Creative Discoveries: Diving Into Self-Exploration through Art

Creative Discoveries: Diving Into Self-Exploration through Art
Kara McDuffee

Teachers at Brewster understand that exploration of self and identity doesn’t happen by chance outside the classroom; they happen by design within it. Art teacher Amy Hill created a new class that not only includes, but embeds it deeply within the fabric of the course.

The class is called Creative Discoveries, and the goal is for students to explore their identities more deeply in the context of social justice. They do so through a series of modules that encourage perspective-taking, discussion, self-discovery, and artistic growth.

“Every two to three weeks we focus on a different element of social identity. On the first day of each module, we listen to a story from an underrepresented group or person who shares their experience within that identity,” Amy Hill says. “By the end of that first lesson, students have an opportunity to write their own personal narrative on their experience or affiliation within that identity.”

Another pillar of the class is student choice, which is critical for diverse thinkers. For each module, students can choose between two different artistic mediums to express themselves. You might find them molding clay, using acrylic paints, embroidering, or working with wood, just to name a few of the options from the class. The class spends time learning the different artistic techniques for each medium before putting them into practice.

And the choice doesn’t stop there. Students also choose the topic of their art creation. Some decide to explore an aspect of their own identity, while others create art based on a historical event related to the identity topic.

“What I enjoy most about this class is how personal it is and how much it makes me think,” senior Alyson Nagorniak says about her time in Creative Discoveries. “A lot of the issues that we talk about are meaningful to us, and then we’re learning how to create art out of that, which is really awesome.”

After reflecting on the course’s inaugural year, Ms. Hill noted how impressed she was with the students’ eagerness to dive into identity work. “Students genuinely seek a better understanding of themselves and the world around them,” she said of class discussions. “I love that my job involves watching them grow in their ability to express their thoughts.”

Even better, students get to share this self-expression with the Brewster community. After every project, student artwork is displayed around the main Academic building. The artists also write “artist statements” to explain their process and intentions. 

Creative Discoveries, now in its second year being offered, has received positive praise from the students. Once the Rogers Renovation project is complete, the class will move to its new home: workspaces rich with natural light, makerspaces with endless materials, and giant workspaces ready to let students’ creativity—and self-exploration—flourish.

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