Among the many Advanced Placement (AP) courses offered by Jennings County High School, the advanced placement art class is quite unique.

Unlike most AP courses, there are no tests, no assigned readings and no limitations. Rather, the goal of each AP art class is to create two portfolios to submit to the college board at the end of the year. One of them, known as the concentration portfolio, requires a series of 12 art pieces that share a common theme. This could be anything from pollution to family life to frogs. The other portfolio, known as breadth, requires 12 art pieces that show the range and skill of the artist.

On top of these requirements, students must choose to work in one of three categories for the year: 3D art, 2D art or drawing. Besides having to fit into one of these categories and fulfill the art count for the portfolio, students are free to portray whatever style or subject matter they please. Past students have even remarked that such freedom in high school has given them the confidence needed to excel in college.

“The skills and confidence I gained helped me to build the portfolio I needed to get accepted into the school of art, and currently help me with the art class I am enrolled in now,” said Kayla Gross, a Jennings High graduate who is attending Ball State University.

Karen Chilman, the AP art teacher, inspires this kind of creativity in her students by providing them open-ended assignments that allow them to create from their own ideas. The most open-ended assignment of this year is “The Awesome Project.”

Before students left for fall break, Chilman simply told her students, “Make some art that makes me say awesome. Media and theme are up to you.”

Upon returning from fall break, students displayed their creations. Among these were homemade Halloween costumes, painted pumpkins, self portraits, drawings of architecture and digitally-enhanced photography.

Besides open-ended assignments, students also are given very specific assignments. These could dictate which material to use or which style to incorporate. This encourages students to try new ideas in their art and offers them chances for personal growth.

For example, on Oct. 16, Chilman told her students that they must create an art piece from encaustics, a painting material made from pigment and beeswax. Using this material entails keeping it at 200 degrees and painting it onto a surface quickly before it cools. Such a different style of painting required students to problem solve and adapt in order to use it effectively.

“I was able to to try so many different ways and styles of art, and it helped me to develop my own sense of style,” said Shelbie Stice, a 2017 Jennings High graduate.