Art JanTerms Bring New Perspectives


Photo credit Sydney Wat

Ashlee Freeman showing off her gratitude letter in the “Cultivating Well Being Through Art and Psychology” JanTerm’s gratitude lunch. Everyone in the JanTerm brought in someone who they are thankful for and created a handmade gratitude letter with paper that they made themselves!

Every year, at the start of the spring semester, Westminster offers a program called JanTerm that takes place during the month of January. These JanTerm courses aren’t typical academic courses, but rather they are specific courses meant to broaden students’ interests. This year, students were offered ten different art-related JanTerm Courses ranging from New Orleans-style jazz, to southern-inspired art, and Raku-fired ceramics. 

JanTerm was created to allow students to explore genuine interests that they may not be able to cultivate during the regular semesters. In early September, Upper School students chose their top five courses based on their true interests. Each course was taught by a team of two or three teachers who were also passionate about the class.

Brent Cavedo, an Upper School Latin teacher, taught the course Global Education: Pictura Romana: Roman Painting, along with history teacher Julie Pace and biology teacher Jason Vuckovic. Students in this Latin course focused on the descriptions of famous ancient paintings displayed in Rome in the first century CE that no longer exist. They also read anecdotes about treasured Greek artists whose most famous works were exhibited in Rome. 

“We challenged these students to analyze what these textual anecdotes about these paintings that don’t exist anymore tell us about viewing works of art in Ancient Rome,” said Cavedo.

This course included a global journey to Rome, where students visited many archaeological sites and museums, such as The Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. While on this trip, students in Roman Painting created a joint website highlighting their daily travels, itinerary, and photographs of key moments in their journey as a final project. Cavedo taught these students to take the aesthetics of an ancient Roman painting and analyze it using primeval Latin texts as primary sources. 

“Connecting these ancient paintings with things that actually survived was fascinating,” said Cavedo. 

Traveling to Rome opened the question of what Roman painting truly meant. Students were asked questions such as: What does Roman painting mean? Does it mean any paintings were displayed in Rome or did they have to be created in Rome? Throughout the trip, students were reminded to compare these paintings and form their own answers to those questions.

Another art-focused JanTerm course was Live Performances, taught by Jack Morgan, Upper School English teacher, and Jason Maynard, Upper School choral music director. 

“This was a lab course in experiencing what it means to be a live performer whether that’s live music or whether it’s live spoken word poetry,” said Maynard. 

Students taking this course looked at live performances and what constitutes an exceptional live performance. The main focus of the course was to experiment by trying new things and stepping out of your comfort zone. During the course, they traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana to learn more about New Orleans-style jazz music. They even visited a historic performing arts venue, Preservation Hall, which has a long history of promoting New Orleans-style Dixieland jazz. Along with learning about the history and performances of this jazz, thanks to the generosity of the musicians, the students were also able to visit their house band and perform with them. Additionally, the students also had the opportunity to perform on the streets of New Orleans, and both senior Bo Koebler and freshman Philip Williams earned 5 dollars busking.

“Performing on the streets of New Orleans was an incredible experience and I bonded with my classmates during that trip,” said Williams.

Before Live Performances, only about half of the students had participated in a performance course, meaning this year’s students had a large diversity of experience and skill in performance. In the weeks before the trip, the students rehearsed their performances so that by the time they left for Louisiana, everyone had an act they were confident in performing.

“The final performance at the end of JanTerm was amazing. It was fun and it went well. Our stage presences improved, and we did a spectacular job!” said freshman Zuri Quintero. 

At the end of the JanTerm course, students taking Live Performances performed in a final show to display their talents and what they’ve learned throughout the course. The performance included a wide range of people and talents such as freshman Kirsten Liang reciting her poetry and Quintero performing an original song. All students had the chance to participate, and the event was a huge success. 

Raku Ceramics & The Japanese Tea Ceremony, taught by Jen Marie Wentzel, Upper School visual arts teacher, focused on ceramics and a Japanese style of firing clay called Raku. Students in this course learned how to mold clay to form pots, fire them in a kiln or use the Raku method, and even had a traditional tea ceremony at the end of the course encapsulating everything they had learned thus far. In addition to the visual arts component of the course, there was a history component. Aki Matsushima, a Japanese professor at Georgia Tech visited the class with her tea ceremony teacher, Ms Tomoko Nagata to talk about taking tea ceremony lessons.

“It definitely brought a new facet to the course,” said Wentzel. 

This professor took tea ceremony lessons for about 20 years, yet she was still considered a student at ceremonies. She taught the students about the traditions and the rituals so they could incorporate them into their tea ceremony at the end of the semester. 

“The tea ceremony from this year was a favorite memory for me and it was interesting to learn the traditions of this ceremony,” said Wentzel. 

Similarly, sophomore Suhani Sharma said, “I loved this JanTerm course and my favorite memory was the tea ceremony. I was able to bond with my classmates and learn about Japanese culture.”

This year, students had an immense variety of art JanTerm course options with a wide range of mediums. It’s safe to say everyone who took one of these courses thoroughly enjoyed themselves and would recommend it to anyone interested in taking one next year!

Edited by Evvie Morgan