In keeping with the proverb, “Necessity is the Mother of Invention,” the faculty of Falmouth Academy have envisioned new ways to incorporate arts into the curriculum at Falmouth Academy this unusual year. Since musicians are not able to play, singers are not able to sing and actors are not able to act, at least at school in the form of traditional electives. The school is now offering more than 25 after-school activities for students each week from String Ensemble to Hiking in Beebe Woods, from Stagecraft to Advanced Latin.
Another innovation is our new Immersion Program, which kicked off this week and happens in the classroom. Expanding on Falmouth Academy’s signature program, Arts Across the Curriculum successfully developed and executed by art teacher Lucy Nelson over the last ten years, FA is now supplementing the curriculum with studio art, photography, music, drama, and the newly created, RIISE (Respecting Individual Identities through Social Engagement) across the curriculum. Immersion opportunities will take place in all grades and academic departments during the school day throughout the year.
The Immersion Program brings teachers from five elective disciplines into core academic classes to deep dive into creative ways on a topic that complements the discipline. Examples include Math Tessellations Inspired by MC Escher; Poetry and Surrealism in the 1920s; Watershed Watercolors; Camera Obscura: Light and Optics; Political Art and Protest Posters; The Commedia dell’arte; Oops and Ouches: Understanding Biases and Dismantling isms; and Rhetoric and Elgar’s Enigma Variations, just to name a few.
Key components of the program are that each lesson will be rooted in history (a famous person, movement, invention, or discovery) which will inform the hands-on creative exploration that follows. Students may find themselves embroidering phytoplankton, singing African spirituals, creating theatrical vision boards, mapping their identities, or recreating famous paintings through photography.
This week, Lucy Nelson inaugurated the Immersion Program with an art history lesson to seniors in Monica Hough's Rhetoric class. Together they watched a music video performance by Beyonce and Jay-Z directed by Ricky Saiz and choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui that was filmed in the Louvre in Paris. Nelson contextualized the viewing with a discussion of race, privilege, and power. The students were asked to observe what was being communicated and how in the video. What was the message of the lyrics, and how was each scene choreographed and situated? For homework, students were asked to pick one of the pieces of art featured in the video and write about why it was included and how it relates to systems of power. “I don’t want an art historian’s analysis,” said Nelson. “I want the students’ thoughts and feelings.”
When asked why she chose this lesson to kick-off the school year and the new program, Nelson replied, “Because of the racial tensions that are happening in our country, I think a conversation on race and privilege and positions or narratives of power is imperative.” Nelson closed the lesson by giving the students a handy series of questions to ask themselves whenever they find themselves in a cultural setting, such as a museum like the Louvre in Paris.
What is the artwork on view?
Who made the artwork?
Who is depicted?
For whom is it intended?
Who is the viewer or consumer?
Historically how have people of color been depicted?
How have women been depicted?
How have relationships between men and women been depicted?
Who is dominant?
How have notions of femininity and beauty been depicted?
And for whom?
How has masculinity been depicted?
How has victory or power been depicted?