Visual Arts Classes Offered at MHS

Video by Delina Yohannes. All photos by Haset Tesfaw.

The art classes at MHS are a space in which students can channel all their creativity into art. There are many unique projects and sculptures that have been created and many students end up coming back the next year. 

Kristina Gilbert, one of the newest art teachers, said more students signed up for her classes this year. “Now that I kind of got my feet in the door a bit more. Last year it was a little bit less but I was the new guy on the block so I think they were still just trying to figure me out.” 

Gilbert teaches Studio 1 as well as Foundations of Art but has dabbled in ceramics as well.“Last year they had me teaching Ceramics and Foundations…I definitely prefer the studio classes, that was my…major in college. I did take a couple of ceramics classes, but I am by no means an expert.” She also added that she “might be doing Calligraphy next year which will be very interesting because I’ve never done that.”

Principal Christopher Mastrangelo explained that, “through retirement, we lost a legend last year with Mary Ann Seager and it was impossible shoes to fill and Melissa Sullivan has filled them; she is incredible.”

“I was excited to bring Gilbert back last year. Gilbert was actually a student here…so I was so excited to bring her back as a Malden High [Graduate].. And then when Ms.Seager left we didn’t know how we were going to replace her and then we stumbled upon Sullivan and she’s really good. So I love not only the teachers that we have but I love the variety of the different levels of the styles of art that we offer,” explained Mastrangelo.

Gilbert explained that when students return to the subject “that is how much I gauge whether they learned or enjoyed the class. If they choose to take it with either another teacher next year, if they bump up, or if they choose to come back with me and just take a different subject.” 

Julie Mullane, the ceramics teacher added, “it's definitely social here so I think they enjoy that aspect of it… it’s not a classroom where we’re silent and in rows doing a lecture.They come in, they get their supplies, and they’re talking with their friends at their table.”

Amanda Retamero Granja focusing and practicing on her calligraphy

All of the art teachers collectively agree that all students should take at least one art class because of how much it benefits them. “It allows them to turn off the rigorous curriculum in other classes and I think that switch in mental thought allows them to take a breather and lets them be whoever they are inside and that is shown through the artwork that they create,” Sullivan, the Calligraphy and Studio teacher stated. 

These art classes can help students take a break from their other classes and just give them time to breathe. The art teachers also believe that it helps students become better observers. Learning how to think on your feet and visually solve problems is important,” Joseph Luongo, the Digital Art teacher , explained. 

For most students at Malden High, it’s important that they find their “hook.” Mastrangelo explained why students finding their hook is important and how it's crucial for them to have at least one class that can motivate students to come into school everyday. “Not every student comes here because they love math, science, English, and history. For some students it’s world language, some students it's physical education and athletics, for some it's business, but for a lot of students it’s art. That is their hook…. it's that hook, to bring kids in and give them an offering that matches their passion.” 

Mullane, the ceramics teacher here at Malden High explained, “I really feel that students are desperate for hands-on-anything. I feel that we are so computer-driven and even just to set up your area, you know you need your canvas, cup of water, lump of clay, and tools. We just don’t have those experiences where you’re not with your nose in a book or your nose in a computer, you’re actually just grabbing materials and then forming those materials into something else. And just working and thinking directly with your hands and your tools.” 

“They are allowed to just let go a little bit and try out new materials, and kind of experiment and play around,” Sullivan stated.

A student rolling out balls of clay in ceramics.

(Left) The creations the students made out of clay sitting out to dry. (Top Right) A student cutting out a circle of clay in ceramics. (Bottom Right) The pottery wheels in ceramics.

The community in the art classes has changed throughout the years especially with everything that happened with covid. “It’s changed a lot since I was [a student] here back in 2015, I think it’s shown pretty good growth. Obviously since covid we’ve lost a lot of our numbers with upperclassmen unfortunately, so our AP’s and upperlevels are a bit smaller. But overall I think that students enjoy doing something that's not just math or writing related,” stated Gilbert.

In the future, the Art Department hopes to evolve and grow more so that they can find more ways to benefit students. “I’d love to add more art classes in the future. I’d honestly like to add a fifth art teacher because I think we have the interest in the student body to support a fifth teacher,” Mastrangelo stated. 

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