Alaina Palmer and Lily Tyson - Photos by Andy Calvert
Unity Christian School
At Unity Christian School, Christian faith is central to all aspects of the curriculum. Art teacher Maddison Umberger incorporates biblical study into all of her art classes, teaching students in 3rd through 12th grades to approach visual arts from a Christian perspective. “We look at, from a biblical perspective, what defines beauty, what defines good art… what defines how an artist should view their work,” she says.
The fine arts are a foundational part of Unity’s mission, and students have the opportunity to participate in visual and performing arts throughout their education. Students start visual art classes as early as pre-K. Their education adapts as they grow, Umberger says.
Her elementary students learn about the elements and techniques of art through a variety of media such as ceramics and painting. The goal, Umberger says, is to help students develop an appreciation for art at an early age. In middle school, students then begin to focus on their preferred medium, and they also begin to learn how to analyze art.
By the time students reach high school, Umberger says, she offers them more independence. High schoolers at Unity are required to take one year of a fine arts elective in order to graduate, but Umberger says that many students choose one arts elective and stick with it for all of high school. Those who choose visual art continue to analyze art but also have more studio time to work on projects in their medium of choice.
They also study various art styles and replicate them in their own projects. Recently, students learned about cityscapes and created their own Bethlehem cityscapes. High school students worked on monochromatic celebrity portraits, focusing on creating a portrait with various tints and shades of a single color.
a preview of their work
Seniors at Unity must complete a final project in which they present how they have made a biblical connection to a subject they have learned in school. Umberger says that her students often use art in this project. “I try to help prepare the high schoolers for that, so maybe the subject of creation or beauty is something they’ve learned within their time at Unity and they can connect that with biblical perspective and worldview,” she explains.
Umberger includes biblical perspective at each step of her students’ art education. For the younger classes, she takes a simple approach, building a foundation for appreciating art through faith. “When they get to the high-school level, they’re more looking at how do we as Christians, from a biblical perspective, analyze how the arts impacted the world and then how do we make sense of that as Christians, and how do we…glorify God through our art,” she says.
“If God is creative, and we are made in his image, we also have this creativeness in us, so how do we steward that as believers? We look at scripture to define what God calls good and true and then let that determine how we analyze and celebrate art.”