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Visual Arts

3-D Functional Forms & Play (Spring 2015)

In this 3-D focused studio, students will create objects that invite interaction. We will build animated pieces that possess moving parts, explore game design, and discover where and how the notions of designing, sculpting, building, and "play" intersect.

Build a Tiny House (Fall 2014 and Spring 2015)

Are you an HGTV addict? Interested in architecture? Sustainable design? Join Robert Medley on a fantastic venture - learning to build a 'Tiny" house. The culmination of this course will be the production of an actual living structure that can be sold at auction to benefit Financial Aid at Catlin Gabel.

Ceramics (Yearlong)

In this course, students work with clay and glazes in both functional and sculptural projects. They acquire the basic skills required to throw simple forms on the potter’s wheel and work with slabs and coils to construct hand-built forms. Many specific projects are assigned, but time will always be available for students to work on projects of their own design. This course is open to juniors and seniors.

Chemistry of Art (Spring 2015)

This interdisciplinary course will introduce and apply chemical principles to understand the properties of common artistic materials. Activities will include both traditional chemistry experiments and art projects. Topics covered include the electronic structure of atoms and molecules and the nature of color, acid/base chemistry, electrochemical cells, and oxidation-reduction chemistry. These will be used to understand the properties of paints, paper, textiles, metals, ceramics, glasses, and glazes. Experiments may include extracting natural dyes, grinding pigments, papermaking, electroplating, and photographic developing and printing. Prerequisite: Science I.

“Drawing” (Offered Fall 2014 and Spring 2015)

Students will explore a wide variety of "drawing" materials and processes. We will challenge a number of preconceptions and expectations of what a "drawing" can be. Students will explore mark-making in 2-D, 3-D and Mixed Media. The student may begin the semester as someone experienced creating pencil drawings on paper, but then may start using ball point pen on wood, acrylic paint on a discarded coffee table, stringing wire across a public space to divide it up, or making a self-portrait with a sewing machine.

Draw/Paint Intensive: The Canvas (Spring 2015)

If you like drawing and painting, you'll love this course. Students will learn how to work with a variety of drawing and painting media including: water-based oils, acrylic, inks, charcoal, and more. Emphasis will be placed on producing large-scale works.

Genres (Honors Level; Yearlong)

This honors art course is designed for juniors and seniors who are advanced media production students. Participants will learn about various documentary and narrative film genres and will produce short, scripted films based on content developed in their English classes. This class will meet two times per week for the entire year; upon completion, students will receive one full credit. Prerequisite: Media Arts, Creative Writing, Directing, Advanced Play Production, Acting, or consent of the instructor.

Honors Portfolio (Fall 2014 for Seniors and Spring 2015 for Juniors)

Honors Portfolio is a graded, studio based course where advanced arts students in fine arts (drawing, painting, sculpture) and digital arts (photography, graphic arts, and multimedia / video art) can meet with a team of instructors who will mentor them as they develop portfolios for college admission. Student artists are given creative prompts to work through based on trends in contemporary and historical artistic practice. Students collaborate and critique one another's work in bi-weekly seminars and meet one on one with teachers for instruction in technique. This is a rigorous course requiring a dedication to studio practice outside of assigned class meeting time.

Illustration (Fall 2014)

This new class is for anyone interested in how to make images that tell a story. Students will explore a wide range of image making processes: drawing, printmaking, photography, video, and animation.

Media: Sight & Sound (Spring 2015)

Formerly 'Media Arts,' this updated course explores tools that are used to record, edit and modify video and audio. Students will learn about cameras, lenses, lights and microphones. We'll spend a lot of time reviewing shot composition and how to get the best quality image and audio on every shoot. Projects like music videos, audio postcards, and short-form documentaries in either audio or video will help students explore the range of ways media can be used to captivate an audience.

Media: Time Based Art (Fall 2014)

Attention: Filmmakers, artists, performers and coders - Interactivity is the name of the game with this new state-of-the-art arts course. We'll learn how to create interactive arts experiences that incorporate performance, video, sculpture and more. Projection mapping, arduino boards, hacking devices such as the Kinect or Wii to capture motion and artist-friendly computer programming will all be explored. Students should have some background in ONE of following areas: theatre, dance, filmmaking, or computer programming. We'll share our expertise to make really cool, contemporary art.

New Media Studies (Yearlong)

This collaborative yearlong course combines study of print media history, news in the digital age, and core journalistic skills while allowing students to practice writing for an audience as the CatlinSpeak staff. CatlinSpeak is an award-winning online news magazine and print newspaper that is designed, written, and published by 10th to 12th grade students. Students pursuing an arts credit option will be responsible for producing digital content including podcasts, vlogs, photo essays and graphic illustrations. Technique will be reviewed the first 6 weeks. Production will continue through the remainder of the year.

Photography: People and Places (Fall 2014 and Spring 2015)

Students in this class will learn foundational skills in photography including how to operate a DSLR, supplemental lighting tools and editing software to produce amazing images every time. Projects will range from portraiture to photojournalism. We'll work in the studio and on the streets of Portland to build a portfolio of our best work.

Printmaking & Book Arts (Fall 2014)

Students will work in a number of different printmaking processes such as woodcuts, linocuts, etchings, collographs, monoprints and digital prints. We will create individual works on paper (and other surfaces), edition a series of multiples, exchange prints with each other, work on some large scale collaborative pieces, and learn to make unique artist books.

Publications & Promotional Design (Yearlong)

Formerly Yearbook, Publications & Promotional Design will teach students the fundamentals of desktop publishing with the Adobe Creative Suite. Students will produce the annual Catlin Gabel Yearbook and will also produce a variety of promotional materials for school events including programs for plays and music concerts, posters for guest speakers, and more.

Sculpture: The Figure (Spring 2015)

In this 3-D offering, students will sculpt, carve, and assemble major projects of figurative forms (human, animal, and....)

Structural Design & Engineering (Fall 2014)

Why do buildings, sculptures, and objects stand up? What geometries lead to stability? How does material choice inform the structure and design process? How can we connect form with function? What factors do you need to consider in creating an effective and aesthetic design? This project-based course explores the basic principles of designing and building functional and beautiful structures, objects, and mechanisms. Main topics include statics (loads, force, and torque), material science, and the design process. Students will be presented with a series of challenges to design and build. Attention will be paid to structural stability, use of materials, cost-effectiveness, and beauty and elegance of design. The class will involve field trips around Portland and research into current and historical structural design. It will also involve drawing, sculpting, prototyping, calculating, and hands-on building. Prerequisite: Science II.

Studio Projects (Independent Study Art; Fall, Spring or Year)

This pass/fail course is designed for a student who wants produce a body of artistic work in any media (ceramics, digital media, drawing, painting, sculpture and more). Students propose a body of work they would like to pursue and then, pending instructor approval, are enrolled in the class. While students have their work critiqued, they are not held to the standard of the Honors track. Consent of instructor required.

Textiles / Fiber Arts (Fall 2014)

You will experiment and learn how to use thread, yarn, fabric, and anything else you may want to stich, sew, weave, quilt, and tie together to create unique works. You may decide to patchwork old t-shirts together to create a monster truck quilt, sculpt a free standing elephant out of yarn, or make a pair of pants out of plastic sheeting.

Woodworking (Yearlong)

In this year-long course, students will work on a variety of assigned and independent projects, using both hand and power tools. Examples of projects include bowls, plates, and lamps (lathe work), tables and chairs, jewelry, mask, tools, and sculpture. Some of the techniques we explore include lamination, steam bending, jig design and construction, and mechanical drawing. Interest, imagination, and perseverance are the essential ingredients needed for this course.


Advanced Instrument Study (Yearlong)

For the serious instrumental music student, you may apply to receive credit for your hours of practice and preparation as a musician. Students pursuing this credit will be guided by on-campus faculty to refine pieces for public recital in the community.

Class Piano (Spring 2015)

Always wanted to learn how to play piano but never learned how? In this course students will learn the fundamentals of piano, sight-reading music, and will prepare a piece to present in public recitals.

Jazz Band (Yearlong)

Intermediate and advanced instrumental students have the opportunity to study and perform jazz literature. Typical instrumentation includes trumpet, trombone, clarinet, flute, saxophone, electric or string bass, guitar, piano, and drums. Instructor approval is required.

Rock Band (Fall 2014)

A companion to the Upper School Jazz Band, this course invites guitarists, horn, keyboard and percussionists to ROCK.

Semester Sing (Spring 2015)

If you love to sing, but don't want to get up early for Choir, this might be the right class for you. Semester Sing is an ensemble for singers of all tastes and stripes to band together and sing. Literature will range from Early Music to Lorde. Accompanied and a cappella numbers will be presented in public recitals.

Songwriting (Spring 2015)

Students will be given tools to create music ranging from electronic computer programs, learning the basics of guitar and piano, basic music theory, song writing and poetry structure and utilization of other musicians or producing. The course will be project based designed around creation of compositions.

Wake up with Charlie! Choir (7:25 - 7:55 Tue-Fri)

There is power in numbers. Historically the Chamber Choir was the crown gem of the Catlin Gabel Arts program. Under the leadership of former Choir Director C. Glenn Burnett, the Choir recorded albums and toured internationally. In more recent years, Choir was scheduled during the regular school day, which resulted in scheduling conflicts due to everyone's vastly different academic loads. Now we can return the Choir to its glory: Join Charlie Walsh Tuesday-Fridays in the CAC from 7:25-7:55. Workload is minimal, which means you can do choir AND another arts elective!

World Instruments (Fall 2014)

Whether or not you're musically inclined, World Instruments is a fun opportunity to learn to play instruments from all over the world. Rotations through percussion (djembe, marimba, taiko, stomp, spoons, etc.) strings (ukulele, dulcimer, basic guitar, etc) and perhaps even a little pan-flute thrown in the mix.


Acting (Fall 2014)

Members of this class will experience an orientation to the world of the theater, including nomenclature, history, and theater criticism. Students will also explore techniques of mime, mask, voice, movement, and improvisation. Acting will be investigated through script analysis and scene study. Students will experiment with the writing of original monologues. Open to all students.

Advanced Play Production (Honors Level; Yearlong)

In this course for the serious student of theater, each student chooses a specialized area of theatrical production (such as directing, playwriting, costume design, lighting design, or theater history) to study in an immersion approach. During the course-selection process, applicants must complete an interview with the instructor and gain approval of a proposed learning plan. Consent of the instructor is required.

Afternoons with Elizabeth: CG Players Troupe (Fall Trimester, Winter Trimester or Spring Trimester)

Based on a small-troupe model, this class will focus on the production of one of the year's mainstage after-school offerings. Class will meet after school, and students who are enrolled (on an audition-only basis) will be guaranteed participation in that trimester's play. Students can choose to focus on acting, directing or dramaturgy, but will be involved in all aspects of rehearsal for the show.

Applied Theater Concepts (Fall 2014 and Spring 2015)

This course is an introduction to many aspects of theater, including makeup, mask-making, costume adaptation, sound editing, the projected image, prop construction, set design, and qualities of light. In the latter part of the year, each student will identify an area of concentration. The course requires participation in two mainstage productions and the Director’s Festival of One-Acts.

Dance (Spring 2015)

Explore a variety of movement styles, ranging from ballet and modern dance to tap, yoga, and devised movement. Incorporating a mix of practical studio time with study of style and choreography, this class will offer the opportunity to expand your personal movement capabilities, while analyzing the historical and stylistic roots of different movement types. Will include an element of performance, as well as some research, dance analysis, and choreography.

Improv (Spring 2015)

Students have the opportunity to explore the world of improvisational and non-traditional theater through ensemble-based work, theater games and improvisation, devising, and student-created work. Open to both beginners and experienced performers.

Musical Theater (Fall 2014)

Sing, dance and act... at the same time! Focus on skill building as well as study of the musical theater canon and history of this American art form. Practical hands-on work mixed with research and presentation. There will be a performance element as well as a scholarship component.

Play Production (Spring 2015)

In this course, students will explore various areas of theater production, including directing, playwriting, costume design, and lighting design. 

Stagecraft (Fall 2014)

An introduction to basic stagecraft and set construction, this course exposes students to the application of lighting and sound as production elements. Weekend and after-school work is required. Open to all students.

Global Online Academy

Online offerings do not count toward the two-year arts requirement.

Digital Photography (Fall 2014)

Photography can be a powerful and persuasive tool. This course is designed for students to learn how to give an emotional context to social, political, environmental, and global issues through photography. Students will learn how to prepare for and execute specific types of photographs, as well as the technical elements of digital editing. While students work on photo-based projects they will simultaneously engage in discussions about topics such as the appropriate use of Photoshop, or the ethics of digital advertising. Students will be given opportunities to interpret specific global issues through their own photographs. In addition to taking photographs, students will write descriptions and reflections, and give constructive feedback on their peers’ work. Students enrolled in Digital Photography must have access to a digital camera.

Graphic Design (Fall 2014)

This course will explore the relationship between information and influence from a graphic design perspective. What makes a message persuasive and compelling? What helps audiences and viewers sort and make sense of information? Using an integrated case study and design-based approach, this course aims to deepen students’ design, visual, and information literacies. Students will be empowered to design and prototype communication projects they are passionate about. Topics addressed include: principles of design & visual communication; infographics; digital search skills; networks and social media; persuasion and storytelling with multimedia; and social activism on the Internet. Student work will include individual and collaborative group projects, graphic design, content curation, some analytical and creative writing, peer review and critiques, and online presentations.

The Graphic Novel (Spring 2015)

In the digital age stories take form in a variety of media and reach a diversity of audiences. The graphic novel lets authors communicate their story in both pictures and words. This course will explore digital narratives, as well as graphic novels in a variety of forms, and look at these texts with a focus on story and place. Students will have an opportunity to tell their stories, and create their own short graphic novels. In addition, students will be asked to reflect on their writing and artistic processes throughout the semester. No artistic experience is needed for this course.

Music Theory and Digital Composition (Spring 2015)

This course focuses on the building blocks of music (scales, chords, keys, intervals, harmonic relationships, rhythm and meter) with the ultimate goal of helping students create compositions of their own. Students will use a variety of online resources to build their skills and to learn to create and arrange music using various digital media. The intent is for students to craft their own work without resorting to pre-determined, canned, digital samples, but rather to draw from their own intellect the musical tools that can be written down, tweaked, and ultimately performed and recorded. Class members will share their work with others online, offer peer feedback in conjunction with faculty guidance, and begin building a body of their own compositions.


Independent Studies

Independent study in the arts is for students to extend their learning beyond the two-year arts requirement of the Upper School. It is not possible to substitute a non-Catlin arts course for something already offered in the curriculum to meet academic requirements. For example, it is not possible to take a beginning acting course at the NW Children’s Theater for academic credit at Catlin. It is the school’s belief that engagement in two years of on-campus arts experiences furthers our mission to educate the ‘whole student’ and enables students to build a well-rounded understanding of themselves as artists, learners and community members. The Arts Department offers two types of independent study. The first is a school-faculty facilitated study where the student pursues learning in an arts discipline that goes beyond current course offerings. Past examples have included honors visual arts students who wish to add portfolio-relevant ceramics to their portfolio and thus pursue study with the ceramics instructor, or a filmmaking student who wishes to produce a documentary on a topic of their choosing in partnership with a Catlin media instructor. For the majority of these students, their commitment to deepening their knowledge in an arts area and/or exploring new terrain requires the student to write a prospectus, research an area of study and maintain an ongoing commitment to studio practice or rehearsal in collaboration with Catlin faculty. These students are thus awarded a full academic credit. The second opportunity is a faculty-supervised pursuit of advanced study in the arts outside of Catlin Gabel. Typically students engaged in advanced instrumental study seek this option. Occasionally a student may pursue something outside the academic curriculum along the lines of darkroom photography. These students generally practice their artform with an organization outside of school and the level of their in-school engagement is limited to a periodic check-in with a supervising faculty and two community performances / exhibitions per calendar year. For these students, they may earn .5 credit per academic year. Any student engaged in an independent study is required to maintain a weekly blog, documenting their work in process in order to remain metacritical about their artistic growth and to maintain transparency with supervising faculty. Finally, individual teachers have the right to decline to supervise an independent study if a student’s proposal does not fall within one of the two paradigms above and/or if supervision / instruction of the independent study takes the instructor appreciably beyond their teaching load.