Welcome to Visual Arts at DSA

2020 Denver School of the Arts Visual Arts Summer Assignments

 Summer Assignment Options

Choose from any of these prompts for Summer Assignments.  Be inspired by the prompt and see where you can take it.  These are due as finished pieces on the first week of school.  Each finished piece must include a 4 sentence artist statement explaining how it fits the prompt.  These are not simple sketches but finished pieces of art!

 Middle School Students- 8 finished pieces of high quality

Select prompts from Summer Assignment list.  Three must be based on observational drawing.

Freshman & Sophomores- 5 finished pieces of high quality

Select prompts from Summer Assignment list.

Remember these are not sketchbook assignments. 

These are finished pieces of a high quality.

Juniors & Seniors- 5 finished pieces of high quality

Each piece represents or is part of a possible concentration concept.  See details below…

Summer Assignment Bank

Collage or sculpture of things found around your house

Work based on Observation…

Interpreting Symbolism…

Alternative Materials…

Identity…Art Based on Your Reflection of Self

Editorial Cartoon

Bad Habit

Social or Political Statement

Create an original way to capture landscapes

Create a watercolor design and work with pen and ink on top

Working in layers…

Human presence without the human form

Create a puppet that can move

Design a piece of furniture using unique materials in 2D or 3D

Draw a mess in detail

Draw a close up view of an object as if viewed through a magnifying glass.

Create a sewn piece (2D or 3D)

Research a time period and artistic styles and events from that time period to create a piece of art

Still Life Story Telling- Set up and draw a still life using objects that tell a story or have meanings.

Paper Cuts- Study the work of Henri Matisse and create a collage of cut paper pieces.

Star Art- Incorporate astrology or the history behind constellations into a piece of art

Word Art- Pick a word and visually represent the meaning

What does horror or fear mean to you?

Food Art!

Nature- go outside and be inspired by what you see

Visual Arts Junior AP Summer Assignment  The AP 2-D Art and Design course framework presents an inquiry-based approach to learning about and making art and design. Students are expected to conduct an in-depth, sustained investigation of materials, processes, and ideas. The framework focuses on concepts and skills emphasized within college art and design foundations courses with the same intent: to help students become inquisitive, thoughtful artists and designers able to articulate information about their work. AP Art and Design students develop and apply skills of inquiry and investigation, practice, experimentation, revision, communication, and reflection.

Develop five potential Sustained Investigation themes for AP Portfolio.

Create five finished pieces of high quality based on these possible concentrated ideas.

Each piece represents or is part of a possible concentration concept. 

Three of these finished pieced must be from your strongest concept for the Sustained Investigation for the AP Portfolio.  The other two can be from the other ideas or experiments. 

Another option you may be interested in is to create all five pieces from the best concentration concept if it’s really great and is working as a series.  For this option we need to have a conversation in regards to you concept before you commit to this series. 

Remember these are not sketchbook assignments. 

These are finished pieces of a high quality.

Set a schedule for yourself.

One finished piece every two weeks during the summer.

These will be part of the 15 pieces of your Sustained Investigation that you will produce over the course of the school year. 

You cannot do all of these in August and still create quality artwork that will be included in the AP Portfolio.  Please plan ahead and start working.

Please contact me with questions and feedback on your progress.


Remote Leaning Plan Information

Hey everybody…This is a strange time there’s no doubt about that.  I think if you have the right attitude towards it and not let it make you too anxious we can slow it down and use some of this energy and time right now to settle into a new routine.  Using this time to reflect, daily meditations and having time to do things we sometimes put off can be very rewarding.  Let’s get into it and be the artists the world needs.  Let’s not get pulled apart but instead let’s pull together.  The first thing you need to do is find a space that is comfortable and that you can truly use as a functional work space.  This has been my challenge the past week in my apartment as well.  I don’t have a desk or studio space here at home.  I’ve tried several arrangement and so far nothing is really working for me.  This makes me struggle creatively and slows down my productivity. I just have to make it work.  We will all do the best we can with the materials we have and the spaces we have access to.  I think one of my biggest challenges right now is navigating finding materials and not really having a space to work in my apartment.  The good news is we are creative people and this pushes us to find new solutions and work arounds.  It keeps us from getting stuck in habits and maybe helps us finds balance between finding a groove and being stagnant. This also applies to the weekly assignments you will be doing as we move forward.  Do the best you can to create meaningful artwork in this time.

Another obstacle can be the lack of schedule.  Right now we have nothing but time but we also need to be productive in that time.  One thing that many people have a difficult time doing is defining this personal schedule and setting aside chunks of this time to devote to specific things like school and creating art.  I’m suggesting trying to stay on a schedule.  It’s up to you to find one that works while you are independently working from home.  This is a challenge for college students and professionals who work remotely.  You now have the advantage to experience this at a much younger age.  Set an amount of time each day to create, do assignments, reflect, write, submit work check emails and then give yourself the quality time you need to relax and spend time with family and check in with the ones you care about.    

Each day new questions pop up and many I don’t have the answers for.  I’m problem solving and waiting to hear back from people that can or might be able to answer these new situations.  Please have patience with your family, friends and me as we navigate this event together.  Everything we have spent the year working on and planning has now changed and we are working to resolve what that means.  In the time being, I ask you to be creative.  This puts us in a position to start new practices and be aware of ourselves in a way we may have never done before.  This is a time to look for new inspiration, express how you feel and make art that is personal to you.  You need to self-motivate more now than ever before as we work remotely and away from others and don’t have the constant feedback and attention we previously needed.    

Assignments                                                                                                                  As for your weekly assignments you’ll need to be creative here too.  I don’t just mean in concept and how you push technique as an artist but with the materials you use.  I will not be supplying you with materials from DSA and so you will have to make decisions on your own.  Find paper and materials around your house to work with and create new art.  This is a new beginning and see where this takes you.  If you don’t have larger materials around your place use your sketchbook.  I’ll be giving you prompts but it will be up to you to decide what materials you have and what will be the most fitting to the assignment.  Work with what you have and do your best.

Every Monday I will post new assignments on the DSA Visual Arts website under your specific class.  If you have questions email me.  The class schedule is for Monday through Thursday.  Friday is used to document your work and submit it to me.  Do the best you can with the materials that you have.  Use this time to push yourself to be creative and make skillful work.

Artist Statement as Writing Assignments / Gallery Reviews                              Writing assignments are something I’ve had to rethink and I have to be flexible.  Some of you have this complete because you were able to get to a gallery before they closed.  Many of you had not been able to get to a gallery or museum before they closed.  Even though these dates have been posted for several months I don’t think it’s fair for the majority to still require this to be turned in as we usually would.  I know what some museums are equipped with a digital gallery but I would like to move a different direction with the writing assignments.  Instead of one large writing assignment you will include a short artist statement for each finished piece you submit with you weekly assignment.  This will be an explanation of what you did and what you concept behind the piece was.  Your artist statement for that weekly must be 4 sentences (no more and no less).  This is to be emailed to me with the image of the finished artwork attached. This will be an exercise to be precise with your words and still get the point across.  Some of you will need to elaborate and others will need to edit in order to say what is important.

Documenting and Submitting Work                                                             Documenting your work is important and will be how you submit finished assignments.  Pictures of your work must be clean, clear, well lit and cropped.  I do not want to see your shadow over the piece and I do not want to see the table cloth or your bed in the background.  I suggest taping your art to the wall during the daylight hours to get a great image that accurately captures your art. 

Again for each weekly assignment you must include a 4 sentence artist statement expressing your concept and thought process. 

Send all work and artist statements to jim_cliff@dpsk12.org 

This is the only email address I will be receiving work at.  If you have questions, need help or just need to reach out, this is the place to do that. 

As of now my office hours will be 9:00am -12:00pm.

All weekly assignments are due on Fridays.

I will be reviewing work and continue to post grade in IC.  I don’t know how long this will take but if you don’t see a grade for the previous week posted by Friday you should let me know and check that you actually sent it and sent it to the correct email address.  You must be responsible to submit work and check the online grade book.  Again be flexible as we get things rolling but this will be on you to do the work, get it to me and check your grade each week. 


Fill the Gap and become a Perennial Patron!

DSA is a unique school with unique needs! The actual cost of educating a DSA student with an extraordinary arts and academic education is beyond the funding that is provided by the district. In order to fully fund DSA’s nationally competitive arts and academics, we are faced with a gap. This year the gap is $1,500 per student.

With all DSA parents coming together to Fill the Gap with a monthly, unrestricted contribution, we will be able to provide quality educational programs in the arts and academics, capital improvements for DSA’s unique needs, increased security for DSA’s extended hours, and more. A school-wide culture of philanthropy is essential to the success of our students and fulfilling our mission…and together we will be stronger!

Your monthly support of the Fill the Gap Campaign at a level that fits your budget will help us reach our goal of 100% participation and is 100% tax deductible. Join the hundreds of DSA parents who are already supporting DSA and become a Perennial Patron! Please click on or copy the link below to make a donation:


 Visual Arts Department Philosophy our primary goal is to create lifelong advocates for the arts with a sophisticated sense of visual literacy.   DSA students develop skills to create, decipher, comprehend, and evaluate meaning in our contemporary world.  Our department nurtures individual vision, personal voice, and creative spirit while  promoting a strong work ethic.  We believe that success requires hard work, regular practice, and a commitment to evolve and grow.   
Our Mission is to provide students with a strong interest or ability in visual arts the opportunity for in-depth study of all aspects of art.
Our 7-year curriculum spirals out from solid foundation classes at the middle school level to advanced techniques and individualized projects in high school.  Strong technical skill, conceptual thinking, critical analysis, aesthetic awareness, and historical background play integrated roles in our program. Emphasis is placed on reading, writing, and talking about art as well as the creation of unique works in a variety of media.  Although our graduates choose many fields for advanced study, VA seniors exit with an accomplished  art portfolio and appreciation of the visual arts.

Help us raise money at no cost to you by shopping at King Soopers! Using a VA King Soopers Gift Card card to buy your groceries or gas at any King Soopers (or City Market) provides 5% of your purchase ($400 – $700 per month average!) to the VA Department for free!  Simply reload the card with your credit or debit card (or cash or check) whenever it runs out.   You can still get miles on your credit cards!  Contact  an instructor to obtain a card and start helping the VA Department today!  We have used these funds to purchase butcher block worktables, new sinks, computer software and our new art gallery.