Visual Arts Presence at Wilmington Friends


Visual arts have been the backbone of Wilmington Friends School for at minimum the last 30 years. For a long time, it has been a reason why people came to friends. Previously offering specific classes like sculpting or painting, now the focus is on the international baccalaureate (IB) and the art major for upperclassmen. Other classes that are offered are 2D and 3D design in alternating years, as well as the intro to visual arts for freshmen. The art program at friends is met with mixed emotions, some laud it for creative freedom, while others find it to have subsided from its peak in previous years.

The opportunities that are offered in art at Friends are plentiful. In the art major, Miranda Peak ‘19 described their process: “we get to choose what we get to do every month.” Her thoughts on this process are that it “gives this freedom to do art allows us to explore and further our skills in specific areas.” The art program at friends inspires students to take on new projects and even develop new passions in their time in the space.

Mary Winn, the substitute art teacher, contributed to this idea. In her time at friends, she says that her favorite thing is working with students. “It is a dynamic group of students committed to doing good work, they are not afraid to experiment and try new things” Additionally, the art room “has a good feeling” that allows for this work to get done.

Some examples of the work that is being done can be seen on display in the school. These installation pieces add a vibrant element to the school to fill the otherwise barren walls. At the moment, the CAN painting that can be seen in the library was done by the year one art majors, and the gallery is filled with designs done by the 2D art class.

In the art major, the projects that get to be chosen are expansive. Miranda Peak ‘19 is working on “watercolor techniques, with my new water-based brush pens. I am hoping to study landscapes and still lifes” which has lent to her being able to appreciate the art in the mediums she chose to work in. In a completely different tone, Blue Koenig ‘20 is in between projects. “I just finished a big one where I made a stuffed animal sculpture in the college guidance office and I’m starting on my next one where I’m making an ancient Greek-style clay jar on the pottery wheel.” This freedom enhances the school in a very unique way.

The art program at friends is met with both praise and constructive feedback. “In all the schools I’d considered attending before coming here, this one had the best arts program of them all and probably one of the coolest and most inspiring art rooms,” said Blue Koenig ‘20 who is in high praise of the art program at Friends. Zoe Wishengrad ‘20 has similar thoughts: “I really like VAM, and I think that for a school that is not really centered around art we do get a lot of opportunities.”

However, there is often a feeling of aggression towards the presence of IB art and the lack of diversity in the classes. Additionally, there are other frustrations with the art program at Friends. Manon Magnan ‘21 finds some frustration in the art program, saying “the arts are all about creativity and one person’s individual look on a situation or assignment but at least in the beginners’ classes there’s no room for being unique. We have to follow everything we’re told and aren’t allowed to go above and beyond and express ourselves.” These thoughts are what betters art at Friends, and it has since Friends has been hosting its art experiences.

The differences of opinion and diversity in thought on Friends’ art program is also the diversity which inspires such unique art projects. It is the creativity which fills the walls with beautiful colors. While the contributions made by visual arts are not seen in the same light as much as the performing arts at Friends, they have a significant impact on the school environment.