Visual & Performing Arts

Our goal is to have students transfer their developing awareness of artistic value and cultural understanding to all areas of their life, learning and community.
The Visual & Performing Arts Department offers every student the opportunity to explore artistic creation in visualdramatic and musical mediums. Instructors guide students to connect their burgeoning skills with their ideas and personal experiences to begin to develop an artistic aesthetic. Students think critically and analytically regarding artistic choices, motivations and relevant theories throughout the process of creating art and through the completion of the final product. The department emphasizes the importance of studying contemporary and traditional approaches within each medium and its cultural development through history.

Art is incorporated into all aspects of the JCHS experience through collaboration with performing arts, gallery showcases, and site-specific art installations throughout our campus. Our goal is to have students transfer their developing awareness of artistic value and cultural understanding to all areas of their life, learning and community.
The Visual & Performing Arts Department’s mission is to see each student develop the ability to:

  • Engage in the artistic process to develop original pieces of art and performance
  • Process, analyze, and respond to artistic information using appropriate artistic vocabulary and themes
  • Relate and utilize historical and cultural information to contextualize their own work, and make historical and cultural connections to fine art and other academic disciplines
  • Analyze and think critically about their own work, the work of their peers, and the artistic works within the community and culture
  • Evaluate and offer respectful, constructive feedback regarding their artistic outcomes and those of their peers
  • Learn to work independently, as well as in a group
  • Develop the problem-solving skills necessary to bring a long-term project to a successful close
Click on any course name below to learn more.

Visual & Performing Arts Core Courses

List of 8 frequently asked questions.

  • Acting I

    Subject Area: Performing Arts
    Open to: 9, 10, 11, 12

    Acting I engages students in learning the skills of acting and storytelling. Through games, improvisation, and exercises, students learn the skills and techniques of concentration, developing given circumstances, sense memory, emotional portrayal, physical agility, vocal control and character development. Units include stand-up comedy, modern scene work, clown technique and acting for the camera. Students develop skills in observation and critique of the art of acting. Using the wonderful improv games of Viola Spolin and Keith Johnstone, the listening techniques of Meisner, the magic ‘if’ of Stanislavski, we learn to listen, work creatively, and build responsive, fearless physical and imaginative instruments.
  • Filmmaking

    Subject Area: Performing Arts
    Open to: 9, 10, 11, 12

    Filmmaking introduces students to the creative process of filmmaking - from conceptualization of story to production & post-production processes. Students will develop storytelling skills using the creative medium of film - from idea, to script, to storyboards. We will view and study the techniques employed by some of the most influential filmmakers of the last 100 years. Concepts and skills are developed through project assignments and will explore the technical aspects of filmmaking such as: visualization, camera movement and shot composition, special effects, lighting, sound, music and editing. Students will learn the skills necessary to successfully accomplish basic pre-production, production, and post-production processes. Advanced non-linear editing skills are introduced using Final Cut Pro, Motion, Adobe Premiere, and Adobe After Effects. Working both collaboratively and independently, students will learn the grammar and conventions of the medium by creating short narrative films.

    Please Note: A laptop (Mac or PC) with sufficient processing power and free disc space is required. If using a Mac, the latest version of iMovie or Final Cut X should be loaded. If using a Windows machine, a video editor (i.e. Shotcut or Premiere) that has sufficient capabilities is required.
  • Fundamentals of Photography

    Subject Area: Visual Arts
    Open to: 9, 10, 11, 12

    This course will provide students with an introduction to Photography’s fundamental principles and techniques using both digital and analog (film) methods. Our class will investigate the interrelationship between concept, subject and technique in order to create dynamic images in both color and black & white.

    Hands-on exercises, demonstrations, lectures and critique and are designed to clarify the technical aspects of photography while encouraging creative approaches to picture making. Camera operations, principles of design for composition, and expanding our visual literacy are among topics included.

    Please Note: Each student is required to supply their own DSLR camera.
  • Instrumental Ensemble

    Subject Area: Performing Arts
    Open to: 9, 10, 11, 12

    Distinct from some other arts and disciplines, we create ensemble music with joint responsibility, not as a lone player. In this performance-based course, we will be studying the “ensemble” (significant instrumental performing groups) as well as rehearsing and performing as an “ensemble” of our own. We will develop our own craft on our individual instruments whilst creating a collective repertoire of instrumental ensemble music.

    Please Note:  Students enrolled in this course will be expected to own/rent/acquire their own instrument and to come in, with at minimum, introductory knowledge/skill on their instrument.
  • Materials and Methods

    Subject Area: Visual Arts
    Open to: 9, 10, 11, 12

    Materials and Methods focuses on guiding students through the essential elements of art by engaging them in exercises designed to develop their skills in drawing, painting, and printmaking. Students will explore different topics within each media as a means of learning to see the world around them, and to channel personal expression.  Subject matter will be assigned in a way that encourages generative responses while providing thematic structure.  The aim being for each student to reflect on their own interests and experiences as they develop ideas for their work, and develop their skills relevant to each media.  Each student will complete several individual works throughout the year.  Studio practice will be supported by group critiques, sketchbook work, as well as reading and writing assignments.
  • Sculpture

    Subject Area: Visual Arts
    Open to: 9, 10, 11, 12

    Sculpture is a hands-on studio art course about using different materials and methods to construct three dimensionally. Students will work in a variety of sculptural modes including assemblage, casting, and additive and subtractive work. Over the course of the year, students will develop individual works that incorporate visual concepts such as line, shape, texture, repetition, balance, variety, movement, and light and shadow. Using wire, plaster, clay, paper, and found objects, students will explore the relationship between form and content, and learn to analyze and assess works created in the class through group critiques. Assignments will be given to promote imaginative inquiry and technical skill development. The course includes some reading, writing, and sketchbook assignments.
  • Music Writing and Production (Not offered 2019-20)

    Subject Area: Performing Arts
    Open to: 9, 10, 11, 12

    In this course, students will learn how to listen critically to the music of the last 100 years and then apply their findings to guide them in writing original music, lyrics, arrangements and beats. The class will study the techniques and devices songwriters use to compose and write lyrics, as well as the strategies that music producers use when recording and editing music. This course will include units in music theory, keyboard skills, creative collaboration, music critique, music composition, music notation, music technology across multiple software platforms and skills of audio recording.
  • Playwriting and Screenwriting (Not offered 2019-20)

    Subject Area: Performing Arts
    Open to: 9, 10, 11, 12

    Playwriting and Screenwriting introduces students to the craft of playwriting through investigation of plays and screenplays and through the creation of original scripts, for theatre, TV, and film. Contemporary and classic plays by Henrik Ibsen, Eve Ensler, Spalding Gray, Anna Deavere Smith, Tony Kushner, Edward Albee, and Caryl Churchill provide models for study and critique while students’ own writing is in progress. Students will produce a set amount of writing every week, participate in workshop-style writing exercises, view live and taped performances. Students write their own original monologues, scenes, plays and screenplays. Students learn to critique their own work, and their peers’ work, critically and constructively. Students will be given opportunities to stretch their imagination, channel their creative energies, and focus upon their development as writers and theatre/film enthusiasts.

Visual & Performing Arts Elective Courses

List of 4 frequently asked questions.

  • AP Studio Art

    Subject Area: Visual Arts
    Open to: 11, 12
    Prerequisite(s): Concepts & Processes and Departmental Approval

    Students will elect to concentrate in one of the following:
    · AP Studio Art: 2-D Design
    · AP Studio Art: 3-D Design
    · AP Studio Art: Drawing

    Advanced Placement Studio Art is a college-level course in the visual arts. It is intended to offer students college-level curriculum in the high school environment.

    Students enrolled in the AP Studio Art course will be expected to produce a minimum of 24 works of art in a variety of media, techniques, and subject matter. Emphasis is placed on drawing from observation, the application of color and design principles, the development of a body of work showing personally meaningful visual ideas and application of the critique process in written and oral form.

    Please Note: AP courses may require additional afternoon and/or weekend meeting times throughout the year.
  • Advanced Photography - Stories: Truths and Lies

    Subject Area: Visual Arts
    Prerequisite(s): Fundamentals of Photography or Photography I

    This course draws on both the documentary photo essay and fine art methodologies to create narratives using our photographs. Students interested in either tradition (or both) will be given assignments to explore these realms in order to develop longer-term projects and leave the class with a finished portfolio piece. Assignments allow for experimenting with editing, sequencing, text and installation methods to find the stories in our images while learning how to utilize different shooting techniques to fulfill our point of view. Students will establish a strong aesthetic and technical foundation specific to creating narratives with photographs.
  • Concepts and Processes

    Subject Area: Visual Arts
    Prerequisite(s): Materials and Methods or Sculpture

    Concepts and Processes builds upon the foundation established by the Materials and Methods course.  Students will expand on their technical skills essential to the requirements of each media as a route to express individual ideas and sensibilities with impact and authenticity. Students will be asked to reflect on their own interests and experiences as they discover and develop ideas for their work. In addition, examples of historical and contemporary artists and movements will be presented throughout the year in order to provide cultural context for myriad creative approaches. The media explored in the Concepts and Processes course includes drawing, painting, and printmaking, mixed media, and a unit focusing on creating art for a public audience. Studio practice will be supported by group critiques, sketchbook work, as well as reading and writing assignments.
  • Acting II: Advanced Acting for Stage and Film (Not offered 2019-20)

    Subject Area: Performing Arts
    Prerequisite(s): Acting I (or 2 years experience in JCHS Productions and Departmental Approval)

    Acting II is a performance based class which extends and deepens the skills built in Acting I. Students will engage in advanced acting exercises for the stage and screen, including long form improvisation, Meisner technique, Michael Chekhov technique, directing and acting for film. Students will study advanced contemporary and classical texts, dialect and will complete an audition demo reel.

Visual & Performing Arts Faculty

Jennifer Sturgill
Chair, Visual and Performing Arts
415.694.5772 x150

Marisa Aragona
415.694.5772 x106

Dr. Joshua Feltman
415.694.5772 x204

Joe McDonald
Technical Director, Filmmaking, JTV
415.694.5772 x154

Anne Marie Ullman 
Theater Director and Drama Teacher
415.6945772 x313

Click here to see the complete Curriculum Map.

Visual Art at JCHS

Visual Art at JCHS
Jewish Community High School of the Bay
1835 Ellis Street, San Francisco, CA 94115
Phone: 415.345.9777
JCHS is grateful for generous operational, programmatic, and financial support from:
The Jewish Community High School of the Bay (JCHS) is a unique college preparatory high school committed to integrating deep learning, universal wisdom, and Jewish values. We empower each student to embrace her or his Jewish identity, generate empathy and compassion, delight in lifelong education, and improve the world.