Browse Curriculum

Upper School Arts

We believe a profound understanding of the arts is essential to a complete education. In our program, students gain this understanding from hands-on involvement in the creative process. We provide students the opportunity to experience as many art forms as possible in addition to pursuing in-depth inquiry in one or more artistic disciplines. 

The arts curriculum encourages students to commit, observe, play, envision, create, collaborate and reflect on the myriad ways they interpret and understand the world we live in and their place within it. Classes explore how the arts link us to our past and present as well as how the arts influence communication and personal expression.
  • Advanced Acting


    Arts Elective

    After a brief review of Konstantin Stanislavski's technique, we focus on the Sanford Meisner acting technique through improvisational "repetition" exercises and scene work. For the second half of the year, we apply improvisation, character analysis and scene analysis techniques to a small ensemble piece to be performed in late spring.

    This year-long class is available only to students who have completed Introduction to Acting Technique or those who have been granted special permission by the instructor.
  • Advanced Dance


    For Grades 9-12

    A year-long commitment, Advanced Contemporary Dance is for students who have previous training and often find it difficult to balance a full commitment to the after-school dance program and their outside competition studios. The class meets during X period.

    The advanced dance class has three goals:
    • To develop students who enter the Upper School and have extensive previous training and a passion for dance.
    • To offer an elite performing ensemble as part of the Nichols dance program.
    • To allow these students opportunities to learn contemporary dance techniques that they will encounter in collegiate programs.
    Curriculum will include learning and performing advanced and professional dance repertiore in the fall, choreographic lessons and creation in the winter and subtle somatic techniques and awareness of choreographic forms in the spring. Students will collaborate and view experimental choreographic examples throughout the year. Assessment will include performing in the Fall Dance Concert, the Choreographers' Showcase, school meetings and/or peer teaching opportunities.
  • Advanced Photography


    Arts Elective for Grade 12

    Advanced Photography is a class for students who have a serious interest in photography even though they may not have any experience with formal photographic technique. This class moves quickly through the technical strategies involved in traditional and digital photography. The emphasis of this class is on developing original and individual expression through photography. Students are challenged to address each class projects through the production of a series of photographs. As a final project, students are required to complete an in-depth investigation on one topic. Both digital and traditional photography is accepted for the final project. The class emphasizes building a portfolio of work, and is a suggested prerequisite for the AP Studio Art class. 

    Students are encouraged to have either a 35mm or a digital SLR (single lens reflex) camera for this class. Prerequisites for the Advanced Photography course are Visual Thinking and Community or permission from the instructor.
  • AP Art and Design


    Arts Elective for Grade 11 and 12

    A capstone course, this class is for students who take their art making seriously and are highly motivated and self-reliant. The work of this class is to make art with fluency and conviction. Students must produce a living, breathing body of work. This class requires a lot of work and promises great reward and satisfaction for jobs well done. The class buids on techniques and concepts that students have acquired in past art courses in the production of new work. 

    The major project in this class is the production is the production of a series of 12 artworks based on a central interest. The 12-work concentration should develop a theme and challenge the maker and viewer with complex aesthetic and conceptual ideas. Work in this class can include photography, mixed media collage, digital art, painting, and drawing. The portfolio of work must be primarily two-dimensional in nature. Students are required to complete a portfolio of at least 25 works. The portfolio includes a concentration (12 pieces), a breadth (12 pieces), and five works selected for quality. 

    Suggested prerequisites for this course are Advanced Photography, Visual Thinking and Community, Photography, Drawing, Painting. 
  • Art of Craft


    Arts Elective for Grades 11 and 12

    This is a course for juniors and seniors with limited hands-on experience, but an interest in making. Through the introduction of fine craft, students explore carving, forming, sewing, printing, and weaving both utilitarian and decorative objects over the course of this year-long arts elective. Students actively create individual and group-designed projects within a supportive and collaborative class community. Shorter projects introduce new concepts and build confidence before applying these ideas to extended student-driven works. Emphasis is placed on the exploration of materials to express ideas. Students are introduced to multicultural and historical means of art making and exposed to local artistic resources through multiple field trips throughout the year. Printmaking, fiber, sculpture and installation are explored in the creation of both two- and three-dimensional projects. A visual journal is also kept.
  • Concert Choir


    For Grades 9-12

    A year-long commitment, Concert Choir is an ensemble requiring scholastic achievement, concentration, and discipline striving toward excellence in the choral arts. It is open to any student interested in singing. Emphasis is placed on the development of vocal skills, beginning sight-singing techniques, and music listening skills. The Concert Choir will sing music in a variety of musical styles including contemporary, pop, sacred, secular, classical, baroque, and others depending on concert activities.

    Students will also learn the fundamentals of proper vocal technique through individual lesson instruction with the director. At least two annual school concerts should be expected, with the addition of possible tours, off-campus concerts, and optional events including, but not limited to, Cabaret, ECMEA All-County Chorus, NYSMMA Area All-State Chorus, and NYSSMA solo adjudication.
  • Exploring Concepts in Drawing and Painting


    Arts Elective for Grades 11 and 12

    This course embraces multiple approaches to a topic by pushing the boundaries of medium and technique to explore ideas through visual communication. Students develop observational skills, explore expressive mark making, use color theory and gain hands-on experience while creating a diverse and content-rich portfolio. Multiple mediums are explored which may include various types of graphite, ink, printmaking, watercolor crayons, acrylic paint and charcoal as well as more experimental mediums. Students participate in classroom discussions, critiques and group activities in addition to creating individual projects and keeping a visual journal. Students may participate in one or more art service projects as part of the curriculum. Shorter projects introduce new concepts and build confidence before applying these ideas to extended student-driven works. Conceptual units may include ideas of identity/portraiture, time/motion and space. Students are introduced to multicultural and historical means of art making and are exposed to local artistic resources through multiple field trips throughout the year and workshops with visiting artists.
  • Filmmaking and Video Production I


    Arts Elective for Grades 11 and 12

    This course challenges students to use the tools of digital filmmaking in the production of original, creative and thought-provoking work. The use of digital video cameras, lighting, microphones, audio editing software, video editing software and post-production techniques are introduced and taught through projects. Students are asked to produce several short original works in a range of genres that include animation, narrative, experimental, documentary and performance/video art. In order to better understand time-based media, super 8mm film production, wet processing and hand coloring are explored. 

    In addition to making films, video and audio works, the class spends time looking and analyzing a variety of films and videos by local, national and international artists. In the spring the class curates and produces the Flick Fest, an annual film festival that features work from Western New York and Southern Ontario student filmmakers. The students in the class work to launch the festival at the North Park Theatre. 

    Suggested prerequisites for this course are sophomore art electives Visual Thinking and Community.
  • Filmmaking, Video Production 2 and Screenwriting


    Arts Elective for Grade 12

    This course builds on the Filmmaking and Video Production 1 class and further challenges students to use the tools of digital filmmaking in the production of original, creative and thought-provoking work. The Advanced Filmmaking and Video Production 2 class explores the process and craft of screenwriting. The students analyze existing screenplays and critique the resulting films during the first weeks of the course. The students write an original screenplay for a short narrative work in the first quarter. During the second quarter, they produce their own original work using students in the Filmmaking and Video Production 1 class as their crew. In the spring, the class experiments with 8mm film and video installation. Students also curate and produce the Flick Fest, an annual film festival that features work from Western New York and Southern Ontario student filmmakers. The students in the class work to launch the festival at North Park Theatre. 

    Prerequisites for this course are permission of the instructor, sophomore art electives Visual Thinking and Community, or Filmmaking and Video Production 1. This course must be taken concurrently with the senior English elective Criticism I.
  • Foundations of the Arts Fall


    For Grade 10

    Visual Thinking and Community, Photography
    In this course, students develop their understanding of the basic guidelines of design and composition using a variety of traditional and digital photographic tools. The goal of this class is to introduce students to the language of photography and to become smart image-makers and critical thinkers in our current culture of mass media and prolific mechanical reproduction. Through the application of the photographic techniques ranging from the very simple (such as pinhole camera) to the more complex (photo collage) students create images that challenge conventional and personal viewpoints. Through multimedia presentations, we look at other photographers, discuss their work and build a greater understanding of photographic history. This is primarily a hands-on studio class which includes group projects, group critiques and development of students' personal perspectives and styles. The class includes at least two field trips to a local art center and a meditation on the role of visual art in the community.

    Foundation in Drawing and Painting
    This course introduces the beginning student to a variety of materials and techniques. The course emphasizes the elements of line, texture, shape, space, value and color through the creation of both objective and subjective artworks. Special focus will be placed on developing observational drawing skills and hands-on experience in an engaging classroom community. Students will participate in classroom discussions, critiques, and group activities as well as create individual projects and keep a visual journal. Shorter projects will introduce new concepts and build confidence before applying these ideas to extended student-driven works. Multiple mediums are explored which may include graphite, ink, frottage, printmaking, watercolor crayons, charcoal and acrylic paint. Field trips to local art events will enrich classroom experiences and course discussion.

    Play Making
    This class is designed for students with or without experience in theater. Students learn in a very active, hands-on way about the elements of drama through reading and watching plays, group discussion, theater games and exercises, improvisations and visits from local playwrights. Students develop their imaginations, strengthen their artistic voice and develop their sense of self by creating three short original works. Students work individually and collaboratively.

    Technical Theatre
    This course covers the important concepts of technical production primarily through hands-on experience. The students learn about the principles and basic operation of theatrical lighting, audio and video systems, theatrical rigging, the theatrical production process and technical theater's role in it, and workplace safety. Participation in school plays and Cabaret is encouraged but not required.
  • Foundations of the Arts Spring


    For Grade 10

    Technical Theatre
    This course covers the important concepts of technical production primarily through hands-on experience. The students learn about the principles and basic operation of theatrical lighting, audio and video systems, theatrical rigging, the theatrical production process and technical theater's role in it, and workplace safety. Participation in school plays and Cabaret is encouraged but not required.

    Visual Thinking and Community, Motion Pictures
    In this course, students develop their understanding of the basic guidelines of composition, using the principles and elements of two-dimensional design in relationship to both space and time. An emphasis is placed on time-based art making techniques such as performance, animation, film, video, photography and projection. Using a variety of film and video media, students complete projects that include movie making, media literacy, performance art and animation. The goal for each project is for students to gain experience with new or familiar material, develop a strategy for completing a piece of artwork, and incorporate an art historical reference, or contemporary cultural critique. The class includes at least two field trips to a local art center and participation in the Flick Fest student film festival. 

    Fashion Laboratory
    This course emphasizes learning to think creatively to gain a better understanding of the history of fashion as a voice for the people it clothes. In this maker's space, students will receive an introduction to sewing, both by hand and machine. Previous sewing experience is not required. Sketches and concept boards will inform three-dimensional sculptural pieces constructed from both fabric and nontraditional materials. The introduction of multicultural and historical content through the examples of contemporary and influential historical designers will inspire students to respond with designs of their own in a strong classroom community. Field trips, guest speakers and class discussion will introduce issues of identity, race and gender politics and the environmental effects of the garment industry as we discuss how, when, where and why we wear what we wear.

    Acting Styles
    Through improvisation, acting exercises and scene work, we will explore how acting styles have emerged from different cultures and time periods. Expect to be on your feet as we learn to understand our own physical traits so we might outwardly express the emotional life and thought process of a fictional character. We will begin with self-awareness, focusing on relaxation, flexibility, alignment, centers and creative movement. We will continue with an exploration of theater forms including Commedia dell'arte, Elizabethan theater, Absurdist Theater and Epic Theater.
  • Introduction to Acting Technique


    Arts Elective

    Students engage in exercises that focus on building a character vocally, physically and psychologically. Acting exercises created by theatre greats like Jacques LeCoq, Konstantin Stanislavski, Uta Hagen and others are explored through improvisation and prepared performance projects. Students also apply Stanislavski's character and scene analysis techniques to short elliptical scenes from 20th and 21st century American Theatre. Film acting is also explored. 

    Suggested prerequisites for this course are Foundations of the Arts: Play Making and Play Building.
  • Orchestra


    For Grades 9-12

    A year-long commitment, Orchestra is open to players of string, wind, brass and percussion instruments who have demonstrated proficiency on their instrument. Music from baroque, classical, romantic and the Modern era is performed. Developing aesthetic sensitivity, the proper technique, timing, tone and interpretation are stressed. Each student is evaluated in a weekly lesson lab. Performances include a minimum of two instrumental concerts.

    The Jazz Band, an extracurricular activity, meets twice weekly after school to prepare for performances throughout the year.
  • Photography


    Arts Elective for Grades 11 and 12

    The photography course takes the application of image reproduction and photographic techniques and applies them to the very simple and complex techniques available to us. The course starts with black-and-white traditional darkroom photography for the first quarter, branching out in the second, third and fourth quarters to introduce digital imaging, electronic transmission, studio photography, photojournalism and image analysis and criticism. Emphasis is placed on development of a photographic portfolio that includes at least 25 quality works.

    Students are encouraged to have either a 35mm camera or a digital SLR (single lens reflex) camera for this class.
  • Songwriting


    Arts Elective for Grade 10

    This class is open to any student who enjoys popular American music. Students will foster their own personal musical style while developing skills in melody, harmony, music theory and arranging and writing lyrics. Students are not required to know how to play an instrument to take this course. Other class time will be spent in creative activities and discussion, listening to and discussing American popular music since 1950, and working to understand songwriting fundamentals and the connection between emotion, imagination and song.

    We will use GarageBand, instruments, iPads, voices and ther technological devices to record, create and arrange music. Students should expect to participate in group discussions, group projects, individual presentations, reading and article evaluations and field trips to evaluate and discuss the evolution of music in America.
  • Study and Practice in Creativity


    Arts Elective for Grade 12

    This full-year course focuses on each student practicing creativity and taking a hands-on approach to the processes used by creative role models in many fields. This course is for seniors who have not had a junior year of arts or who have limited experience. Projects and class activities that encourage creative collaboration between peers is a fundamental method of learning. This interdisciplinary course provides the students with opportunities to engage in many creative projects. Additionally, students practice yoga fundamentals and stress reduction techniques. A relaxed mind is a creative mind. Artistic journaling, jewelry making, and reading about the creative process and creative individuals show students that we are all creative and have more unrecognized or unexplored skills to express these ideas than we realize. Creativity found in the arts, science, writing and leadership is explored through media and internet resources.

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