Lower School

Every grade in our Lower School enjoys art as a yearlong course. Through studio practice, students learn about the language and history of art and gain an appreciation for creating and understanding visual art. Throughout the Lower School years, students focus on the elements and principles of art, and they learn about artists, styles, and mediums.

Cross-collaboration among the arts and other classes supports the progression of visual literacy, aesthetic sensitivity, and problem-solving at each grade level. This collaborative approach provides students with a wide range of skill development, self-expression, effective communication, and discovery and joy inherent in the creative process.

Middle School

In the Middle School Fine Arts program, students in fifth and sixth grade take a semester each of Studio Art and Woodworking. In seventh and eighth grade, students can choose to explore sculpture and ceramics as well, furthering their experience in their chosen medium. Both two- and three-dimensional art courses offer practice in problem-solving and help students develop cognitive, affective, and fine motor skills.

Students learn how to use the elements of art and principles of design to create successful works of art. With guidance, students learn to take responsibility for the use, care, and conservation for tools and materials and establish a productive work ethic. As students develop confidence in their abilities to adjust and refine their work, they realize the importance of constant reflection on their progress and quality of their performance.

Sample Middle School Curriculum

List of 6 items.

  • Grades 5 - 6 Studio Art

    This course covers fundamental knowledge, skills, techniques, and attitudes necessary to produce and understand visual art. A variety of artistic media is explored both in technique and through the lens of art history. Fifth grade assignments may include self-portraits, assemblage, collage, and aerial and one-point perspectives. Additional projects at the sixth-grade level include monochromatic painting, collage, sculpture using recycled materials, and a collaborative piece.
  • Grades 5 - 6 Woodworking

    The course begins with formal instruction of proper safety procedures and with basic drawing and design to elicit students’ creativity and to build their confidence. Students discover how a variety of materials can be used in different ways and learn about the history of the craft and the role of mathematics in successful woodworking. Projects take into account the developing nature of each student’s skills. Students develop their skills and demonstrate acquisition of these skills through the completion of a project.

    In the fifth grade, students are introduced to handsaws, Dremels, tape measures, and many other tools. They receive instruction on how to carefully measure and shape wood with a band saw. Through projects such as making clocks, they create unique carvings and designs. In the sixth grade, students carefully measure, cut, carve, and shape wood to make projects like birdhouses, carvings, and toolboxes.
  • Grades 7 - 8 Computer Aided Design

    Middle School CAD introduces students to the world of drawing three-dimensional objects using computers. Students learn to use Sketchup, a CAD program, to create scale models, animations and objects of their own design–both useful and artful. Class is primarily held in the Makerspace, and students learn how to format their drawings for the 3-D printer and create video files from their animations. With the goal of promoting creativity and exploration, the class is an artful combination of math, design, and technology.
  • Grades 7 - 8 Sculpture/Ceramics

    Middle School Sculpture/Ceramics class introduces students to working and thinking in three-dimensional design. This hands-on class includes a variety of traditional sculpture materials such as wood, clay, and wire, as well as contemporary media and found objects. Students learn different sculptural techniques, including carving, papiermâché, wire and assemblage. Ceramic hand-building techniques include coiling, slab building, and modeling. Students employ these techniques to create original sculptural forms using both observation and imagination. Students are encouraged to use their problem-solving skills to produce thoughtful, original, and imaginative work. The class will look at a number of sculptors both historical and contemporary. Students will start to build their art vocabulary and develop the ability to think critically.
  • Grades 7 - 8 Woodworking

    Woodworking projects take into account the developing nature of each student’s skills. In the seventh grade, students carefully measure, cut, carve, shape, and laminate wood to make projects such as custom chess boards and hand-carved paddles. In the eighth grade, students cut, carve, shape, and laminate wood to make projects such as custom lamps and hand-made boxes.

    At both grade levels, students may participate in the completion of group projects such as Adirondack chairs and tables. Students begin each semester by producing scaled drawings, calling on the design skills and creative ideas from the prior year. Over the course of the term, they are introduced to more involved techniques with a variety of wood materials and tools. The history of the craft and the mathematics inherent in the woodworking process are included in the curriculum. At the end of the semester, each student takes home a project that demonstrates some of the more advanced skills he/she has acquired.
  • Grades 7 - 8 Studio Art

    Studio Art covers fundamental knowledge, skills, techniques, and the attitude necessary to produce and understand visual art. A variety of artistic media is explored across a range of subjects and styles. Seventh-grade projects may include abstract paintings, drawing from a still life, self-portraits in the style of an artist’s painting, landscape studies, and a collaborative piece. Additional projects at the eighth-grade level include charcoal still-life drawing, monochromatic acrylic painting, analogous painting, relief prints, and linear perspective studies.

Upper School

A wide variety of two- and three-dimensional art courses are offered in the Upper School Fine Arts program, including Studio Art, Drawing, Painting, Portfolio Development, AP 2D design, Photography, Graphic Design, Woodworking, Sculpture, and Ceramics. Constructive criticism is an integral part of classroom discussion and helps each artist more fully realize his or her creative potential. All aspects of creating art, from generating ideas to the technical process, are included in instruction and practice. References to art history and contemporary art are integrated into every course.

Students have several opportunities throughout the year to show their work in a gallery setting to the school and community. Each year, the fine arts faculty in grades K-12 sponsor a winter and spring art exhibition for student work and host opening receptions. In addition, student work is submitted to several juried and non-juried art competitions and exhibitions throughout the year.

Sample Upper School Curriculum

List of 11 items.

  • AP Studio Art: 2D Design

    Motivated art students work on portfolios to submit for college admission, scholarships, and the AP exam. Within the AP Studio Art class, students can use any 2-D medium. Portfolios may consist of a single medium or combine work from different disciplines such as photography, art and design, and computergenerated art.

    • The Quality section allows the student to select the works that exhibit his/her “best” examples of synthesizing form, technique, and content. Students may include artwork previously done in other studio art classes as part of submitting the required portfolio.
    • The Concentration section asks students to demonstrate depth of investigation and process of discovery.
    • The Breadth section asks students to demonstrate an understanding of the principles of design (unity/variety, balance, emphasis, contrast, rhythm, repetition, proportion/scale, and figure/ground relationship) while showing evidence of conceptual, perceptual, expressive, and technical range.
  • Ceramics

    This course introduces hand-building, sculpting, slab-work, and wheel-throwing. Students learn the technical processes involved in forming and firing. This course is designed to teach students several methods of handbuilding pottery, as well as throwing on the potter’s wheel. Students also learn about various sculptural techniques and have the opportunity to create sculptures in clay. The course covers types and methods of glazing, so students are able to choose glazes that will enhance the final outcome of their piece.

    Class presentations, topics, and critiques are designed to give students a better understanding of aesthetics and history and to increase a student’s visual literacy and problem-solving abilities. Basic glaze and clay chemistry and physics are also covered. These techniques are explored in the context of ceramic art historically and in its contemporary concerns. Students learn how to work with clay, as well as other materials, ceramic tools and equipment. Students are expected to respect basic safety procedures in the ceramics classroom as they learn a variety of sculpting and hand-building techniques.
  • Drawing

    In this semester-long course, students learn numerous skills and techniques for representational drawing, focusing on, and capturing what they see and using value, shading and contrast to create a sense of form. Gesture and line quality are carefully considered as powerful means of expression. Using both conventional and nonconventional drawing tools, students investigate mark-making and the use of color as it relates to the development of symbolic and expressive form. Students use a sketchbook to document research, growth, reflection, personal imagery and ideas. They develop an awareness of how cultural, political, historical and personal influences can be incorporated into their work. They also develop technical versatility and skills while using the visual elements and principles in compositional forms. Students are encouraged to become independent thinkers who contribute inventively and critically to their culture through the creation of art.
  • Graphic Design

    This course introduces the interaction of text and image and the fundamental components of graphic communication. Students will develop and hone skills in working with text and images as they create solutions to a series of design problems. Visual literacy will be increased through exposure to contemporary design issues and graphic design history. Students will be expected to expand their proficiency in all aspects of the design process, including the use of formal design principles, type as image, creative brainstorming, conceptualizing, critical thinking, collaboration, and presentation.
  • Painting

    In this semester-long course, students learn about the unique qualities of different types of paint, including watercolor, acrylic and oil. This studio course provides a fundamental theoretical and technical approach to making representational paintings on canvas. After an initial overview of color and composition, followed by a brief cycle of basic color-mixing and paint handling exercises, most of the remaining in-class time is spent actually making paintings, with ongoing guidance and critique of works in progress. Students work primarily from life—in still-life, portrait and landscape contexts—to develop skills in using cohesive color schemes and painting techniques. Students are introduced to relevant contemporary and historical artists and art styles and learn to compare, analyze, evaluate, and discuss their own work as well as the work of others.
  • Portfolio Development

    Portfolio Development is a yearlong course for students who are serious about the practical experience of art and want to develop mastery in conceptualizing, composing and executing their ideas. Students in this class focus on developing a portfolio that embodies the standards of skill and quality that art schools seek in their candidates. In building the portfolio, students explore a variety of concepts, techniques and approaches designed to help them demonstrate their abilities, as well as their versatility with techniques, problem-solving and ideation.

    Throughout this course, students work on observational drawing and painting, exploring a range of styles, media and subject matter. Strong pieces of work reflecting careful observation, technique and skill are completed in class through direct observation. Students also expand their range of contemporary subjects, styles, and techniques. They are introduced to a variety of traditional and contemporary artists, and learn to write and speak critically about artwork. When each piece is completed, students photograph their work and save it in digital form. They also share their work in group critiques, an important element of the course. Each student is required to maintain a sketchbook, recording his/her ideas and research for each assignment and highlighting his/her personal investigation.
  • Sculpture

    This semester-long course helps students develop an understanding of the interaction of forms in space. Using basic sculptural processes and readily-available materials, students investigate three-dimensional ideas and decision making. Sculpture introduces fundamental studio skills in designing three-dimensional art works, using various three-dimensional media processes. Students are introduced to different artistic styles from realistic representation to interpretive abstractions. Art appreciation, history and theory are woven into 3-D projects that are integrative, inspire creativity, and develop problem-solving skills.
  • Studio Art

    This semester-long entry-level course provides an overview and introduction to the visual arts through the use of a variety of art tools and materials. With an emphasis on studio production, this course develops higher-level thinking skills and art-related technology skills. Students engage in creative expression through a variety of art experiences that sharpen their awareness and perception, permitting them to create in-depth works of high aesthetic quality.

    Art history and culture are incorporated into the art experience as an enhancement for art appreciation. This course provides students with studio experiences, using a variety of media in various areas of art exploration. Projects are based on the elements of art and principles of design. Students acquire skills necessary for more advanced art courses.
  • Video Production/Filmmaking

    Video Production & Filmmaking serves as an introduction to the creating and editing of video and audio work. The course begins with the fundamental principles of audio and video, and it quickly moves to their application in visual/audio communications. This course incorporates the technical aspects of audio, lighting, and digital video production using the Adobe Creative Cloud. Students learn through a series of projects introduced throughout the semester. In addition, students take part in regular viewings and critiques of their projects and learn to develop the proper language to hold productive and constructive conversations.
  • Woodworking

    This semester-long course introduces students to the wood medium, beginning with the basics of shop safety. Students become adept at using a wide variety of tools and machinery, including traditional hand tools, and modern power equipment. Students learn about traditional joinery, how to execute joints, and how to select their proper application. Students produce a range of hand joints, including dovetail joints, mortise and tenon joints and shoulder joints. The proper use of tools is discussed with an emphasis on understanding their use in different applications. This course emphasizes the use of mathematics and helps teach collaboration and problem-solving.

    As a first major project, students design and produce a box constructed through traditional joinery techniques. Finishing techniques are also integrated into this project. Following this introductory work, students select and complete woodworking projects.
  • Photography

    Photography is a semester-long course in which students create pictures and maintain digital photography labs and weekly journals. Basic photography is introduced early in the course. Students are taught the history of photography, digital printing, camera function, and photographic techniques. As the course progresses, students are exposed to more advanced aspects of lighting, composition, and subject matter. Additionally, creative and experimental photography allow students to explore the use of photography as a documentary and artistic medium.

    All of these skills can be used in a wide variety of career paths. Students maintain journals, documenting their camera’s technical features and capabilities. Group critiques follow major projects throughout the semester and help students develop the skills and vocabulary to contribute to productive and constructive review on one another’s work.

Art Exhibitions

Students have several opportunities throughout the year to show their work to the school and community in a gallery setting. Each year, the fine arts faculty in grades K–12 curates a winter and a spring art exhibition and hosts opening receptions for staff, faculty and friends to come together and celebrate the work of our art students. In addition, student work is submitted to several juried and non-juried art competitions and exhibitions throughout the year.

Visual Arts Chair

Sarah Isusi chairs the fine arts department at GSB. She is in her fourth year at Gill and teaches Upper School Studio Art, Drawing and Painting, Portfolio Development and AP 2D Design. Isusi holds a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Painting and a Master’s of Art in Teaching from the Maryland Institute College of Art and a Master’s of Fine Art in Painting from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Prior to coming to Gill, she taught International Baccalaureate Art and Design to Upper School students in Baltimore and later developed the Fine Arts program for a Charter School for Performing and Fine Arts in Philadelphia. She is an active member of the N.J. Art Education Association, as well as the Center for Contemporary Art in Bernardsville and the Print Center of N.J., where she shows her work annually.

Meet the Team

List of 5 members.

  • Photo of Sarah Isusi

    Sarah Isusi 

    Chair, Fine Arts Department
    908-234-1611, Ext. 232
  • Photo of Robert Ort

    Robert Ort 

    Woodworking, Grades 5-8; Fine Arts, Upper School
    908-234-1611, Ext. 261
  • Photo of Cornelius Arnett

    Cornelius Arnett 

    Sculpture / Ceramics, Grades 7-8; Fine Arts, Upper School
    908-234-1611, Ext. 229
  • Photo of Francesco Mazzotta

    Francesco Mazzotta 

    Photography, Video Production
    908-234-1611, Ext. 231
  • Photo of Bonnie Frith

    Bonnie Frith 

    Lower School Visual Arts & Middle School Fine Arts
    908-234-1611, Ext. 300
Gill St. Bernard’s is a private, coeducational day school for students age three through grade 12, located in suburban New Jersey. Each of the three school divisions provides a rigorous, meaningful, and age-appropriate curriculum, and all students benefit from the environmental learning opportunities that exist on our 208-acre campus.