Students Advocate for AP Art

By Faith Walauskas –

Last year, the art department got very close to a shot in the heart for art students and teachers– the elimination of the Advanced Placement art course.

In the end, the course was continued.  The universal question remains – in light of budget cuts – how long will the course be offered at Penn Manor.

“A.P. Art was in danger last year because we had a teacher resign and we chose to not replace (that person) due to budget cutbacks we made,” said Penn Manor Superintendent Mike Leichliter.

AP Art requires aspiring art students to create a 24-piece portfolio that may  be used for college credits. The portfolio includes a 12-piece breadth portion, and 12 pieces based around a coherent theme.

“AP Art offers many valuable opportunities to students looking for a challenging and rigorous environment to nurture their artistic and creative strengths,” said  AP art teacher Karen Gingerich. “AP Art, as with all the arts, encourages students to become independent thinkers who will contribute inventively and critically to their culture.”

Students who were planning to take AP Art or have completed the course are its biggest advocates.

“I’m currently a double major in Psychology and Studio Art, and despite how much I complained about AP Art, it actually helped me to prepare for college,” said 2010 Penn Manor graduate Dani Leon. “In fact, I was surprised to realize I knew more about art and critiquing than most of my fellow(college)students. If anything the class over-prepared me.”

Leon was contacted through Facebook messaging while she spends her spring semester overseas in London.

“It’s hard for a non-artist to know what an artist needs. They’re not wasting their time or their lives painting silly pictures. No, they’re creating dimension to their world, exploring in a way that few know how to,” said Leon. “It’s easy to dismiss it because art is subjective, but for that very reason it must stay. We are taught in school, especially public school that there is a question and then there is an answer. Unfortunately that is not how life works.”

In an email, Leichliter explained, “Last year the state kept their funding level BUT used federal stimulus funds which expire this year–Penn Manor like other schools in the Lancaster, PA, and across the nation will be making some very tough choices regarding programs in the future.  I can tell you that we will continue to have options for students but I am sure they will not be as many nor look identical to what we have today.”

Leichliter’s email reply also included a link he suggested be checked out regarding the continuing financial conflicts Pennsylvania schools are facing.

“The decision of which classes will not be offered next year will be based upon the number of student requests that are receive during the course selection process,” explained Penn Manor Principal Philip Gale, “We will be making reductions in staffing that will have an impact on classes that are offered. At this time, it has not been decided which classes will be offered or not offered.”

“As we push forward into challenging times ahead, I have faith and hope that the arts will continue to thrive in Penn Manor,” says Gingerich.