AP art duels hope to spark discussion

With the start of the year, the AP art class implemented a new addition to its curriculum: art duels.

The students conduct this friendly competition in order to enhance their skills as artists.

In a duel, one student challenges the other to create art within an hour, and their competitor picks the medium.

At the end of the duel, they hang up their art in the high school pool lobby.

“Each artist in the class has to challenge another artist in the class at some point throughout the year … [It’s] about bringing kind of the competitive spirit to art-making, in the hope that we make our art fast with very direct purpose. We get to … build the community among star artists so that they are interacting each other and at the same time making artwork very quickly, like in one lunch period … [In] one class period, you have [a piece] that could potentially be in your art portfolio,” said Jeff Zimpel, art department chair.

Zimpel was the one who came up with the idea, originating from his college life.

AP art duels started actually with Mr. Zimpel when he was in college. We were talking about this idea. He used to have these challenges with his friends late night in the studio. They just picked a theme and they would kind of have this face-off. So we really love this idea with the art students,” said Jessica Mohagen, art teacher.

The teachers also started the duels because they wanted to help the students with their art skills and make them more confident.

“Some of them were not coming up with ideas … fast enough or they were getting so narrow in their ideas that we wanted to lighten it up and challenge each other,” Mohagen said. “[We wanted to] have them realize that they could create some artwork and come up with ideas on the spot really quickly. So we started off by doing a class-wide art duel … Now, each student – every Tuesday and Thursday –  … challenges one another,” Mohagen said.

Some of the students like the duels and some of them do not.

“I was a bit apprehensive about starting because having your art judged … in a seemingly objective way [is] really scary. But after I did it once, I’m realizing that it might be good for me … and it’s a good way to clear your head and start with a fresh idea,” said Olivia Loomis, senior. “I know a lot of students including myself are not in love with the idea and we typically like to do our own thing, but I’ve seen some really good art being produced.”

According to Loomis, the duels also give her and her classmates a chance to display their work.

“I think the big part of why I like it is because it’s a public art project. The pieces are displayed for the whole school to see. I think it’s important [to create] more public art,” Loomis said.

“I don’t like it that much to be honest. It’s competitive and I don’t think art really should have [that] competitive aspect … I feel like it distracts from the quality of the art, where it should be,” said Andre Letourneau, senior.

But the students agree the duels are a good thing for their skills.

“I think it could be interesting because … it is sort of competitive. It’s exploring the intermediate. [It pushes] you to improve yourself really fast,” Letourneau said.

“I ultimately think it’s a good idea,” Loomis said. “It helps us to go outside of our comfort zone.”

The teachers like the results of the art duels.

“I see them shed a lot of their innovations, making some of the most spontaneous, most thoughtful, most kind of pointed artworks, and it’s been a lot of fun to watch,” Zimpel said.

Students can go to the upper pool lobby and see what the AP artists have created from the art duels.

“I invite all the students … to talk about [the art duels], to take a look at what’s being created and create a school-wide dialogue about the creative people that we have here,” Zimpel said.

by Yasmin Mohd Suhailin

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