Art room offers creative escape from school life

HONORS: Art teacher Roen Salem, left, is designing a new Honors Art course to replace AP Art next year.

Ashley Mashian

HONORS: Art teacher Roen Salem, left, is designing a new Honors Art course to replace AP Art next year.

Rose Bern, Staff Writer

Decked with vibrantly painted windows and bright canvases, the art room is a second home to many students who come during their free time to relax and hang out.

These students, along with curious passersby – perhaps drawn in by the room’s multi-colored tissue papered door –– enjoy unwinding there during breakfast, lunch and Mincha.

Two kinds of people frequent the art room: artists who know they can find comfort through simply sitting down and drawing away, and miscellaneous students with free time.  All relish spending lots of time in the art room because it’s a place to release the everyday pressures and stress of school.

“It’s a really creative and laid-back atmosphere, and I really enjoy drawing here because it totally releases the pressure of junior year,” explained junior AP Art student Rebecca Asch as she began sketching a new piece.

Two ninth grade girls, Sarah Badreau and Shayna Gershten, come in and wander through, boldly admiring all the different pieces that are propped up on easels.

“I really like looking at the art work here because it’s really interesting and everyone is really talented,” Sarah said, mesmerized by senior AP Art student Bracha Stettin’s painting, depicting a face with the word “CARNY” tattooed across its forehead.

The quiet atmosphere is suddenly broken as juniors Tziporah Thompson and Rebecca Asch barge in, singing at the top of their lungs. Junior Rachel Lesel, there to get art supplies, shakes her head and smiles. It’s just a normal day in the art room.

“I need a place to allow my creativity to flow,” said Rachel, another AP Art student. “AP art is my favorite class of the day, because I am able to express my anguish or happiness from the day and put it into my art.”

In the art room, students sit at a long doodle-covered table, usually concentrating on their drawings, sometimes chatting or even singing. Cool music, ranging from indie to fast-beat pop, adds to the languid environment, encouraging students to drop in whenever they feel like it.

On a recent Wednesday during lunch, senior AP Art student Meirav Cafri painted a charcoal picture, while Rachel moved around the room collecting paint brushes and water.

Students who go to the art room to actually work generally draw serious pieces, instead of frivolous doodles. And because the AP Art students have a deadline — this year, it was 24 pieces by May 7 for the AP evaluation — they try to pop into the art room any time they can to finish their portfolios on time.

All of this might create a problem for AP Art teacher Roen Salem, who has a limited budget for supplies and who teaches other art classes throughout the day, but she welcomes the energy and the vibe.

“I put great trust and respect in kids who do AP Art,” Roen said. “They are responsible and passionate about art, and even though this is my personal space and office, I want them to have the experience; to chill, to relax and see their friends.”