photos by Zeena Gregg Photography

State of the Art

cover11While education is most often associated with reading, writing, and STEM fields, it is important not to forget the impact that artistic expression can have on a young person’s ability to interact with and understand the changing world around them. Programs such as Canyon Crest Academy’s (CCA) Fine Arts Department and Torrey Pines High School’s (TPHS) Visual Art Department help 92130 students develop their skills in various artistic mediums such as painting, design, sculpting, and more. We chat with CCA’s Jessi Mortenson and TPHS’ Sarah Morawa Harding, both artistic leaders at their respective schools, to gain insight on how they help students mold their identities as artists.

Canyon Crest Academy

Q&A with Jessi Mortensen,
CCA EVA Coordinator

cover14Can you tell us a little about CCA’s visual arts program?
Our fine arts department is Envision Visual Arts (EVA). We are part of Envision, our multi-discipline art group at CCA.

What types of classes are offered by EVA?
We offer classes in painting, sculpture, digital imaging, digital photography, advanced drawing, advanced digital imaging, advanced sculpture, Drawing & Design, CTE photography, Seminar in Art, AP 2D, AP 3D, AP Drawing, and EVA Conservatory.

What is the mission of EVA?
Our mission is to guide every level of artist. You will find your place within an art class here whether you are picking up a brush for the first time or are already working on your college and professional portfolio. We have an involved course progression that all of the EVA teachers have contributed to, making sure that our classes flow and support each other.

How did you personally become involved with the program?
I have been teaching at CCA since 2008 and became the EVA coordinator in 2009. Currently, I teach mostly the upper level and AP art classes and lead EVA Conservatory.

What is the most rewarding part of your role? The most challenging?
I am constantly amazed at the level of art that comes out of our program. Being able to guide these talented artists as they progress and find their artistic voice makes every day rewarding. The most challenging aspect of this job is keeping up with the students – they push me to improve as an artist and my work is constantly morphing to another level.

What have been some of the most popular projects with students?
Portraiture is always a favorite. We also do a lot of campus art projects. This year we are working on a kinetic sculpture to be permanently installed on campus.


How can community members get involved with EVA?
We welcome community involvement. We bring in professionals from the community all the time to work with our students. I love having them work on projects and shows that extend beyond CCA.

Does CCA host any art-related events or fundraisers during the year?
We do quite a few shows throughout the year. We recently held a very successful EVA fundraiser where the parents had an opportunity to take a painting lesson. Festival of the Art is our Dec. 3 show and is an all-Envision event. We will be having an EVA art show May 24.

How have the classes grown or changed over the years?
As our school grows, we have offered more beginning and advanced art classes. Our curriculum constantly evolves to reflect current art trends and the interests of our students.

What are your goals for EVA?
Our goals are to keep our classes relevant to current art standards as well as forming a strong base for all of our students to begin their art journey from. We keep up with industry standards to better prepare our students for their future in art.


If you could grant EVA one wish, what would it be?
Unlimited time and funding to create all the art that our hearts desire!

Can you describe EVA in just five words?
Innovative, challenging, personal, motivating, and weird.

Is there anything else you would like 92130 Magazine readers to know?
I have never worked with more awesome students, parents, and fellow teachers. I am incredibly happy to call CCA my home.


At-A-Glance | Envision Visual Arts

School: Canyon Crest Academy
Address: 5951 Village Center Loop Rd., San Diego, CA 92024
Phone: 858-350-0253

At-A-Glance | EVA Coordinator

Name: Jessi Mortensen
Occupation: Artist and teacher
Community: Encinitas
Education: B.A. Fine Art, currently pursuing M.F.A.
Hobbies & Interests: Hiking, painting, travel
Favorite Local Spots: Beaches

Torrey Pines High School

Q&A with Sarah Morawa Harding,
TPHS Visual Art Co-Department Chair 

cover15Can you tell us a little about TPHS’ visual art department?
The visual art department is part of the larger umbrella of Visual and Performing Arts Department. We are a growing department with a variety of courses offered. We have the wonderful opportunity to educate and enrich the lives of over 900 students every day in the arts!

What types of classes are offered by the department?
We offer courses within all art disciplines, from painting, drawing, and sculpture to digital art, graphic design courses, and video film. We have a brand-new ceramics program and also offer advanced coursework in all areas.

What is the mission of the department?
The mission of our department is to offer students the opportunity to explore their passion and to provide a quality arts education. We want to establish a creative atmosphere where students can express themselves through a variety of artistic media.

How did you personally become involved with TPHS’ visual art department?
I became involved in the department 14 years ago to teach the digital art (graphic design) classes such as Imaging and Art for New Media. I have a fine art degree with a concentration in graphic design, so it was a good fit for my background. I am currently teaching the ceramics courses at Torrey Pines High School. Right now, my role entails being one of our co-department chairs and getting the new ceramics program up and running.cover02

What is the most rewarding part of your role?
The most rewarding part of my job is interacting with students in a creative atmosphere on a daily basis. It is wonderful to see a student discover their talents and watch them grow as artists.

What have been some of the most popular projects with students?
I would say one of our most popular “projects” would be our annual art show, For Art’s Sake, which happens every year in late May/early June. It is a great opportunity for students to take part in the preparation and installation of an art show, and having a venue to show off their hard work from the entire year. It brings our department and all the work from each of the disciplines together in one place and that’s exciting.

How can community members get involved with TPHS’ visual art department?
Because of the amount of consumable supplies (such as paint, watercolor paper, clay for ceramics, etc.) we use on an annual basis, one of the things the community can do is to participate in or donate to the fundraising activities for the arts in general.


Does TPHS host any art-related events or fundraisers during the year?
Yes we do! We have our Annual Art Show, which is an opportunity for the community to not only see student work but also to donate and purchase student work. Last year, we had a 5×5 art sale, where students created small scale artworks which were all sold for $5 each! In addition, we are looking at starting the Empty Bowls fundraiser for hunger relief in the spring.

Donations to the Torrey Pines Foundation Art Boosters also helps the department tremendously:

How have TPHS visual art classes grown or changed over the years?
Classes have grown in the number of offerings we have, but also in the way we teach. With projectors, document cameras, teacher websites, and other technology, we are able to create a multi-dimensional way to deliver classroom instruction and keep students and parents informed about what is going on in class.


How is the visual art department currently developing?
We are in the middle of a lot of changes here at Torrey Pines. We have a new bell schedule, which has allowed us to increase the number of courses we offer. We have also started to implement Pathways within the arts, where students can explore subject matter in a more in-depth way. In addition, the school is under construction, so we are able to update our studio spaces over the course of the next few years.

Can you describe your department in just five words?
Dynamic, creative, diverse, exciting, and evolving.

 At-A-Glance | Visual Art Department

School: Torrey Pines High School
Address: 3710 Del Mar Heights Rd., San Diego, CA 92130
Phone: 858-755-0125

At-A-Glance | Co-Department Chair  

Name: Sarah Morawa Harding
Occupation: Visual art teacher, ceramics
Community: Carlsbad
Education: B.F.A. and teaching credential
Hobbies: Making art, surfing, running, camping, and hanging out with my family
Favorite Spots in 92130: Rimel’s Bar and Grill, Jimbo’s