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AP art classes adapt to distance learning

Like every class at Marlborough, the AP art classes have experienced dramatic changes to the curriculum since the shift to online learning. The College Board has announced that AP art exams, which usually consist of a portfolio of work sent both digitally and through the mail, will now be shortened and submitted exclusively digitally.

For AP Photography, the original exam required 15 photographs that constituted a sustained investigation of a theme or idea, as well as a written statement explaining how the pictures demonstrated the investigated topic. While most of the photos would be submitted digitally, five chosen by the student, called “quality pieces,” would be chosen to be matted (printed and framed), and a physical copy of them would be turned in. The new requirements have cut the number of required photos down to ten images total, and three quality pieces which no longer have to be matted or physically turned in.

Without needing to mat or physically send copies, the entire process can be done online from home. Visual arts instructor Judith Tanzman said that given the changes to requirements, students will have no trouble completing their work in time. “For us we always spent a lot of time at the end, in crunch time, printing, matting, filling out paperwork and putting all the images in the portfolio,” Tanzman said, “and so with that part being eliminated, I think a huge chunk of time [has been freed].”

In fact, Tanzman believes the changes to the AP exam may help some students who had multiple photos that were too similar, by saving them the time of finding a replacement to meet the original, fifteen-photo quota. “A lot of students tightened up the portfolio a little bit and in many ways, I think it will help them,” Tanzman said.

AP 2-D Design went through similar changes, with the number of art pieces reduced from 15 to ten and the number of “selected works” (equivalents of quality pieces in photography) from five to three. Before Marlborough closed, students were encouraged by Visual arts instructor Kathy Rea to pick up any materials from the painting studio necessary to continue work on their portfolios.

For many, bringing home art supplies was not needed, as the decreased requirements meant most students had already completed the necessary number of pieces. “Their greatest challenge, at this point, is having to decide which of their ‘art babies’ they now have to jettison to get the number down to only 10 pieces,” Rea said.

Despite the similar workload for the remainder of the year, the two AP art teachers have approached completing portfolios in different ways. Tanzman has had synchronous class meetings in order to provide feedback on students’ work and discuss portfolios as a class. Rea, meanwhile, has had asynchronous classes, and is meeting with students on a need-to basis. “Teaching is individualized, instruction-based on the particular needs of each student, similar to how a Special Studies course is taught,” Rea explained.

Riley ‘20, a student in Rea’s AP 2-D Art and Design class, believes that asynchronous classes and individual meetings are sufficient to complete her portfolio. “Even though our class isn’t meeting regularly, Ms. Rea is really on top of it and always makes sure to check in with each of us individually at least a couple times a week,” she said.

Ultimately, Rea is confident that the class will be able to adapt, and the new conditions may even improve parts of their portfolios. “I think in the end it will make for a tighter, more concise series for the Sustained Investigation portion of their AP Art portfolios.”