Initially implemented in Fall 1994, ArtQuest (AQ) is a magnet program for the Visual and Performing Arts on the Santa Rosa High School campus. Begun as a California Secondary Specialized Program (SSP), AQ was designed to “provide an above and beyond experience for students who wish to concentrate on the Arts during their high school years and for whom creativity is of paramount importance.”
How is ArtQuest funded?
Funded initially in 1993 by the Calif. Dept. of Education's Specialized Secondary Program (SSP) Grant, AQ has since been funded by a combination of sources, including the Santa Rosa City Schools District, the Calif. Arts Council, the Calif. Dept. of Education, Friends of AQ, the SRHS Foundation, Schools Plus, the Edmund and Jeannik Littlefield Foundation and through other grants, fundraising and donations.
What Arts Specialties can a student choose from and what does each Specialty offer?
There are eight Visual and Performing Arts Specialties currently offered. In the Visual Arts, Digital Arts, Photography, Video Arts and Visual Fine Arts are available and in the Performing Arts, there is Dance, Theatre Arts, Instrumental Music and Vocal Music. Specialties are individually described in the AQ Curriculum Summary found in the AQ Application Packet. For more information, contact the teacher of the specific Arts Specialty of interest.
In general, what can I expect from ArtQuest?
At ArtQuest, the Arts are Academic. The ideas you will be introduced to and the work you will do, will challenge and inspire you and you’ll become part of the AQ community of ‘critical friends’. You can expect to find students in your Specialty who are deeply interested in their art form, you can anticipate learning from dedicated Arts Specialists who are highly knowledgeable in their discipline and who expect you to do your best work, and you will find the AQ Core classes to be of high quality and intellectually stimulating. You will experience relevant field trips, engage with guest presenters, and discover more about arts-related careers and colleges. You can expect the AQ community to be lively and interested in contemporary issues and you’ll meet diverse people and discover more about other arts disciplines. And, if you change your mind about an Arts focus, you will find that the skills, discipline, habits of mind, creative problem solving, critical thinking, investigative and collaborative practices that you develop in AQ will translate powerfully to many other areas of education and life.
How are ArtQuest parents involved?
"Friends of AQ" (FoAQ) is a parent and community nonprofit organization that provides substantial support and serves as the organizing body for ways for families to become involved in AQ. FoAQ helps coordinate volunteers for many events, activities, field trips, productions and exhibitions, facilitates finding carpool connections, and sponsors fundraising. AQ teachers enjoy working with AQ parents because they are typically so dedicated to their student's education and committed to help. AQ warmly welcomes participation from parents and community. Join Friends of AQ and help us make a difference!
How many students attend the ArtQuest program and where do they come from?
There are currently between 550-600 AQ students, or just under 30% of SRHS students. About 78% of all AQ students reside outside the SRHS attendance boundaries, attending from all over Sonoma County and also parts of Napa, Marin and Mendocino counties.
How much does ArtQuest cost to attend?
AQ is a public school program and thus free to attend. See #2 above for ways we are supported and generate funds. There are requested contributions in most classes for various materials, field trips, and other occasional costs. Additional personal equipment, such as an instrument, camera, dance shoes etc. may be needed.
What type of qualities and qualifications are important for entry into ArtQuest?
There are no exact requirements for AQ and we try to accommodate as many students as we can. Of course, having some exposure to, and skill and practice in the particular discipline requested is a plus. But, we are also looking for a ‘spark’, an enthusiastic and brave attitude, teamed with discipline and a commitment to learn. We want students who are ready to work and to do their very best. Please see detailed information in the Entry Packet.
What is the entry rate into AQ?
As a public school, with the mission to provide an "above and beyond experience for students who wish to concentrate on the Arts during their high school years and for whom creativity is of paramount importance” we admit as many students as practical. We are committed to advocating for adequate resources to be able to keep the entry rate strong. However, we also ask students to go through a submission process that requires several types of information and many examples (both quantitative and qualitative) to help us assess the applicant’s potential to be successful in, and benefit from, the rigorous AQ program. We also ask for a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Arts Specialty choice so that if we are unable to take the student into his/her 1st choice, we can look for alternative options. Currently, about 90% of the students who turn in a completed Entry Packet are able to enter into one of their three choices.
How is ArtQuest structured for students?
AQ students spend a two-period block of the school day in all AQ Specialties, except in Music. Music students take one period of Instrumental and/or Vocal Music, or may take more than one, including a combination of classes chosen from offerings that vary depending on the annual master schedule and the appropriate level. Students are highly encouraged to enroll in designated AQ Core classes. We currently offer AQ Academic English at the Freshmen, Sophomore, Junior and Senior levels, and AQ Honors English for Freshmen and Sophomores, as well as Academic World History for 10th graders. Students or parents/guardians should clearly request the AQ Core classes through their counselor if desired. AQ Core classes provide ways for students to connect their learning with their chosen Arts Specialty and with the AQ annual interdisciplinary theme. AQ Core classes also make available a forum for connections and collaborations between students from all the eight different AQ Arts Specialties.
Can ArtQuest students enroll in only the Arts Specialty class with no other AQ Core requirements?
The program is committed to creating a connected community of students, families and teachers, and we think that it is an important benefit. AQ Core courses link subject matter to the AQ annual theme and to the various arts disciplines. AQ Core classes also offer opportunities for AQ students to get to know students from all eight AQ Arts Specialties, and to be inspired to work together, both in and beyond the classroom. AQ Core and Arts teachers consistently plan and work collectively to develop and implement many facets of the AQ program. We strongly encourage a broader AQ participation, but an AQ student is not required to take AQ-related Core classes. Many AQ students also take classes at Santa Rosa Junior College, other colleges or online.
How does integration between the Arts Specialties and/or AQ Core classes happen, as well as community Collaborations?
Teachers choose to participate in the AQ theme and interdisciplinary work in different ways. Many integrated projects begin organically with a ‘seed” idea that generates interest and grows from there. Pragmatic concerns can often come into play; for example collaboration are easier with classes/levels that meet during the same school periods. Integrated projects sometimes repeat past successes or implement new approaches. AQ Photography, Theatre Arts and Video Arts have produced in-depth works that combine student-written monologues, photographs and videos. Digital animations have been built upon Vocal Music students singing and AQ Dancers dancing. The recent “Bodyscapes” project was created by AQ Dance, Photography and Visual Fine Arts and produced still and moving performances and images that appeared to be ‘at one’ with their environment. AQ has held juried multi-disciplinary exhibitions at the Sonoma County Museum and has created several cross-discipline anthologies, including this year’s “AQ 20th Anniversary Anthology”. Other collaborations include the “Full Circle Festival” with the SR Charter School for the Arts, a large-scale, site-specific installation for the Sonoma County Office of Education lobby led by AQ Digital Arts and Photography, two enormous multidisciplinary projects with the Santa Rosa Symphony, A Child of Our Time and The War Requiem Project, and the development of a pilot teen docent program at the diRosa Preserve for Art. Inter-disciplinary critiques are often held at AQ, which facilitate student discovery of both shared and discipline-unique concerns and properties. Overall, AQ teachers and students frequently work together and with the community to support inter-related ideas, rather than focusing solely on isolated understandings and separate disciplines. What is now called “Common Core” is not a new idea for AQ, but has always been included in the heart of the program.
What are some of the unique features of the AQ Arts Specialties?
Students work in depth in their arts area, develop high level concepts, techniques and skills, use quality materials, learn the professional vocabulary of the discipline, participate in in-depth critique and reflection, and begin to develop intense discipline and focus. They may work on extended series, learn about contemporary approaches and forms, engage with guest artists and AQ alumni, go on inspiring field trips, and participate in a wide range of exhibition and performance opportunities. The rigor of the courses is exceptional for the high school level, and students are challenged to approach their classes with a purposeful pursuit of craft and a reflection on the meaning, impact and context of the work. AQ students often collaborate, creating rich learning experiences and close ties, and they often continue relationships with one another, and the AQ teachers well past high school.
Will being in ArtQuest allow me to also prepare for UC and other college and university admission?
Yes! AQ is a rigorous, specialized program and strongly encourages students to prepare for as many potential future options and directions as possible. AQ students can, and do pursue admission to any college or university; see our list of colleges, universities and conservatories that AQ students have attended. Since students commit more time to their Specialty than they would in a typical high school "elective" offering, they may have to make more choices, such as take a 0 or 7th period class, attend classes at Santa Rosa Junior College or other colleges, attend summer programs or take online courses. Many AQ students do this anyhow, not only because it fulfills a requirement but because they want to enrich and expand their learning. When writing college application essays, AQ students who have included a description about their AQ experience, its benefits and the commitment level required, have frequently been told that this had a positive impact on their acceptance and/or financial aid offers at various colleges. AQ students are almost always better prepared than typical high school students for admission to visual or performing arts colleges or departments, and are able to contribute high quality portfolios and auditions in the process. AQ teachers help provide information and guide students about schools and programs attuned to their artistic and other goals and strengths, and they disseminate information about many enhancement opportunities, such as summer programs, awards and scholarships. Consult specific colleges of interest, the SRHS Course Catalogue and student's counselor for additional information.
What would a sample schedule look like for an ArtQuest student?
Freshmen usually take AQ Specialty (2 periods), AQ English, a Science class, a Math class and one other class such as a Modern Language, or Physical Education. Sophomores usually take AQ Specialty (2 periods), AQ English, AQ World History, a Math class and one other class. Juniors and Seniors take AQ Specialty, AQ English and plan the rest of their schedule based on graduation or college requirements, college or online classes they are taking, special interests, individual goals and preferences. (Note: course offerings may vary annually.) That being said, AQ student schedules differ as widely as our students. Some AQ students strive to ‘do it all’ and plan to go straight into a four-year university, or a specialized, rigorous visual or performing arts institution right from high school. Others want to focus on a few areas more intently or take things a little more gradually, perhaps entering a community college first and going from there. With careful planning, hard work and focused discipline, any of these directions can work for AQ students, but ongoing check-ins and guidance from counselors, teachers and parents is a must.
What about Honors or Advanced Placement (AP) classes?
There are AQ Honors English classes offered at freshman and sophomore levels and other Honors classes are offered in many academic areas at SRHS overall. AQ students may enroll in honors classes at their discretion, but should be sure they are truly interested in the discipline and can handle the added rigor and workload. SRHS also has a very high number of Advanced Placement (AP) offerings and our students excel in the success rate on AP exams. AP classes are typically taken in the junior or senior years. AP Studio Art is offered and is taught by an AQ teacher; students from AQ Digital Arts, Photography and Visual Fine Arts are encouraged to enroll. This class is one period and focuses on the preparation of an in-depth portfolio in Drawing, 2-D or 3-D Design, which is scored by the National College Board. This AP portfolio is very useful for college entry, scholarships, college advanced placement status or even college credit. In the past 21 years AQ students submitting AP portfolios have had an extremely high success rate of about 97%, compared to the State and National average passage of about 64%. There has been a consecutive 100% passage rate for the past four years!
Does ArtQuest offer an Internship program in the Visual and Performing Arts?
Yes, it has been reinstated through funding for three years from the Edmund and Jeannik Littlefield Foundation, based on a grant written by the AQ director and a group of AQ teachers. This internship class is a valuable way to gain ‘real world’ experience, is of potential benefit to one’s resume, can lead to a paid internship or related job, is a great addition to college applications and can be a fantastic source for letters of recommendation. These internships have been invaluable for AQ students in building confidence and increasing skills and practical knowledge. The diRosa Art Preserve, SR Symphony, Press Democrat, Charles Schulz Museum, Sonoma County Museum, Chops Teen Center, Sebastopol Center for the Arts, SR Dance Theatre, KRCB Radio and SR Charter School for the Arts are just a few of the past intern sites. See AQ “Curriculum Summary” for more details and eligibility.
What if I want to switch Specialties or even leave ArtQuest?
Students are asked to remain in their chosen Arts Specialty for a minimum of one year. If a student wants to change specialties or “migrate”, he/she must first contact the current Specialty teacher and then the proposed Specialty teacher and submit a portfolio or audition. The student then meets with the AQ Director to discuss the migration process, the student’s reasons and intent, parental support for the change, availability of space in the new area/level, the impact on student’s graduation requirements and student’s overall schedule etc. As for leaving or “exiting” AQ, it depends. AQ students make a program commitment upon application, which is three (3) years if entering AQ in 9th or 10th grade, or through the end of high school if entering in 11th or 12th grade. If a student wishes to exit AQ early, before this commitment is fulfilled, he/she must receive approval from the AQ Director, his/her Counselor, Parents and sometimes the SRHS Vice Principal or Principal, who together make a decision based on the seriousness of the reasons for the request. AQ students may not exit AQ early for capricious reasons or casual convenience. If a student withdraws from AQ early and does not reside within SRHS attendance boundaries, he/she possibly may not be allowed to remain at SRHS.
Is ArtQuest considered an "alternative" style of education?
Probably by most. The time spent in the Arts Specialty is unique, as is the depth and intensity, and AQ Specialty and AQ Core classes often include atypical projects and approaches. Students come to AQ from a large region and from diverse school environments, including public, public charter, private and home school sites. AQ strives to support student success through recognition of multiple learning styles, high standards and expectations, project-based and literacy-embedded curriculum, authentic performance-based assessment, in-depth critique, increased student responsibility and accountability, and a supportive community of learners. Having considerable time and opportunities, quality resources and significant support to do work in the Arts during high school is certainly an exceptional alternative.
What are some of the guiding principles of ArtQuest?
A primary guiding principle of AQ is that we recognize that there are many students who are talented and motivated to learn about the Visual and Performing Arts and that they benefit from having an opportunity to develop their interests and potential in a challenging and supportive community during high school. AQ understands that there are many ‘ways of knowing’ and that by supporting diverse learning styles and encouraging a variety of modes of expressing experience and knowledge, we add depth, richness and meaning to education, our lives and culture. AQ also believes that there is a big difference between "high standards" and "standardized". AQ embraces the idea that creative problem solving, critical thinking, judgment skills, tolerance of ambiguity, divergent perspectives and collaboration are all learned extremely well through the Arts and can be transferred successfully to many areas of education, careers and life. By teaching, modeling, expecting and supporting unique technical and conceptual accomplishment, focused discipline and positive risk-taking, students are empowered to achieve at exceptional levels. AQ students are challenged to be both artists and scholars in the broadest sense. At AQ, the Arts ARE Academic.
ArtQuest @ SRHS 1235 Mendocino Avenue Santa Rosa, CA 95401