Seniors Janai Austin and Millie McSwain paint bases for their sculptures. Austin and McSwain were two of only three students who took AP Studio Art at PGHS this year. Photo by Anna Mitchell.

Walking into teacher Cindy Bell’s 2nd block art class, the first thing one notices is the art that fills the room. The ceiling tiles are all painted with different designs and patterns and the shelves are lined with sculptures made of wire, clay, plaster and paper.

The next thing one notices is that only three students are in this class, and though there are only three, each one has created a significant amount of the pieces that line the room. Each one works on a different assignment, and each work is a different size, medium or color, but each piece has one thing in common: they are three-dimensional. Bell’s 2nd block art class is AP Studio Art: 3D Design, and it is the first AP art class ever offered at PGHS.

Though PGHS only offers the 3D version of AP Studio Art, there are two other versions of the class, which focus on 2D art and drawing. Unlike most AP Classes, the three AP Studio Art classes do not have a traditional timed, proctored exam. Instead, students create a variety of artwork over the course of the school year. In May, they photograph or scan their pieces, include a written portion, and submit their portfolios online on the College Board’s website. Online portfolios were due at 8 PM on May 10, 2019.

“I wanted to take (the class) … to challenge myself,” said senior Aya Daniels, who will be majoring in art foundations at VCU. “I’m not very well-versed in 3D art, so I wanted to expand my horizons and my artistic ability and take a 3D class.”

AP Studio Art was by no means Daniels’s first art class or first AP class, but she found that the class was unique in both its rigid structure and the freedoms it allowed the students.

“[This class] was more structured. We needed to have things done by a certain time so we could get another sculpture finished. We also had more freedom to do whatever we wanted,” Daniels said.

“We could pick our concentration, pick the project we wanted to do – it was just the medium was already set for us.”

The submitted portfolio has three sections, one of which focuses on a concentration of the student’s choosing. Senior Janai Austin’s concentration was fantasy art. Many of the symbols in her art were inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

“I got rabbits as a symbol from the book, and then the Mad Hatter was transformed more into a ballerina,” said Austin, who will be studying art at VSU.

Daniels took a vastly different turn. Her concentration involved the field of fashion – something she had long held interest in, but never pursued artistically before.

“My concentration was making conceptual fashion sculptures out of alternative materials,” Daniels said. “I was just so fixated on fashion at the time.”

Senior Millie McSwain’s concentration was exotic art.

“I like seeing things that are different in my eyes because anything that’s new will look interesting to me,” McSwain said.

Though Austin, Daniels, and McSwain are all seasoned artists, this class still helped all three learn valuable skills and explore new artistic themes.

“Usually I’m the type of person to do realism, straightforward things, and this one was more of a conceptual idea,” Daniels said. “[My art this year was] still kind of straightforward and realistic, but more creative than my other works usually are.”