Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Top 10 Essential Non-essentials for a High School Art Room

In the great discussions of the Christian Church there are two primary categories:

1. Essential to the Faith
2. Non-Essential to the Faith

Art studios are similar. There are the essentials- space, lighting and materials. And then, there are the non-essentials- those items not necessarily essential but helpful. Here is my Top 10 of non-essentials, items I have found to come in handy in my High School art classes over the years. 

Number 10
A music device
Definitely controversial, music is something I have found helpful to the creative process. The question is, "Who chooses the music?" Instrumental is best, especially Baroque or Jazz, but sometimes I allow students to play their tunes. 

Number 9
There will always be things you want hanging around- from aprons to tools (see Number 2).

Number 8
I don't think anyone can have too many books, especially visual people. My shelf ranges from  Art History texts to essays and biographies.

Number 7
First Aid
If it can happen, it probably will.

Number 6
Portable Lighting
The key here is portable. A positionable floodlight is great for self-portraiture, still life work, contrast studies, photographing student cetera.

Number 5
Documentation is important. I resisted the digital movement for probably longer than I should have (in my early days of teaching I photographed art from library books with Kodachrome- now I can assemble a Powerpoint for a lecture in less than an hour). With a low cost digital camera (the Kodak we use cost less than $100) you can capture works in progress, help students with digital portfolios, provide the yearbook (and art blog) with candids, and help students photograph original composition ideas (self portrait, still life, etc.).

Number 4
Storage Cabinets with Doors
With art materials comes the need for organization. Storage cabinets are twofold- public and private. Public access cabinets remain unlocked. They contain materials that are readily accessible without teacher permission. Private cabinets (mine is unlocked but in my office) house sensitive or expensive materials, like photo paper and chemicals or higher quality paper.

Number 3
Flat File Storage
(with removable shelves)
Flat storage shelves are great for drying prints, paintings in progress and storing clay pieces. 

Number 2
A hairdryer is one of the most used tools in our art room, especially when students are screen printing. Hairdryers are also great for watercolorists who are impatient.

Number 1
Hands down, the number one non-essential in a high school art room is a utility sink. Now, I know some are crying, "Non-essential! What could be more essential to an art room than a sink?" It is possible (though not desirable) to teach art without a sink. I taught K-12 art in a room without a sink for years. Today, I praise God for our sink! 

There you have it, my top ten non-essentials for a high school art room.


  1. I am for real clapping my hands! This is Oh so true and written by one who has years of experience !

  2. Thank you for the hand clap! From one art teacher to another- I am honored.