CHS Art Room Beckons As Oasis for Those Needing Tranquility

A mosaic completed by art students showcases the work of future students. It features the quote

Grace Shallow

A mosaic completed by art students showcases the work of future students. It features the quote “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” -Vincent Van Gogh

Grace Shallow, Opinions Editor

Walking through the halls of Cinnaminson High School, for some, is bland. The white walls and brown detailing can blur together, making for a monotone and unexciting atmosphere. However, as students stroll down the back hallway, their aesthetic needs become satisfied by the colorfully painted door of the Art Room that yawns open, inviting people to discover a change in their surroundings.

At Cinnaminson High School, the art program offers classes from Art 1 through Art 4; Ceramics; Sculpture; Portfolio Prep and Graphic Design, providing a medium for students to work with at any levels of artistic talent. Senior Carolyn Bresnahan, a student who is not as gifted artistically as others and is taking her first Ceramics class this year, speaks to this. “The people in the art room inspire you; they make you want to be good at art and try your best to be creative,” Carolyn says.

The importance of the art room is not in the projects that students work to create every day; it is in the personal investment students use to mold their creativity into something tangible.

However, these students’ works of arts can are only possible due to the relaxed environment that the art room provides. Mrs. DePietro put it quite simply by saying “Students feel at home.” Art is a universal concept that anyone can enjoy or create. Despite its general appeal, the experience of creating art is extremely personal, and artists will create projects based off of memories, wishes, fears, and other things that people do not commonly expose in a school environment. Senior Devon Galbraith speaks to how the art room decreases this fear in students: “I don’t feel a lot of pressure in here to be like as perfect as my other classmates […] it’s not an opportunity to see who can get the best grade. It’s an opportunity to make yourself better and improve your art skills”.

One of the most visually satisfying elements of the art room is the senior projects that students of the Class of 2015 anticipate. Mrs. DePietro allows graduating students to mark their departure by decorating a part of the room, such as a chair, cabinet. drawer, etc. This allows students to feel like they have proof of the contributions they have made to the art program over their years in CHS.

The artistic projects of students who graduated in years past decorate the walls and bring inspiration to current students who are trying to better their own artistic talents every day. Senior Emily Mineri, who is now taking Art 3, which has been nicknamed “AP Art” by Mrs. DePietro, speaks about the effect of others’ work. “It’s inspiring […] whenever you’re stuck, you just kinda look around the art room and there is just art to look at”.

The significance of having the opportunity to leave behind a personal piece of art is not positive only for the students who are surrounded by it every day, but also for the artists that were able to leave such a personal stamp behind. Courtney Machamer, who graduated last year with the Class of 2014 and is now studying at Moore College of Art and Design and has recently switched her original field of study from Art Education to Interior Design, said “I think no matter where you go you leave a piece of yourself there, being able to put a giant portrait on a wall was just [giving] me a chance to give a visual aspect to it and show off how important this place was. It also gave me a way […] to like give advice to everyone who walks into the room”.

Courtney’s attitude about being able to give advice to others sheds light on the communal aspect that the people in the art room provide. Despite the interesting paintings that decorate the wall, the art room is special because of the mentality the people it holds possess. Senior Marissa Sozio, a senior who has been in Art Club for four years and is a current student of Art 3 and who participated in the Vans Shoes Contest last year by creating her own pair of shoes that fit in to the art category comments on the importance of the students that make up the art classes. “It’s the safest place in the school… the school is such a trap, and like this is the escape… The people have a greater influence [than the aesthetic appeal]. I think [the atmosphere] could be in any room but when the people come together… it’s just you have so much in common”.

Mineri, who in the midst of this interview was digging clay out of a sculpture mold, describes it a little differently, says, “[It’s] really incredibly strange, like beyond strange. I don’t even have the proper vocabulary to like explain how strange it is […] it’s also very accepting.”

Whether the student absorbs the grand stress-free premise of the art room or the small quirky qualities (such as the swear jar that was recently acquired in the art room), they feel peace and comfort which allows them to expose such personal preferences through a painting, sculpture, sketchbook assignment, etc. The art room is a place where the strict regulations of school and high expectations from adults and peers do not reach them, where they can truly unwind and be themselves.

On the other hand, the teacher commanding the art room and allowing for such originality is more important than any other aspect of the art program; Mrs. DePietro is the center of this wonderful landmark that is the center of many students’ school day. Mrs. DePietro has 15 years in art education experience; DePietro began teaching in the Cinnaminson School District at New Alabany in November of 2001, eventually transferring to the high school in 2008. When asked why so many students feel such a personal connection to the atmosphere in the art room, she said: “I try to teach my students, or I encourage my students, to always have respect in the art room. That is my main rule… that they need to be respectful of each other, myself, and the supplies in the art room. As long as we treat each other like human beings, they feel like they can, you know, relax, be themselves, and express themselves better”.

Although simple, this mentality DePietro has regarding her teaching is efficient and working well, considering so many students feel such a close bond to her that goes deeper than an everyday relationship between student and teacher. Sozio touches on the special bond she and DePietro have formed over her last four years in the high school, “She’s like the first person on my mind that I could go to. She has inspired me to become an art teacher myself and she’s pushed me so hard with projects so far… I’ve grown up with her. She’s my [second] mom.”

DePietro’s impact does not stop there though; Machamer claims that if not for Mrs. DePietro, she would have ended up in a community college studying something completely different than the field she has chosen to pursue. Several other students also justified these claims, describing DePietro as “supportive,” “the safest person to talk to,” and “a person who lets you have your own vision.”

The art room is something any student at CHS can revel in. Truthfully, it almost sounds as if it is a fantasy; a place where the pressures of school virtually do not exist, where the students are all equal, where the teacher is not only a mentor educationally but personally, where the basic rules of humanity that we are taught in elementary school are actually followed. However, this paradise is not a plane ticket or road trip away. Just take the time to walk down to the colorfully painted room in the back hallway and allow yourself to find your own reason why the art room is such a special and meaningful place.