Every other year, St. James Academy welcomes a few special people to their academic team…

visiting visual artists.

Through the artist-in-residency program, the northern Baltimore County independent school demonstrates a commitment to arts education and immersing students in the creative process. This year, they invited husband-and-wife team Mike and Joanne Bare to work with St. James Academy (SJA) students throughout the entire school year.

Known for their landscape art, the Bares worked with SJA visual arts teacher Cheryl Bubier to take students on a nature exploration through art. Students in grades 1 through 8 had an opportunity to work with the Bares in their weekly art classes to study art and create their own masterpieces inspired by the great outdoors.

“I really gave them [the Bares] free range,” said Bubier, who has been an art teacher at St. James Academy for four years. “I wanted them to work with the students as a team, so I let them takeover my classes.”
Artist in Residency Program at St. James Academy

Each grade level tackled a different project and oftentimes the art exploration extended into other curricular areas as well. For example, first graders studied the lifecycle of a butterfly before designing their own butterflies with watercolors and sharpies. Second graders studied the “jungle-inspired” work of Henry Rousseau and then created their own jungle scenes on construction paper with pastels. Third graders made prints inspired by Charlie Harper and fourth graders created dragonfly art pieces that reflected the artistic style of the famous Tiffany windows. Fifth graders studied Maryland birds and created a bird mobile to accompany their written reports.

”What is special about teaching art is that the individual student response to creative problem solving is often unique and unexpected,” said Mike Bare. “That’s what makes it fun!“

The most challenging art project? A collaborative mural created by the middle school classes. The materials involved and scale of the final painting — which will sit outside one of the school’s entrances en route to their new pavilion — made the project a challenge to execute and assemble. But it was a challenge that both SJA educators and visiting artists were happy to accept.

Artist in Residency Program at St. James Academy Artist in Residency Program at St. James Academy

“Students can be wildly creative so teaching art is a wonderful experience,” said Joanne Bare. “The arts have a unique role in school. They foster creativity. Unlike many subjects, in the visual arts, we look for the unique individual solution to the problem. Creative solutions to the problems give all of us all broader insight and understanding of the meaning and wonder of art.”

Giving students an opportunity to create alongside working artists is important to Bubier, who said she wants students to know and appreciate that they can pursue a career in the arts.

“Not only are they creating with the artists, they have an opportunity to ask questions and understand the process,” said Bubier. “They know that they can do this for a living.”

For the Bares, they hope students value thinking creatively — and appreciate the landscape around their very own campus.

“With each grade, we focused on an aspect of nature surrounding St. James Academy,” said Joanne Bare. “We hope that the students have gained insight into the beauty and wonder of the world that surrounds them.”

Editor’s Note: This article is sponsored by St. James Academy. To learn more about the school, please call them at 410-568-7563 or visit their listing in our Independent Schools Directory. Photos provided by St. James Academy.