Fine Arts Programs in High Schools


For some students, high school marks the conclusion of formal art training. For others, it is the preparation for post-secondary art and art-related studies. High school art programs are designed for all students—from the student who will use the knowledge and skills of art to inform daily decisions to the student striving to become a professional artist.

Art teachers in grades 9-12 respect and foster their students’ goals, ideas, and inspirations. Classrooms become laboratories in which students evaluate and realize ideas through logic and inventiveness, fact and feeling, and higher order thinking.

As a foundation for all other art courses, Art I emphasizes a broad understanding of the visual arts. Students participate in a variety of learning experiences, including:

  • Vocabulary development
  • Two- and three-dimensional art making
  • Exploration of historical and cultural contexts
  • Practice in evaluation techniques.

Art I teachers introduce students to a wide range of art media and techniques and encourage them to take advanced courses in more than one medium. Because the efficacy of scaffolded instruction depends on student growth in concepts and skills, classes should be taken in sequence. Upper-level courses in different media may be taken simultaneously with the approval of the art teacher(s). For example, students may take Drawing II and Ceramics II at the same time.

Highly motivated art students should enroll in advanced art courses. Challenging curricula give students opportunities to develop their critical and creative thinking abilities. Classes accommodate individual learning styles and emphasize independent and guided research. Students gain the knowledge and skills necessary to pursue careers and interests in the arts and in other areas.


Districts make decisions about time allocations, meeting patterns, and class size. The number of classes and the number of students taught per day should be comparable to other disciplines. On campuses that use block scheduling, teachers are entitled to at least 450 minutes within each two-week period for instructional preparation. A planning period may not be less than 45 minutes within the instructional day. Block scheduling can improve art instruction by offering the following benefits:

  • Sustained periods of concentrated, uninterrupted work
  • Reduced management/clean up of materials
  • Less frequent classroom changes
  • Increased opportunities for students to take art.

Optimally, class size in secondary school will not exceed 25 students per class. The needs of advanced studies students, those with identified special needs, and those who are non-fluent English speakers should be considered in scheduling.

Though Level I and II courses need to be taught separately, some upper-level art courses may be combined into one class. If small numbers of students are registered for advanced classes, related subject areas, such as Drawing III and Painting IV, can be scheduled in the same room at the same time. Decisions to combine two courses should be carefully considered, and art teachers should always be consulted. In general, two-dimensional media courses may be grouped together, and three-dimensional media may be grouped together. The expertise of the teacher, maturity and work habits of the students, available facilities/equipment, and safe working conditions should be taken into account during the decision-making process. When two or more subject areas are combined, the total number of students in the classroom should be reduced to account for increased individualization of instruction.


A strong high school art program requires adequate, well-designed classroom facilities. Administration and art education staff should work with a designer when remodeling or constructing a new high school to ensure that art classrooms:

  • Are located on the first or ground floor and are adjacent to a service entrance, the auditorium, and parking areas
  • Are located as far as possible from other classrooms so that laboratory work will not interfere with other classes
  • Have access to an enclosed patio with sliding glass doors for auxiliary space for work and display with natural lighting
  • Have a minimum of 65 square feet per student, excluding storage and teacher’s work space, with additional space for special furniture and equipment, such as easels, potter wheels, and a darkroom
  • Contain easily accessible sinks, electrical outlets, and gas outlets
  • Have an instructional area with tables and chairs, bookshelves, audiovisual equipment, and storage
  • Have adequate ventilation and outside exhaust
  • Have one wall reserved for displaying student work.