The Bay School Blog

The Bay School of San Francisco

Artists As Activists

Can art change the world? History and current examples show that it can, and the effects are profound. Artists As Activists (AAA), one of Bay’s interdisciplinary courses, integrates political, social and art history with hands-on studio art experiences to explore the ways in which the arts are a tool for social change. AAA students have worked for several weeks to create their final projects of the term that artistically represent issues that they care deeply about, and the results have been phenomenal.

For her final project, Sydney ’18 explored the issue of body image and social media, and the negative effects that this issue can have on young women. She says,”For my final project, I researched how girls are influenced by negative body image at such a young age. Because I am a young woman on multiple social media platforms, I have also been affected, so I know that it is a real issue. The little girl in my piece is clear because she is pure and open to the opportunities life has to offer. She is looking at a woman who has internalized the negative comments that have been targeted at her.

I want my installation to inform the viewer about the label ‘ideal body’ society introduces to women and how beauty is not only about body shape. Even though it may not be obvious, some girls are aware of this issue and are already worried about the shape of their bodies in elementary school.”Sydney’s installation beautifully captures the jarring reality of a topic that impacts millions of women each year.
Clara ’17 focused her project on the very serious issue of overpopulation. Her goal was to “urge people to consider their own knowledge about overpopulation and give them the sense of where we are headed so that they are motivated to consider their impact on the problem and discuss solutions.” In order to get this message across in a visual art form, Clara created a large painting on canvas and displayed it near the lockers so students couldn’t help but see it.
She says, “I chose to create a scene of complexity breaking into nothingness in hopes of showing the viewer where we are headed and what we might say in hindsight.  However, I struggled to balance my piece: making it clearly about overpopulation but also slightly unclear so as to be sticky and thought-provoking.  I ended up mixing both abstract and identifiable objects to show evidence of overpopulation and increased complexity, and I integrated some quotes and facts discretely into the chaos since they were so powerful.”
Abbey ’18 decided to take a different approach to her final project by promoting happiness and creating a stress-free, child-like environment. Understanding the stress that students can often feel as they approach their final exams, Abbey created an exhibit for students to write on the walls, play hop-scotch and hug a mannequin covered in fuzzy balls, all while being surrounded positives quotes and reminders to smile, laugh and just generally enjoy life.
Abbey describes her installation, “For my final project, I chose to look at smiling, and trying to get people to smile more through my art. I focused on exploring fashion design and incorporating it with my topic and used many medias in the process. In some ways, I was able to incorporate painting, drawing, and sculpture into my installation. I was inspired by my childhood happiness and incorporating that into my theme of smiling more. I got this idea when I noticed how negative students’ attitudes are towards school and the stress that comes along with it. So, I wanted to change that and make people happy about something in the school environment, especially during stressful finals week!”
 Artists and activists like Sydney, Clara and Abbey are capable of influencing change through their art.  Whether it be a serious message or playful escapism, and we are proud to give Bay students the space, guidance, and resources needed to discover how to do exactly that.

Messiness and Change

By. Andy Shaw, Dean of Curriculum and Innovation

I’ve been thinking of late about the messiness around school. Not the literal cleanliness of the space, to be precise: despite an occasional abandoned lunch plate I think the students are doing a pretty good job this year taking care of the building. The messiness I’ve been thinking about has more to do with the fact that the process of learning isn’t linear, it’s not “clean”, it’s not free of setbacks and chaos. This messiness is visible everywhere in school. I see it in the Humanities rooms, where assignments are posted on walls and then adorned with sticky notes where classmates offer praise and critique; we’re posting rough drafts, not final drafts. I see it in the richness of final projects, from art pieces to science presentations to graded discussions, all of which allow for and require much more complexity and nuance than a traditional final exam: there is rarely a single right answer or a single valid approach.  And I see messiness in the self-reflections students are writing for their report cards this week; at Bay report cards don’t simply capture the end result of the term by way of a grade, they capture the complicated learning process that unfolded over the term, described both from the student’s and the teacher’s perspective.

I like the fact that our school is messy in this way because I think honoring and showing the messiness is not only a more accurate representation of what real learning looks like, but is also a good representation of what I hope our graduates’ lives will be like. I hope our students take on the messy work of the world, whether it is in the form of wrestling with tough research questions, solving intractable world problems, or being the kind of makers and creators who create elegance out of chaos.

I also like the fact that as a school we are willing to show students, and parents/guardians, the messiness of being a teacher and being a school. We try new things as teachers, and we’re open about that with families. We tinker, we test, we assess, we improve. We know that the challenges of the coming decades require fundamental changes in the way we “do school,” and so we don’t hide from those outside the staffulty the fact that we’re being messy as well, to try always to grow, to succeed, to build the best school we can for our students and our world. For me it’s not about major initiatives, although those are sometimes necessary, but rather about the constant process, as individuals and as an institution, of asking ourselves, “How did that go? How can I do better next time? Is this getting me closer to where I want to end up?” For us at Bay, of course, “where we want to end up” is the certainty that we’re doing everything we can to prepare our students for the complex world they’ll lead, decades from now.

Of course, as Ted and Nancy Sizer, two of my favorite educators and writers, titled one of their books, “The students are watching.” The not-so-secret payoff of making visible the adults’ messiness – our ongoing experimentation, reflection, inquiry, and improvement – comes from the fact that the students are always watching, always absorbing, always modeling their growth off of what they see around them. And so even while I am pleased that Bay’s efforts at innovation and improvement are making the school the best place it can be, I’m at least as pleased that our students are learning to take risks, disrupt, reflect, adopt a growth mindset, and pursue a life of continuous improvement by watching the adults around them do the same. That’s the best kind of messiness I could ask for.

Bay Tennis Welcomes New Coach

As our first term of the school year comes to an end, we reflect back on the outstanding performances from our athletic teams this fall season. Not only did the teams work extremely hard and give their all to each and every game, but that hard work paid off by generating either playoff slots or personal bests. The Boys Varsity Soccer Team made it to the quarterfinals of the NCS Championship Playoffs. The Girls Varsity Volleyball team dominated all season and played in the NCS Semifinal Championship Playoffs. Cross Country ran in BCL West Cross Country League Championships and hit a number of personal records, and Girls Golf had players qualify for NCS. Our sailors won 3rd place in the Silver Division of the Anteater Regatta.

We are extremely proud of all of our teams, but one team that really stood out this season was the Girls Varsity Tennis Team. Under the leadership of new head coach, Emily DeCamilla, the girls tennis team had their best season in Bay’s history and beat teams the school has never beaten before! The team ended in 3rd place in the regular season league standings and ended their run playing in BCL Individual and Doubles Playoffs.

Coach DeCamilla came to Bay with a fresh outlook on the game and a lengthy history of playing and coaching tennis.  A NorCal native, Coach DeCamilla grew up in Sacramento where she played in the Unites States Tennis Association circuit. She played tennis all over Northern California before accepting a full athletic scholarship to Ohio State University.  After graduating college and attempting a few “office jobs,” she knew her heart and passion lay on the tennis court and in education. This combination led her to various coaching jobs including positions with Georgetown University, University of Chicago, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where she also attended graduate school. After grad school, Coach DeCamilla returned to the Bay Area and now calls The Bay School her home.

Coach DeCamilla coaches with the philosophy that the best way to come to any match is by being fully prepared and in the moment. “We try to control the things we can control: being on time, doing warm-ups, having our uniforms and water bottles ready, paying attention to the small details and being focused…really turning on ‘team mode’.” This method seemed to resonate with the team. Team member Natalia ‘17 says, “Since the first day of practice Coach DeCamilla has been extremely supportive of our team and passionate about the sport. She encouraged us daily to be the best athletes we could be on and off the court, coaching us as both a team and individually to work on our weaknesses and play to our strengths.”

Coach DeCamilla is proud of her girls this season, saying, “I truly love the team we have and I’m so impressed with how intentional and thoughtful they are. They concentrate really well on anything I ask them to do, but they also have a lot of fun while they are working hard.” Complimenting the school, Coach DeCamilla continues, “[The students] seem to know how to balance working really hard for that hour and a half with enjoying each other and the team atmosphere. [This reflects] the Bay culture of students who want to grow and learn; sports are an extension of what students learn in the classroom.”

Her philosophy has certainly paid off and we want to congratulate Coach DeCamilla and all of the girls on an incredible season and for their hard work! Coach DeCamilla will be back at Bay in the spring coaching the boys tennis team and we look forward to seeing what their season has in store.


Digital Imaging Portrait Project

Partnering with local community programs can be an important and meaningful way to teach students how to work with and respect others; especially when those “others” are tiny toddlers with special needs. Last month, students in Karen Hellyer’s Digital Imaging 1B class learned about portrait photography, as well as the value of giving an image as a service. Bay students took portraits of young children with special needs who are part of The Infant & Family Support Program, at a community playground in Oakland, CA.

Bay students took intimate shots of these children as they learned the intricate techniques of taking a portrait. The respect shown by Bay students toward these diverse toddlers and their families was impressive. One of the teachers in the Infant & Family Support Program commented, “The final resulting photos are amazing and will be cherished by the families, but the individual attention and fun shared with each child and family by the Bay students, will also be remembered.”

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The Infant & Family Support Program is a public program for infants & toddlers with disabilities and their families. It is part of the Alameda County Office of Education. The families are of diverse backgrounds and many have limited resources, making a wonderful portrait much appreciated. For more information link to


Life Drawings

The two sections of Bay’s Advanced Drawing and Painting have started the life drawing component of the class! Every week for 9 weeks students work for two hours in the studio space drawing from a live model who is dramatically lit. The experience of drawing the human form is an important one for a young artist for many reasons:

Observation: One of the most important skills to develop is being able to draw what you see in front of you. Building this sensitivity as an artist is vital. The consistency of practice is also important, and students see improvement in their work after each life drawing session. Students are becoming sensitive to line quality, how to block in shapes of shadow, and how to work quickly to capture the gestural pose of a person.

Skills Development: Building on the concept of observation, the best way to get better at drawing is to practice drawing. Figure drawing gives students the opportunity to process how to render forms with many different materials in the moment. Comfort leads to confidence, and students are working with ink, graphite, acrylic paint, china marker, and charcoal on many different types of surfaces.

Decision Making: Many students are used to working from photographs or 2-D resources, so drawing from life flips things around for them. All of the necessary visual information is there, but the “right” answer is not. Students need to make decisions for themselves about what they are seeing and how they depict it.

Running parallel to the life drawing sessions are homework assignments that ask students to capture the human form in a variety of situations using combinations of materials. The scaled up life drawing assignments encourage students to take risks with composition, materials combinations, and scale. Students have learned a lot about themselves as artists through working on 18 x 24 paper and they are challenging themselves to work with the figure in exciting new ways and perspectives.

Enjoy the gallery of images!

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