Father Mike looks back at how the Fine Arts program got its start at Fenwick nine years ago – and how art plays an integral role in a well-rounded education.
By Fr. Michael Winkels, O.P.
A valuable part of an educated person’s life should include an interest in and appreciation of art. That is certainly true of a Fenwick education. Besides Science, Mathematics, English, Foreign Languages and History, an understanding and appreciation for Fine Arts helps to complete a well-rounded student in the Dominican tradition. The Dominican motto is Veritas or “Truth.” The search for truth encompasses all aspects of human experience. In a Dominican school, art is one component that is essential in the formation of our students as they seek veritas.
After my ordination in 1976, a Sinsinawa sister encouraged me to explore my interest in art. In 1979, at the encouragement of the Order, priests who have been ordained three years were encouraged to begin studying something complimentary to theology. I enrolled at the University of New Mexico, where three years later I received a B.F.A. degree in Studio Art.
At the invitation of Fr. Richard LaPata, I joined the Fenwick community in 2000, working in the area of Technology. I continued working in my art studio whenever I could find the time. In the Fall of 2010 I was asked to develop a Studio Art program. With the support of the school and several generous financial donations of one of our families, we gradually purchased the necessary equipment and supplies.
The program started out modestly with seven students the first semester. From the beginning it was our intention to not just study about art but to introduce students to a variety of ways of helping them make art. The “Survey of Studio Art” class was the first class offered. It has remained the backbone of the Studio program. In this class, students are introduced to 11 media: drawing (pencil, conté crayon, charcoal), water color, acrylic painting, ceramics, wire sculpture, screen and block printing, digital photography and batik. They gain a wide range of experience in both two- and three-dimensional art as they learn about the theory of color, understanding of shading and value, negative and positive space, composition, form, texture and perspective. At the end of the semester they choose one media that they particularly liked and do a more detailed project as a final. As I remind the students even today, you will not be good at or enjoy every media we do, but I guarantee that they will like something in the Survey class. And that has proven to be true.
After students complete the Survey of Studio Art class, they can sign up for a 2-Dimensional and/or a 3-Dimensional Studio Art class. Each of these classes can be taken at four different levels. Students continue to learn and develop in their favorite media as well as improving their artistic and creative skills. At each level of these advanced classes, students learn additional art media, e.g., etching, aquatint, lithography, stained glass, ceramic wheel work and making of mobiles.
Each semester, the classes end with an Art Exhibit of all student work. Invitations are sent out to family and friends inviting them to come to school to enjoy the fruit of a very busy and productive semester. It is a joy to see the smiles of confidence on students faces as they hear family and strangers comment on their talents and hard work. Many students are surprised at what they have been able to accomplish and are gratified for the opportunity to expand their educational opportunities.