At Whitfield, we approach the visual arts as a language to be manipulated and an observable problem-solving process. Through a variety of projects, students learn how to develop a theme through visual imagery and learn how to articulate artistic concepts while utilizing the vocabulary of the artist to critique work.
For seniors taking one of several advanced studio art courses the Cardboard Chair Project is a rite of passage that challenges them to design and build a chair, using only cardboard, gummed paper tape and Elmer’s glue. The chair must support their weight during an hour-long critique and communicate a personal reflection of them as artists.
The project is team-taught by art faculty members Luke Cano, Jim Daniels and Cara Foster and involves all seniors in ceramics, painting, and photography courses. “One of the primary reasons we do this as a joint project is to encourage our students to develop not just as artists but as creative problem-solvers,” said Jim Daniels. “We push them to branch out and work with mediums they may have never used before—in this case, cardboard.”
Flexibility and mental dexterity are imperative while navigating through the process for visual artists. Students created sketches and prototypes before beginning construction, then made necessary modifications as they worked through the building phase of the project.
“This was my first time making anything with cardboard on such a large scale,” said Sanjeevani Patankar ’19. “I wanted to create a more circular design but that didn’t end up happening, so I adjusted my final design. I used a lot of math taking my prototype to the full-size finished piece.”
As a ceramicist, Gigi Florek ’19 appreciated the challenge of working with a different medium. “Working with cardboard versus clay is obviously very different, but you are still in the 3D realm. The cardboard isn’t as forgiving as clay—measuring and cutting everything to the exact right size was challenging.”
Hasan El-Amin ’19, Ahmad McCray ‘19 and Sebastian Rabon ’19 collaborated to create a throne-style chair. “This is one of the most challenging projects I’ve had to do at Whitfield in any class,” said El-Amin. “It took us a long time to move off our prototype. After some initial frustration, I began to appreciate the project. Our chair has three primary pieces representing the unique parts of us and how we worked together—it was cool to tell that story through the art.”