Opportunities to explore, express in AP Art

Brenda Nguyen, Staff Writer

Art is a form of abstract communication. From theater to music to digital photography, artists use many forms to express their journey and emotions. There are many options and classes for high school student artists to experiment and study their creative expression. One of these classes is AP Art, which is a visual arts class that gives students freedom to express the way they feel however they want while still following a course curriculum. However, AP Art still does not quite go by the typical yearly schedule. Instead of having one AP Art exam at the end of the school year, there is a total requirement of 15 projects that students must do in order to qualify for the final exam. 

Rather than immediately being admitted into the course, AP Art students must have prerequisites (or prior art classes) that qualify them to join. They must be recommended by art teachers themselves after turning in a portfolio, and students should have a strong standing and interest in their work. AP Art Teacher Laura Muiznieks explains that this is because AP Art is not a class that teaches specific art skills, but rather focuses on developing students’ own concepts for their own works, so it is important that students already have high artistic motivation and background knowledge of their abilities. 

“By the end of the year, I want my students to have gained confidence in their art abilities, enough to be able to share their art with others and not feel like they have to hide it away in a sketchbook or somewhere else,“ Ms. Muiznieks says.

Years ago, one of Ms. Muiznieks’ students came to her class from Vietnam as a sophomore and struggled to communicate with others, but she loved art. However, she struggled to tell her parents that she wanted to pursue art since they didn’t support her dream. One day, the student brought her mother to talk with Ms. Muiznieks to meet with a college portfolio review person to talk about art careers. The student’s mother finally decided that she could go to art school, and she attended MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art). By the time she was a high school senior, she was a student assistant and had gotten experience with helping other student artists. Just during the summer, she had messaged Ms. Muiznieks saying she got a job at Dreamworks Animation.

“‘If you’d never met with my mom, I would never have gotten this job,’” Muiznieks says, quoting her former student. “She really came out of her shell and gained a lot of confidence.”

Similarly, an AP Art student Rania Ashoor (12), who uses the singular ‘they’ pronoun, is yearning to achieve the same confidence. AP Art entails them to be passionate about their art and has helped them grow more as an artist than any other art class they have taken the past three years. Although they struggle communicating with words and actions, they find comfort and confidence in art, no matter what form.

One of Rania’s 15 pieces consists of paper mache wire with words and messages on how to communicate confusion and intense emotions. In contrast, an earlier piece was about a sense of hope and light at the end of the tunnel after a long journey. These pieces lead up to the hope that eventually, Rania will let go of the bearing self-expectation to be good at their art.

“It’s okay to make art for art’s sake and not be good at it,” Rania says, “I just want to use art to jot down my ideas and explore and communicate my feelings with the world with confidence.”

AP Art is not just a high school class, it is an experience students can use in order to find their artistic expression and express themselves in a way that suits them with confidence.

“There may be pieces of art that speak out to me, but the experiences and lessons students tell me they get from this class impacts me the most,” Ms. Muiznieks says. “I love it when students tell me AP Art has made a positive impact on their life.”