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Visual Arts

Mission Statement | Visual Arts 

The Middle School Art curriculum encourages personal expression and inventive thinking through the imaginative exploration of art materials and methods. The program emphasizes a genuine art studio experience that stresses visual imagery and the elements of art: line, shape, color, pattern, texture, and space. Assignments encourage students to expand their artistic skills, broaden their visual perception, and develop facilities with a range of media. The assignments are structured and sequential, but they encourage a variety of creative responses. The studio environment fosters a sense of community, compassion, and respect for every student’s work process and creations. By introducing artists whose work is intriguing, we teach art history in a dynamic, hands-on manner. The artwork is visually compelling in its aesthetic and sense of design and diverse in culture, ethnicity, gender, style, time period, and media. We also teach assignments inspired by self-taught artists who are intent on making art despite psychological challenges. Our artistic practice inherently values different voices and is sensitive to others’ perspectives. In the art studio, students “have opportunities to consider other viewpoints” (Kohlberg). As our students become receptive to the vision of other artists, they find their own voice and take risks to articulate their personal aesthetic. In light-filled art studios, teachers who are also artists share their love of making art. They offer every child the opportunity to feel a sense of accomplishment. The rich studio experience exemplifies The Dalton Plan because students build knowledge actively as they work on assignments in class and lab. The Art Department considers every child an artist and honors their artwork by displaying it throughout the school professionally. Our aesthetic celebrates the subtle and beautiful irregularities of art made by the human hand. Students learn to work with focus and discipline, making thoughtful artistic choices about their creations. 
  • Art 4

    Fourth grade students learn about a variety of artists and receive an introduction to drawing, painting, collage, sculpture, sewing, and mixed media. Specific assignments introduce the basic vocabulary of art: line, shape, color, volume, space, and composition. Working from observation and imagination, students create abstract and representational art. They are encouraged to make thoughtful choices about the balance, variety, and unity of their compositions. Art assignments include a tactile paper collage inspired by Kurt Schwitters, a quilt based on the work of the African American women of Gee’s Bend, as well as pieced textiles from various Asian cultures, an observational drawing of a pumpkin that introduces ways to achieve an illusion of volume, a painting of a natural form in the monumental style of Georgia O’Keeffe, a drawing of repeated objects inspired by self-taught artist Heinrich Reisenbauer, and a watercolor painting in the style of Paul Klee. Every art teacher includes an assignment related to their area of expertise. These include an introduction to the potter’s wheel, creating a found object circus inspired by Alexander Calder, constructions based on the work of self-taught artist, James Castle, woodworking, papermaking, Japanese marbling, handmade books, and sewing. As they respond to these assignments, students develop fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, perception of edges, shapes, proportions, and facilities with various materials.

    View the Visual Arts page for more information.
  • Art 5

    The 5th grade art curriculum is an introduction to texture and relief. Through box constructions inspired by Joseph Cornell, assemblages in the style of Louise Nevelson, texture rubbing books, masks, collagraph and linocut printmaking, and perspective drawing, students develop skills in representational and abstract art. Teachers also integrate woodworking assignments, papermaking, handmade books, ceramics, and helmets that reflect their own expertise. Students occasionally use Photoshop as an additional tool for making art.

    View the Visual Arts page for more information.
  • Art 6

    Students work on a sequence of assignments that include black and white collages of positive and negative shapes, color collages inspired by Matisse, motif and pattern paintings, rubber stamp patterns that play with color and alignment of the motif, handmade books, a perspective drawing that creates the illusion of depth, Greek Festival clay relief tiles, observational contour drawing, and linocut prints.

    View the Visual Arts page for more information.
  • Art 7

    The 7th grade art curriculum includes one semester of two-dimensional Drawing and Design and one semester of Three Dimensional Design. Drawing and Design introduce design elements through assignments such as an abstraction of still life, enlargement of composition using a grid, linocut cityscapes and collages, imaginative shoe designs, and portraits inspired by Arcimboldo. Students use line shape, color, value, and pattern to design balanced and unified compositions. Dimensional Design teaches the basic elements of three-dimensional design. Students create a stable structure using corrugated cardboard. They learn to measure accurately, cut, and join materials with precision. The construction can be representational or abstract. By modeling a figure in clay, students learn about proportion and observation. Studying vanishing point perspective, they make a drawing that creates the convincing illusion of three-dimensional space.

    View the Visual Arts page for more information.
  • Art 8

    The 8th grade curriculum consists of Painting, Ceramics/New Media, Photography, Culinary Arts, and more. These courses teach greater facility in a range of media, techniques, and basic design concepts. The sequential assignments prepare students for a variety of high school art courses.


    In Painting, students use gradations of color to create the illusion of volume on a flat surface. They work with a variety of media, using direct observation as well as imagination. They paint a cylinder in gradual values and transform it into an interesting composition. Next, they draw a pear under a single light source, using chalk pastel to suggest the volume. Other assignments include a torn paper collage of a pear, a mosaic of a pear, a painting of an object under a single light source, Sumi ink painting, a landscape painting, and a still life inspired by Giorgio Morandi.

    Ceramics/New Media

    Students learn how clay responds to their sense of touch and timing while building familiarity with a variety of construction techniques. The class emphasizes intensive instruction in wheel throwing. Through repetition, students learn to center, open, and raise simple cylinders. They also learn hand-building techniques such as pinch pots, coils, and extruded forms. Students learn a stop action clay animation technique on their laptops. While utility and function are often considerations of clay, sculptural explorations are also encouraged. Most assignments allow students to define the form and content of their studio investigations.


    Photography introduces students to basic camera handling, film development, and darkroom printing techniques. Students also work with Adobe Photoshop, using the software to create several design-based assignments. Combining mixed media with photography, students experiment with hands-on techniques such as painting, collage, and sewing to alter their pictures.

    View the Visual Arts page for more information.


  • Photo of Mira Gelley
    Mira Gelley
    Middle and High School Arts Chair, High School Visual Arts Teacher
    University of California, Irvine - B.F.A.
    Art Institute of Chicago - M.F.A.
  • Photo of Dustin Atlas
    Dustin Atlas
    Architecture Teacher
    The Cooper Union - B.Arch.
    Harvard Graduate School of Education - M.Ed.
  • Photo of Ilana Breitman
    Ilana Breitman
    Visual Arts Teacher
    Albert A. List College - B.A.
    Barnard College of Columbia University - B.A.
    New York University - M.F.A.
  • Photo of Kelly Cabezas
    Kelly Cabezas
    Visual Arts Teacher
    School of Visual Arts - B.A.
  • Ryan Davis
    Art Teacher
    Bowling Green State University - B.F.A.
    Ohio University - M.F.A.
  • Photo of Tammy Logan
    Tammy Logan
    Engineering and Art Teacher
    School of Art and Design Purchase College - B.F.A.
    Yale University - M.F.A.
  • Photo of Jodi Messina-Nozawa
    Jodi Messina-Nozawa
    MS Art Teacher
  • Photo of Lauren Rago
    Lauren Rago
    Visual Arts Teacher
    Douglass College: Rutgers University - B.A.
    Mason Gross School of the Arts: Rutgers University - B.F.A.
    Maryland Institute College of Art - M.A.
  • Photo of Melissa Zexter
    Melissa Zexter
    Middle and High School Visual Arts Teacher
    Rhode Island School of Design - B.F.A.
    New York University/International Center for Photography - M.A .
(Grades K-3) 53 East 91st Street
New York, NY 10128
General: (212) 423-5200 | Admissions: (212) 423-5463
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(Gr. 4 Dalton East & PE Center) 200 East 87th Street
New York, NY 10128
General: (212) 423-5200 | Admissions: (212) 423-5262
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(Grade 5-12) 108 East 89th Street
New York, NY 10128
General: (212) 423-5200 | Admissions: (212) 423-5262
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