Program urges artistic freedom
The art program at Scripps Ranch High School emphasizes creativity and turns out some very talented artists who create impressive works. In addition, the program is extremely popular among students. It’s as if there were a subterranean art colony thriving on the campus.
At lunchtime, for example, art teacher Daniel Ericson opens the door to his classroom and welcomes any student to use the microwave for their lunch, listen to music, hang out and, yes, work on an art project, even if they are not enrolled in art classes. Ericson estimates that between 30 and 50 students congregate during lunch hour in his classroom on any given day.
“It’s an eclectic group of people,” he said. “It’s from all different groups. It’s amazing.”
Make no mistake, the art teachers take their art very seriously, and they have placed an emphasis on encouraging creativity and creative freedom in a relaxed setting.
“Anybody can learn how to draw. … Creativity is something that needs to be fostered and kind of pushed. That’s how Miss Sheldon, the other art teacher, and I basically teach,” Ericson explained.
Shawny Sheldon teaches the introductory classes for students new to art.
“I promise to get their skills up, whatever level they’re at, to grow their skills and, more importantly, to get confidence in the kids and to find just the pure joy in artmaking,” she said. “I just tell people, ‘We make stuff in here.’”
Although Sheldon has 25 years of teaching experience, her unbridled enthusiasm gives the impression she is excitedly teaching her first class.
“I try to introduce creativity in such a way that, hopefully, it flows over into other parts of their life because that is something we need …,” she said. “Those skills are needed in whatever occupation or field you are going to go into … innovation and learning how to think outside the box and not be inhibited by any crazy, wild ideas you have.”
Sheldon said she emphasizes persistence, explaining that people such as Thomas Edison or Einstein worked very hard coming up with new ways of doing things and they weren’t always accepted, but eventually became mainstream.
The program doesn’t normally have set art shows, opting instead to constantly install student artwork throughout the campus. The students are currently working on large format pieces, and some of the new canvasses they are painting on are old projection screens, which no one is using anymore, Ericson said.
“We paint on anything we can get our hands on,” he said, including wood, skateboard decks and surfboards.
Students seem to appreciate the fact that Ericson does what he can to provide them with the materials to create whatever they want.
“Mr. Ericson is really awesome,” said Kayla Dees, a junior. “He tries his best to supply us with everything we need in order to express our art. There aren’t really any restrictions.”
Senior art student Kacey Roche, who paints mostly with acrylics, agreed.
“I said I wanted to a big piece of wood and he got it for me,” she explained. “He helps us with whatever we want. If we want a certain type of paint that we don’t have, he goes and gets it for us.”
Junior Emma Henning credited the artistic leeway in the classroom for allowing her to pursue her creative concepts.
“It allows for so much freedom that your ideas are allowed to properly go onto the paper without feeling restricted to certain guidelines,” she said.