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Thursday

July 2014

31

Remodel means more art for students

PHS renovation is a dream space for art department

The fine arts space had not been renovated since 1968, and Pewaukee High School was often unable to fill requests for classes because they were too crowded.

Eight hundred five students were enrolled in an art class of some sort in the fall 2010; graphics arts enrollment was filled to capacity at 292, and some students had to be turned away.

That has all changed now, since the construction project remodeled the classrooms for the technical education and art classes.

"When the referendum passed, we began to sit down in meetings to discuss our 'dream' space," said art teacher Jeanne Bjork. "What would the perfect visual art room look like? What were the main needs and wants for the project?

"I was able to work one-on-one with the architect from Hunzinger to custom design the spaces. We problem solved together and came up with a space that was truly unique and custom and yet flexible enough to grow through the years with our program. The planning phase was a critical step in the process."

Before the construction, for example, students and teachers would sometimes have to run from class to class during one period.

"Unfortunately, the old lab was upstairs and very far from the art room. This proved challenging for the many studio-based components of these new digital classes, which still had their roots in the visual arts," Bjork explained. "With the new construction, this problem was resolved. The Mac lab was moved and is now connected to the visual art room and across the hall from music and technical education, making it more convenient to all the programs involved."

The new space allows for music composition, video animation, traditional art media, video production, digital photography, cyanotyping and graphic art. Between the Macs, the Garage Band or Logic Pro keyboards, theanimation stills, the green screens and the cameras, Superintendent JoAnn Sternke admitted that, while she has no idea how to use some of the things in those rooms, she's excited to see the kids learning about them.

On any given day, students can be flexing their Adobe CS4 skills, "rotoscoping" to make video-based custom animation, sculpting a clay-mation character, building a set, designing a storyboard or recording music. Bjork said the curriculum was revised in 2008, and the School Board voted to invest in a new Mac lab to reflect changing needs and job demands in the field of the art.

"One of the few job markets to expand and grow in recent tough economic times has been the area of the arts, with new jobs being invented each day in fields such as web design, game design, animation and video. Students needed to have more technology-based arts skills and so a number of new courses were introduced that allowed for students to graduate with hands-on experience in 21st-century technology," Bjork said.

"That's when I get excited. We talk about our general mission, and here we are, opening doors for our students. … Opening doors that they didn't even know existed," Sternke said.

Bjork agrees and thinks that the remodeling and new courses have made students more engaged and highly motivated to produce high-end, professional work. She's seen visual arts students succeed in art exhibits, international film festivals, and scholastic awards. Many of the Advanced Placement studio art students have scored high 4/5s on their new-curriculum driven portfolios. Others received scholarships based on their works, and a few have gotten jobs based on the skills they learned at Pewaukee High School.

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