touched them.
“When I woke up today, my leg was like-so yea”

“What should I do?!” exclaimes Stripes as he shifts his attention to his blank sheet.

Blue Jacket plays with the book cover as Mrs. Duong approaches them and asks them

what they are going to do. Blue jacket claims that he “does not know how to draw…” Mrs.

Duong, clearly not having any excuses, tells him, “It’s imaginative-go look at some books”. He

follows her instruction and immediately gets up. He comes back with a tattered violin. I look at

the other end of the table and see that Blue shirt has worn a grey one today. I turn back to find

Blue Jacket playing with the violin strings. He has not touched his paper yet. Red Sweater is still

slightly hunched over but with her pencil still in hand she seems to be taking a quick social

media break. She then gets up to the counter and looks through the box full of glass bottles,

presumably to serve as a reference.

“This is very, uh muy pequeno”, Stripes says as he holds up a piece of tape.

Laughing, Blue Jacket responds, “Si, si it works”

Grey shirt is playing a game on his phone, judging from the rapid movements of his

thumbs and concentrated look. He stops abruptly, puts his phone down, and goes back to

drawing. When I turn back Stripes and I make eye contact. I am not one for eye contact. We both

awkwardly look away at the same time. At table two I find Glasses not shouting anything, but

instead drawing silently with his phone downwards beside him. As Mrs. Duong talks to students

individually, red sweater leans on her elbow and continues to draw and Blue Jacket mock plays

the violin as Stripes laughs at him. At the front of the room, Mrs. Duong suddenly speaks up and

asks, “Anyone want to learn how to publish a book?” To which a lot of students look up in

confusion and curiosity. I hear a “What the hell?” and “What?”


I was intrigued by this reaction, as I immediately recognized the difference from the

reaction of students in my double period AP Studio class when asked that question. Mrs. Duong

had found news of an author holding a free and open meeting at Rockville Library for anyone

interested in learning about the publishing process. When my class was asked the same, many of

us were still just as confused and curious, but perhaps because it is a higher level course or that

more students are serious about art as a potential major, the subject of publication was not

something too out of reach that it would receive such a response like Studio 1’s.

I walk over to the front of the room and sit at the table right by the entrance door. Sitting

behind Grey, who now wears a pretty dress due to the day’s sudden rise in temperature, I have a

clear view of table two. The girls are more talkative that the day before. Gina is looking at her

phone and suddenly holds it up for the others-others being Burgundy and Pretty Dress- to see.

She exclaims while pointing at the picture on the screen, “He’s sixteen! He’s sixteen!” She then

proceeds to talk to Burgundy, commenting on her drawing.

“That’s a rat”

“What no”

“Okay, so that’s a rabbit”

Gina holds up the drawing and catches Pretty Dress’s attention to ask for her opinion.

I look over to table 1 and see Plaid mindlessly touching the assorted fake fruit and then alongside

the others watch in amazement and curiosity at Jackson who seems to be assembling two fake

apples together by inserting a stem through the other.

“Jackson what did you do to this apple?”

“...Ahaha well, usually in the wild kingdom of apples…”


“We got to find out where the male part is.”

“This is a mutant child, right here”

Satisfied with my addition of interesting things that I have heard and seen at table 1, I

turn my attention back to Blue Jacket and Stripes who still preoccupy themselves as they tape the

old violin in the name of fixing it. They don’t appear concerned about their sketches. Mrs.

Duong approaches them, and while most visibly conveying her unamusement at their activities,

asks, “You guys want to stay for lunch detention?” The two boys stop picking at the instrument

and when Stripes responds with another weak defense, Mrs. Duong says,“Let me repeat one

more time: ebony pencil, darkened-get a pencil with darker lead to do the background.” They

leave their seats to do as told.

With my observations consisting of a lot of what looked like boredom and distraction, I

thought about what this art class meant for these students. Being that Studio 1 is not a first level

art class, these students willingly signed up. This led to two main possibilities: Either the student

is interested in and enjoys art, or entered the class with the intention to have an assigned “chill”

period within their academic schedule. In our interview, I asked Mrs. Duong on her thoughts on

these perspectives that students come with into art classes. She states that “a lot of students think

[art] will be easy because unlike other classes it doesn’t require memorizing or testing”, but “I’ve

heard some say Foundations [of Art] can be their hardest class,” as it requires new and creative

and thinking. I then asked how these mindsets affect productivity in the classroom, to which she

explained how those with a negative mindset-the ones who adamantly defend that they “can’t

even draw a stick figure” and assume skill equates to good grades-tend to give up easily and get

disappointed when they don’t receive the grade they wanted from their “easy” class. These
students “connect drawing skill with doing well in the class” when in reality an art class is meant

to push creativity and the thinking process, not only showcase the physical result and ability. For

a student like Gina who takes art seriously, though I saw her frequently on her phone or talking

to those around her, she states that she makes sure to get things done to the point where she

doesn’t even bring her assignments home or come in during lunch to work on them.

Many of Wotton students may be like Stripes who seemed to find his impending sketch

as a simple assignment that he had to do in the name of just completing it, or Plaid who invested

time and thought into her strange pizza idea, or Gina who plans to incorporate her assignments

into her potential art portfolio. But despite these differences, the familiar art hallway will forever

be a shared experience.