Ceramics and pottery.
That's what Seabreeze High School's 3D art program consisted of before art teacher Christine Colby began working at the school five years ago. It was functional art, perhaps a bit crafty, she said.
"When I joined Seabreeze, it was in a little bit of a transition period," Colby said. "So my focus has been to revive what formerly was ceramics into a more of a diverse 3D art or sculpture program."
And revive the program, she has.
For example, in her first period portfolio class, students work independently to develop their own art, with guidance from Colby. The students come up with a theme and propose their idea to Colby, who then helps talk them through what materials to use and what concepts to hone in on.
Then, they go to work, and ideally, the students will wrap up the school year with a portfolio of eight pieces. Seabreeze is also the only school in Volusia County to currently offer a Cambridge AICE art course.
Last year, when the new ceramics textbook, titled “Experience Clay,” was released, it featured the works some of Colby’s former students. It’s her third textbook contribution, she said, and the fact it’s the textbook used for the curriculum by Volusia County Schools is a bonus.
“It makes them feel more significant and exciting about the relevance of what they’re doing,” Colby said.
Colby became an art teacher because she had a good one herself.
Katherine "Nina" Masters taught at Seabreeze High School from 1963 to 2010, and during that time, she also served as the art department chair. She started the school's Tradewinds Art Festival, which put students' works on display in the community, introduced photography into the school's curriculum, and created the largest printmaking studio in a public school in the state, according to her obituary. She died in 2021.
"After she passed away, I thought that it would be great to create a space here on campus to commemorate the legacy that she had here and how many students she impacted," Colby said.
The concept is in its early stages, but Colby said she is partnering with Masters' daughter and son, both whom remain active in the community, to transform the school's auditorium lobby into a student art gallery. They want to call it the Masters Gallery.
Seabreeze High School Principal Tucker Harris is onboard.
"We want to revitalize [the auditorium] and really transition that into more of a performing arts center to where it houses all the arts," he said.
When she was a student at Seabreeze, Colby, the current department chair, recalled how Masters helped to foster creativity in her students, including allowing her classroom to be a “home base” for them.
It's something she's inherited, Colby said, as she can usually expect to see over 20 students hanging around in her classroom during lunch hours.
"It becomes their home," she said.
Bryce Hammond, visual arts specialist for VCS, said he has the unique opportunity to see students continue to grow in their art journeys from fifth grade to high school. He also likes to observe great teachers at work, of which he said Colby is an example.
"We have a lot of fantastic teachers here in the county, but that [student] interaction is really important to me," he said. "... Then I get to talk to the student, the higher-level students, about their artwork, and they know what they're doing which is a sign of a really great teacher."
Growing the program
Once she joined the faculty at Seabreeze, Colby said she made it a goal to reintroduce — and reinvent — Masters' Tradewinds show.
In May, the school partnered with the Ormond Memorial Art Museum to bring back the student exhibition. The show featured two- and three-dimensional works by over 90 students — both of Colby's class, as well as Seabreeze 2D art teacher Kasondra Price's class. There were more than 100 student art works on display. As a department, Colby said, they work together to make sure students' works are recognized in the community.
One of Colby's students won Best of Show in the Gallery 500 High School Art Exhibition last fall. Another won first place in the 2023 Daytona Beach Arts Festival.
This year, the art department added a third teacher: Paul Shuler, who is teaching 2D art.
Harris said the community often hears about sports and academic achievements. But there's achievements happening in the arts as well, he said. In addition to the work Colby is doing, Price's students will soon start a mural program at Seabreeze to help beautify the campus.
"When the kids see their work displayed, it empowers the student," Harris said.
Seabreeze High School, he added, is special because of the people in the building.
"Colby is just another example of a dynamic educator in the building, but we're full of them" he said. "... It just makes you feel good that the person standing in front of [students] is very passionate about their work — so passionate, they go above and beyond and are nationally-recognized."
Outside the classroom, Colby's also busy advocating for arts education. She's a new member of the Volusia County Cultural Alliance and recently joined the Florida Women's Art Association. She was also interviewed in aa podcast episode with K12ArtChat where she talked about clay and ceramics at the high school level.
What motivates her?
"I want art to be present in Volusia County," Colby said.