Uplifting the Voices of Princeton Day School

The Spokesman


Uplifting the Voices of Princeton Day School

The Spokesman

Uplifting the Voices of Princeton Day School

The Spokesman

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The Evolution of the PDS Fine Arts Course

(Photo/Flickr)
(Photo/Flickr)

The Fine Arts course has gone through its fair share of adjustments over the many years at PDS. Through this class, students have had the opportunity to express themselves creatively using many different techniques and materials, from painting and stop animation to charcoal and ink art. This allows them to explore a different line of thinking that offers unique perspectives and creative ways of problem solving. Furthermore, the Arts Atrium plays a crucial role in providing students with an amazing, open space for artists to hone their skills. However, people may be surprised to learn that this course, along with the entire Arts department, was once taught in the basement. 

Upper School visual arts teacher and alumni Gwen Shockey ‘06 was among the students who took art classes in this less visible part of the school from 2002-2006. Reflecting on her experience, she noted, “When I was a student here, the entire arts program was in the basement. We all had pretty small spaces to work in.” Nevertheless, despite this lack in size, the arts department maintained its dedication to creative expression, with Ms. Shockey describing its environment as a “bustling hub of activity.” 

After Ms. Shockey’s graduation, the school would install its Arts Atrium and gallery, with each teacher given the opportunity to design their own classroom. Ms. Shockey’s former teacher, Jerry Hirniak, designed the fine arts classroom. Later, he would also be the one to email Ms. Shockey and inform her of his retirement and consequently, an open position at PDS. 

Upon Ms. Shockey’s return to the school as a teacher, she was amazed by PDS’ new facilities, highlighting it as “incredible,” and “state of the art.” This was not just a turning point for Ms. Shockey, but for PDS as well. The installation of the Arts Atrium placed a larger emphasis on the school’s arts program, giving students greater opportunities to dive into their artistic abilities. Ms. Shockey commented, “Coming back and teaching here, many years later, like twelve years later, it feels like the Arts now is a main focal point of the school.”

In this vibrant and larger space, Ms. Shockey carefully crafted structured curricula for her introductory and advanced fine art courses. As she progressed in her teaching methods, she became more comfortable in her role as a teacher, becoming more “fluid and flexible.” Three years later, she has become a central part of this community. 

Now, as she teaches this year’s class, Ms. Shockey is paving the way for a new wave of artists. Freshman Emily Gao, a student in the Intro to Fine Art class, stated that “She [Ms. Shockey] is very supportive in everything I do.” Along with this sense of encouragement, the course offers its students the ability to express themselves by allowing them to highlight their background and personality. Gao believes the class allows its students to, “put your own experiences into your art and therefore, make art that’s completely unique and representative of you.” 

Suffice to say, the PDS Fine Arts program has come a long way from its days down in the basement. 

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