San Francisco

“San Francisco Unified School District Art Show”

de Young Museum

There has been a remarkable im­provement in the art program of the San Francisco Public Schools since the days when high school art classes often consisted mainly of speedball letter­ing, pencil drawing and making ceramic daffodils into pins. This large, juried exhibition, covering all grade levels through senior high school, indicates that there is now a lot of creative work going on.

Perhaps the most noticeable improve­ment is at the elementary school level, where there is laudable variety and freshness of approach. Up to the third grade, of course, children need only be given materials and they will set to work with enthusiasm, provided that the teacher knows enough to leave them alone, except for encouragement, and that they have not been hopelessly corrupted by color books. From about the fourth grade, however, children be­come self-critical and ircreasingly anx­ious about meeting external standards of representation. It takes a good teach­er then to keep art a satisfying and ful­filling experience. In San Francisco, unfortunately, the classroom teacher in the upper grades still teaches her own art program. It is to the credit of the supervisors for art education, Alice B. Stone and Herbert Simon, whose job it is to show untrained teachers how to teach art, that the exhibition is as good as it is.

In the secondary schools there has been a great change in the crafts pro­gram but the improvement is not so marked in the fine arts. Jewelry is made in most schools, even junior highs like Aptos and Francisco, and is often very good. Although the Board of Education says that facilities are equal at all schools, the good quality ceramics on exhibit are all from George Washington. Polytechnic has a metal arts program and they are doing weaving at Fran­cisco. There is almost no real sculp­ture being attempted, to judge by the exhibit, although there are two nice wood carvings from Mission High School, done under Paul Knudsen. There are a number of examples of skilled draftsmanship on display, some slick commercial art and some decorator type paintings but apparently advanced stu­dents are not encouraged to experiment. Everything looks as if it were in answer to a problem. The single exception is a large, free figure by Ray Robles, done under Bernadette Plouf Choate at Gali­leo High School. The acquisition of skills does not have to preclude imagi­nation but unfortunately some of the teachers seem to think so.

––Helen Giambruni