AP Art classes visit artist studio in San Francisco


Michelle Liu

Nageena Singh (12) and other students from the AP art classes listen to artist Shawn Hibmacronan explain his work. The students learned about Hibmacronan’s creative process as a professional artist on a trip on Nov. 15.

by Michelle Liu, Winged Post Co-Editor-in-Chief

Students from the AP Studio Art and Honors Directed Portfolio classes visited the former Naval Air Station in Alameda to explore artist Shawn Hibmacronan’s studio, taking in the sight of hundreds of metalworking tools and dozens of past projects displayed in his cavernous studio on Nov. 15. 

While the studio warehouse now serves as a space for artists, metal workers and craftsmen, it was once part of the Alameda Naval Station before its closure in 1997. Remnants of the location’s history add an element of liminal mystery to the space, with 8,000-foot runways still intact next to the expansive waters of the San Francisco Bay.

Over the course of the next few hours, Hibmacronan gave the students a tour of the space that had been home to his art practice for the past 11 years, showing them the variety of tools and techniques that he uses to create his works. He explained the material-focused process that he undergoes as he makes each new piece, often experimenting with different motor vehicles and the manipulation of steel.

“I can design a piece to death, I can get super precise in the plans, but the materials always get in the way of something,” Hibmacronan said. “There’s always something that’s a surprise. My approach to that is to not be frustrated, but to take that as a lesson to learn.”

Planned by upper school visual arts teachers Joshua Martinez and Pilar Agüero-Esparza, the visit to an artist’s studio is an annual tradition for the AP Drawing, AP 2D Studio Art, AP 3D Studio Art and Honors Directed Portfolio classes. The goal of the trip is to provide students with an opportunity to see behind the scenes of a professional artist’s work.

“One of the things that’s different from normal art practice versus student art practice is that artists have spaces where they can create for themselves, and it’s hard [for students] to imagine [their] process laid out in front of [them] in a space in the classroom,” Martinez said. “I think it’s really valuable to get to see how other artists do that.”

The field trip provided a valuable chance for Harker art students to talk with Hibmacronan and ask him questions about his practice. After listening to Hibmacronan introduce his work, AP Drawing student Karina Chen (11) felt inspired to imbue her own work with what she learned from the trip.

“It’s interesting to hear how other people talk about their process,” Karina said. “I feel like it provided me [with] a new perspective to be more open in terms of my approach to doing my work.”