Visual Arts

Rolling Hills Preparatory School's art classes are designed to be part of a broad visual art experience that begins in the middle school and continues through to upper school and AP art classes. RHP is renowned for its significant commitment to a strong arts education. All arts classes meet with the same frequency as the other academic classes ensuring that the classes form a vital part of the curriculum. Increasingly research shows that developing right brain skills may be critical to student success and our art classes have been encouraging and emphasizing right-brain thinking as part of our curriculum for many years. We believe that this vigorous art experience is vital to success in educating students in the 21st century.

Deborah Gelbart, Chair of the Visual and Performing Arts Department, teaches many of the upper school offerings. She is an accomplished artist who shows and sells her own work, but focuses mainly on teaching her students. She says, "When you find something that you love, there is nothing better than sharing that love with others." In 2004, she was selected as Palos Verdes Peninsula Chamber of Commerce Educator of the Year.

Marcel Nagy, another very accomplished artist, teaches the middle school arts program, as well as several upper school offerings. She teaches for both RHP and Renaissance, and was selected as the Educator of the Year in 2008 by the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce. She also exhibits her work locally and recently completed a Masters in Biomedical Illustration.

The middle school arts curriculum provides students the opportunity to learn and experience the basics of several visual and performing arts. A rotating trimester schedule enables the student to take two or three different classes per year. The middle school art courses teach a broad range of skills and knowledge. The sixth grade course focuses on understanding the processes and development of art and culture through ancient history. Seventh graders develop skills in many types of media and learn to process visual information through careful observation and understanding of the formal elements of art. Eighth graders are encouraged to explore a more personal vision and style to making art, learning new techniques and practicing skills they have been introduced to in previous years.

The upper school arts curriculum provides opportunity for students to explore various art disciplines. All freshmen take the Art and Music Appreciation class, an introduction to the arts. This exciting exploration of the art and music worlds provides students with the means to learn about and appreciate art and music through critical thinking, aesthetic responses, and studio projects. Starting in the tenth grade, students choose their elective classes including filmmaking, photography, yearbook, and the visual art offerings. Drawing and painting students gain mastery and further refine their artistic vision as they explore a variety of techniques, media, genre and subject matter.

A number of more advanced art classes are available such as the Mixed-Media class in which students explore, experiment, create, combine and manipulate various media and techniques as they develop their own personal style. One signature project involves painting in the style of famous artists on California Pizza Kitchen boxes, and culminates with a show at the local pizza restaurant.

Studio art is an advanced class for the highly motivated art student. AP Drawing and AP2D Design are the most advanced art offerings, with opportunities for AP art students to create the portfolio required to receive Advanced Placement credit.

All art students participate in art field trips to our outstanding local museums, galleries, art openings and attend special events and workshops presented by guest artists.

The arts program culminates with an all school arts exhibition in the spring (usually near the end of April). All students are involved and are able to experience the opening and setting up of a show. Performing art students sing and play piano and other instruments during the opening reception. The Environmental Arts students provide the freshly cut flower arrangements. The upper school art students design the invitation, set up the show (including putting up and taking down the works), photographing and critiquing the exhibition. It is an instructive experience for the students, parents and guests, and a time for us to all enjoy our creative spirits.

Deborah Gelbart says, "I strongly believe in our mission statement and spend my day with my students encouraging their creative spirits. My students do think outside the box, creatively problem solve, and also create beautiful works in a unique environment where their imaginations combine with knowledge and skills to lead them to success."