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Corona del Sol High School - Tempe, Arizona.

Corona del Sol High School Tempe, Arizona

SchoolArts is introducing an occasional series of articles that describe visits to art programs and departments where good things happen. We hope to share ideas about facilities, curriculum and instructional practices, as well as storage ideas, unique teaching approaches, advocacy ideas and more. We plan to include all levels of art teaching, from elementary through university, as time and travel opportunities allow. Our first Field Trip takes us beyond the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona to the burgeoning city of Tempe. We are visiting the two-person art department of Corona del Sol High School. Approximately 2,300 students are enrolled in this traditional four year high school.

The architecture of the southwest is evident in the spacious open campus with covered walkways, courtyards and patios. Approaching the Fine Arts Wing from the interior courtyard, a large scale corten steel sculpture frames the entry into the visual art area. The sculpture, by Michael Anderson, was created as part of an Artist-In-Education program where students worked with a professional sculptor. Another large sculpture by Don Canary, is situated in the school's media center. An A.I.E. fiber artist worked with art students to create a large quilted wall hanging for the school's Home Economics living room, while the school media center has an extended collection of original folk art, intended to make students aware of the art of different cultures. These impressive projects are initial indicators that Corona del Sol's art program exhibits excellence in a number of ways.


Corona opened its doors in 1977. The original departments of art, drama and music were combined into a Fine Arts Department in 1983. The current Fine Arts Chair, Karen Saunders, was Corona's first art teacher. She recalls artrooms with no water, cupboards or chalkboards when the school opened, and the need to order and organize every item of equipment from paper clips to potter's wheels. A 1987 North Central Evaluation report citing Corona del Sol as an exemplary art facility attests to the success of Ms. Saunders' and other staff members' efforts to develop an outstanding art department.

Staff and goals

The strength of the art program at Corona goes far beyond the facility factor. The two-person staff, Karen Saunders and Robert Burkhardt, provides leadership in multiple ways. Both served as president of the Arizona Art Education Association, and both were Regional Vice Presidents on the NAEA Board of Directors in addition to numerous other professional activities.

The stated goals of the Corona Art Department are familiar ones: "providing students with information and experiences which will provide an overview of what art is considered to be, and what its possibilities are through emphasis on art production, appreciation and evaluation." Art history is related to art production and supported by an extensive collection of slides, filmstrips and reproductions.


Course offerings are selected from a master list of classes in the District Handbook of Course Descriptions. Current course offerings include Art and Design, Advanced Art and Design, Photography, Drawing and Painting, Commercial Art and Ceramics. While Art and Design is the introductory pre-requisite, it may be waived for ninth graders upon recommendation of their junior high art teachers. Other students with special backgrounds in art may be placed in advanced courses after successful portfolio review and testing, and seniors may be considered for advanced classes in special circumstances.

Course offerings are reviewed each year, with the selection of advanced offerings based on student interest and enrollment. The facilities and programs in Photography and Ceramics are impressive. Well-equipped photo labs and a large ceramics studio enable students to work under optimum conditions--meaning many enlargers and potter's wheels! A large gas-fired kiln, along with smaller electric kilns, is located in a spacious patio adjacent to the separate ceramics studio.

A new Commercial Art curricular opportunity for the 1989-90 school year has been developed in cooperation with two large local newspapers, the Arizona Republic and the Phoenix Gazette. The newspapers are providing commercial sponsors for whom the students will design advertisements. Ads selected will be placed in a special supplement to be published in December. Newspaper artists will visit commercial art classes to demonstrate layout and production skills, and students will make visits to the newspapers' art departments.

This promises to be a vivid and real-life Commercial Art experience, involving students with actual clients. It will orient them to career opportunities, motivate quality work, reward students who will see their work published and distributed, and provide students with authentic portfolio pieces for job and scholarship applications.

School support and interdisciplinary programming

Quite often a Fine Arts Department is an entity in name only, with each area maintaining insularity and independence. This does not seem to be the case at Corona, where evidence of cooperation and interaction includes: FANS (Fine Arts News Service) is a lively, well-designed and illustrated newsletter with the stated goal of "promoting awareness of, appreciation of, participation in and enjoyment of the fine and practical arts....cultivating pride, craftsmanship, aesthetic and creative expression, and artistic presentation." SPECTRUM is an annual publication of student literary and artistic works including poetry, photography and even original musical compositions. Fine Arts Festivals are yearly events organized and presented through the interdisciplinary efforts of the four art areas in cooperation with the English, foreign language, library and other interested areas. Beginning in 1979 as a three-day festival, this fine arts event has expanded to a week-long festival of exhibits, demonstrations and performances.

Advocacy programs

In the broad sense of the term, all of the interdisciplinary, activist programs cited above contribute and support advocacy efforts for successful art programs. At Corona del Sol, however, the list goes on. It includes an active National Art Honor Society, a program sponsored nationally by the NAEA for advanced and excelling students of teachers who are NAEA members, and the Renaissance Art Club which sponsors "Art Encounter" trips to galleries and museums in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Arizona State University and other places of special interest. A.S.U. graduate students also visit Corona for demonstrations in ceramics and other media and process areas.

An important and unique support system is FAST (Fine Arts Support in Tempe), an organization of parents and community members with a special interest in the fine arts in Tempe. Among other efforts, FAST members have spoken at school board meetings on behalf of the arts programs. The Great Art Print Sale is an annual event, in cooperation with Imaginus, Inc., providing additional funding for art department activities. Many of the good quality art reproductions in Corona's large art resource center were obtained as a result of the print sale. Karen Saunders notes that other departments--English, Foreign Language and Social Studies--often incorporate the use of art prints in their instructional plans.


Art students at Corona are encouraged to enter educationally sound competitions at regional and national levels. Deadlines and eligibility information about The Scholastic Art Awards and other competitions of similar quality are provided for all interested students. This year, a Corona student was selected as a participant in the Marie Sharpe Walsh Foundation Summer Institute. The same student also attended this year's Parson's Summer Institute in Paris.

An important local exhibition is ART4, an annual student art exhibition featuring work from the four Tempe district high schools. The work is juried, with awards presented at an evening reception and awards ceremony. The Tempe Art League provides ribbons and refreshments for the exhibit, usually held at the Fine Arts Center of Tempe.


An art program without problems of some sort is a contradiction in terms. While problem areas are certainly reduced immeasurably by good teaching practices and the kinds of student involvement already described, formidable problems in areas of programming and budgeting are present in all areas of education. The primary concern of the art staff at Corona is directed towards the difficulty that students find in scheduling art classes.

Scheduling and registration problems surface in many ways. With only twenty credits required for graduation, and a lengthy list of required courses, there is intense competition within the elective areas for students. In addition, college-bound students are counseled towards additional English, math and science courses to compete for scholarships and class rank.

Peer and social pressures influence numerous junior and senior students to opt for early release to take parttime jobs, instead of taking advantage of the opportunity to extend their educational experiences in elective areas. Saunders notes that, "Often our best students are lost in their most critical stage of opportunity--job preparation, scholarship competition, or art school and college application." If twenty or more students do not enroll in an advanced course it is cancelled. This calls for careful planning by art department staff. The policy also results in frustration when eighteen or so interested students are unable to pursue advanced study in areas of their choice. The art staff works with the administration to alleviate these problems to the extent possible. An example of innovative problem solving was last year's formation of the Photo Pros, a club for art students who signed up for advanced photography, but missed out due to insufficient enrollment.

Concluding thoughts

An effective art program is the sum of many factors: teaching staff, administrative and community support, facilities and curriculum, among others. The abundance of ideas and programs at Corona del Sol are also the result of energy, commitment and hard work by professional art educators. Karen Saunders, Fine Arts Chair at Corona, concludes our visit with this comment, "If we are educators who do not believe in the fundamental importance of developmental scope and sequence in art education programs, then our `reason for being' as art educators ceases to exist."

PHOTO : Above: A sculpture by Michael Anderson outside the art department. Below: Kilns on the

PHOTO : ceramic patio.

Kent Anderson is editor of SchoolArts.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Davis Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:Focus: Field Trip
Author:Anderson, Kent
Publication:School Arts
Date:Oct 1, 1989
Previous Article:The International Baccalaureate (I.B.) art-design program.
Next Article:Remembering a master teacher: Frank Wachowiak.

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