Re-examining masterpieces in Art Appreciation

Bellevue College offers a wide assortment of art classes, with areas of studies ranging from painting and drawing to ceramics and sculpture. One of the courses offered twice a year for those looking to fill a required humanities credit—strictly during fall and winter quarter—is art appreciation. This coming fall quarter, the course will be taught as a hybrid class by Kate Casprowiak. Casprowiak has also been teaching art history at BC for two and a half years, with the end of this spring quarter marking the end of her third year. It’s the first time this fall quarter that the faculty has decided to make art appreciation into a hybrid class, where students are able to study at their own place and in the comfort of their own home.

In art appreciation, students will be given the opportunity to understand how to look at art. They are encouraged to discuss what they should be seeing and why they see what they do. It is a chance for students to express a holistic view of the visual arts, diving into why art exists in the first place and why it’s important to study art in all aspects of life.

“With art appreciation, it’s much more about involving and doing. It’s less about research,” says Casprowiak. She explains further that art is actually an “element that separates us as humans. It’s not to say that animals don’t see creativity and design or something like that. But it is something that makes us human and it is a way for us to express things that we can’t vocalize. There are so many complex emotions that humans experience often that words aren’t sufficient enough to describe.”

Through the skills that students will be taught to approach any type of artwork, students will be able to “articulate reasons for and functions of art, connecting it to philosophy, history, economics, literature and many other areas.” They will be motivated to overcome the uncertainty and fear of how to approach art through Casprowiak’s many different techniques on enriching the learning experience.

For Art 105 (art appreciation), Casprowiak has been contemplating on how to utilize the online component of the course. By molding the relaxation of online coursework with a lot hands-on experience during the two-hour session on Wednesdays, “that’s going to be devoted largely to activities.”

“Occasionally we’ll stay in the classroom,” Casprowiak said, “but more often than not, we’re going to go to studios over here: the photography studio, the ceramics studio. I think we’re even going to do a painting or even something with Ross Brown and the 3D Design.” The galleries that students will be able to attend are not restricted to the campus alone. There will also be opportunities for off-campus trips such galleries including, but not limited to, the Bellevue Arts Museum and the Kirkland Arts Center. There will be trips visiting local gallerists on their techniques on how to decorate and prepare a gallery with artwork.

Students will be able to record their reactions in highly descriptive essays students of the artwork they study. In terms of grading, Casprowiak has explained that her style of grading relies on a student’s ability, their effort, and their improvement. With other instructors, the grading criteria may vary across the board however, for Casprowiak, “I look for a genuine comprehension of the subject matter and insightful response to it. To me, each student is different and everyone has different aptitudes in art. It only matters that they’re growing. It’s about where they start, where they end up and how committed they are to getting there.”

That isn’t to say that students already with a solid knowledge of art won’t get anything good out of the course. Casprowiak said, “You can have a high skill level and get something out of it. Students get to meet other art faculty.” It’s a good opportunity for building connections with the local art enthusiasts as well as building a comprehension of art. The style of art that Casprowiak will go into detail the most will be Western art. It is the primary focus of the course however, other styles—such as Chinese, Japanese, Pre-Colombian, Middle Eastern and African art—will be used mostly as comparison.

For the students still unsure of pursuing a fine arts degree, Casprowiak advised to “go into the fine arts because you love it. There are a lot of degrees that will get you the same kind of jobs. If you get an art degree, you might have to be more creative in trying to find a job and applying your degree. There are so many disciplines where people end in different fields from where they started.”