School district recognized for visual arts education

Pennsylvania Art Education Association recognized WSSD for its broad range of offerings in visual arts.


Sylvan Prey-Harbaugh

Sophomore Violet Abrahamsson works on independent artwork at the Wednesday, Nov. 2 Art Club meeting

Imogen Sharif '23, Haven Arts Editor

On any given Wednesday, you can find K-12 Visual Arts Department Chair Mrs. Jennifer Rodgers guiding twenty or more independent student artists as they paint, draw, or create digital art during fifth block.

This month, Rodgers and the entire Visual Arts Department are celebrating their recent recognition by the Pennsylvania Arts Education Association as an Outstanding Visual Arts Community.

Wallingford-Swarthmore School District is one of the districts recognized for its vibrant visual arts community. The PAEA emphasizes the importance of a well-rounded education and opportunities for art education for all students in all grade levels.

Criteria for this recognition include as highly rigorous and inclusive programs that challenge students no matter their level of artistic ability, highly accessible programs that are available to all students, and highly visible programs that consistently present to the community.

“It’s fantastic and long overdue,” Rodgers said. “I want to thank the administration and the school board directors for supporting us and allowing us to have such an amazing art program, it’s a group effort.”

Throughout their time at WSSD, students can take a variety of art classes. Every year students from elementary to middle school create using a variety of mediums taught in art curriculum.

Once students reach Strath Haven High School, art classes are no longer required at each grade level, but still cover a broad range of mediums. The graduation requirement includes three credits that students can mix between arts, business, and computer science, but many students enroll in several levels of arts courses. Classes such as Graphic Design, 2D art, Ceramics, and Photography all are essential to form the visual arts curriculum that WSSD is recognized for.

As an avid supporter of young artists and a vital member of the local arts community, Rodgers prides herself in WSSD’s visual artists.

“Our K-12 art gallery at the Community Arts Center is really amazing,” she said.

The Community Arts Center presents “The Art of WSSD” gallery every other year. It is a collection of selected works from students of all grades throughout the district. Rodgers works to organize and collect artworks in a variety of mediums and from a variety of students.

“It’s important to present art from throughout the district, from all age groups,” Rodgers said, “Because of COVID, it was difficult to share art, so having the gallery is a great way to show off young artists.”

WSSD’s art department celebrates its recognition along with 39 other school districts in Pennsylvania.

We have the best students in the world, and the best art teachers. I want to thank the administration and the school board directors for supporting us and allowing us to have such an amazing art program, its a group effort.”

— Jennifer Rodgers

Rodgers expressed adoration for working with students and helping them be creative. “We have the best students in the world,” she said.

Rodgers’ love for Haven’s artists isn’t one-sided. Francesca Clark, a junior currently enrolled in Art 3, praised their teacher, “I love Mrs. Rodgers, she’s like, one of my favorite teachers.”

The Pennsylvania Art Education Association acknowledges communities that demonstrate the importance of visual art programs with rigorous and inclusive programs, highly accessible programs, and highly visible programs.

Rigorous programs are expected to be taught using standards-based curricula and taught by highly qualified teachers, Mrs. Rodgers identified Haven’s classes as having curriculums that “demand excellence and creativity.”

Inclusive and accessible programs are expected to be classes taught at every level and show no discrimination for who is able to participate.

“I have a really big art class and it’s a ton of different people, and people I’ve never even met before,” Clark said.Roger agrees that art should be accessible.

“Art is for everyone, we make sure to create safe spaces for creative expression,” Rodgers said.
Visible programs are expected to be fully integrated into their community, whether through social media or displayed in public.

The K-12 art gallery and several hallways in Haven display student art. “There are tons of murals that art students have done, literally everywhere,” Clark said.

In reference to social media, Mrs. Rodgers highlighted the importance of an online presence. “Each art teacher has their own Instagram account to share student artwork. Presenting artwork online is a huge way to get our art out there.”

Having a community in which student art is shared not only gets student work out into the public eye but also allows other students to feel inspired to take art classes.

WSSD’s art department celebrates its recognition along with 39 other school districts in Pennsylvania.