The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

Winged Post

Unveiling artistry: Study of Visual Arts transports students around the globe

Ashley Mo
Posters and art pieces hang on the wall of upper school Visual Art teacher Brian Caponi’s room. Color theory introduces the Study of Visual Arts course.

Step into the creative sanctuary of the Art Building, where a world of imagination awaits. Vibrant paint bottles stand poised, ready to unleash colorful hues on paper and canvas. Shards of colored glass sparkle beside clay-covered pottery wheels, brimming with endless possibilities of innovation. Welcome to the Study of Visual Arts.

Since the establishment of the upper school in 1998, Harker has incorporated the Study of Visual Arts class into its curriculum. Back then, only sophomores could take the elective, which incorporated in-depth writing and analysis. Frosh learned computer science and engineering basics in the Introduction to Technology class instead. Since students were already exposed to computer science aspects in middle school, administration decided to replace Introduction to Technology with Study of Visual Arts for frosh.

Today, upper school visual arts teachers Pilar Aguero-Esparza and Brian Caponi teach the course. Aguero-Esparza says that the elective has evolved since she joined the upper school in 2005, and she appreciates its impact on Harker’s artistic community.

“[Bringing the elective into frosh year] was a nice move because it allows students who are interested in art to take an art elective throughout the next three years,” Aguero-Esparza said. “[The Study of Visual Arts] is a really wonderful class [where] people [can] get experience and exposure to expression in all the art fields that we offer.”

Students experiment with common items like sticks, hot glue, fruits and paper for a Study of Visual Arts project. At the beginning of the year, students learned about the elements of design and shape. (Ashley Mo)

Over time, the course curriculum changed and opened to frosh, pivoting to introduce global art forms. Through hands-on projects including Egyptian paper-making, Greek pottery, Japanese block printing and Western stained glass, students now experiment with various mediums and materials. 

“[Study of Visual Arts] is an introduction into visual culture, mainly through the lens of a range of different historical genres,” Caponi said. “I don’t think a lot of students have had the chance to explore mediums like stained glass, which makes this class pretty cool.”

[The Study of Visual Arts] is a really wonderful class [where] people [can] get experience and exposure to expression in all the art fields that we offer

— Pilar Aguero-Esparza

Every project includes specific requirements from students, such as capturing their own memories, drawing inspiration from elements in nature or exploring historical artifacts that hold significance. By incorporating these personal connections into their artwork, students can create more meaningful compositions. Study of Visual Arts student Joyce Zhang (9), whose love for drawing began at 3 years old, says she enjoys the freedom of expression in the class.


“We’ve mostly been doing color and elements of design, and now we are doing prehistoric cave art,” Joyce said. “We are incorporating elements of our personality [into the project]. It’s supposed to be about our childhood and our culture, so I am adding these Chinese moon cake designs and a volleyball, because I play volleyball.”

Disha Gupta (10), who took Study of Visual Arts last year, particularly enjoyed the ancient Greek pottery project. Students carved designs based on daily Harker life on clay pots, such as flowers and campus architecture.

The Art Building showcases Greek-style clay pots by former Visual Arts students Kaitlyn Su (11) and Jayden Chen (10). Students first sculpted the pots from clay, which were then painted, fired in the kiln and glazed. (Ashley Mo)

“I really enjoyed being able to integrate nature into our project,” Disha said. “[Making the pot] has helped me view the world around me with more of an artistic lens which I wasn’t able to do previously, and it’s something that I [find] myself applying a lot in my life.” 

Even for those who may not enjoy creative pursuits now, the elective holds the potential to reshape their perspective on art. The elective ignited Laurel Davies’ (12) passion for art her frosh year. After studying ceramics in 10th grade and Advanced Placement (AP) 2D Wet Media in 11th, she now takes Graphic Design.

“Given that Harker is such a STEM-oriented campus, I think it’s super important to take some kind of creative class to push your boundaries,” Laurel said. “A lot of students find that when they take Study of Visual Arts, they actually have greater artistic talent than they might have thought. For me, the Study of Visual Arts class really helped me decide to pursue an art career at Harker.”

Now, Aguero-Esparza and Caponi are working to cover art outside the Western world, such as Asian, South American and Latin American art. After completing the course, students can take art-related courses for the next three years, such as ceramics, 2D art, digital art, and AP portfolio classes. Regardless of where a student’s artistic journey goes after completing Study of Visual Arts, they will have gained the ability to apply an artistic perspective to other subjects. 

“The course content is really just geared around allowing [students] to work through different visual processes to understand [themselves] a little bit more,” Caponi said. “I hope students are walking away with a greater sense of themselves, and a joy of making and thinking through the creative process. Those skills are really indispensable, and they’re transferable to any field.”

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About the Contributor
Ashley Mo, Reporter
Ashley Mo (10) is a reporter for Harker Aquila, and this is her second year on staff. This year, Ashley hopes to write about stories both within and outside of the Harker community, form friendships on the journalism team and learn more about global news events. In her free time, she enjoys playing golf and listening to music.

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