M-A is often recognized for its competitive athletics programs and diverse academic opportunities, leaving the arts department frequently overlooked. Students are able to enroll in different levels of art classes, including Ceramics, Photography, Drama, and more. We set out to bring light to some students and teachers who are especially passionate and involved.
Sarah Frivold has taught Digital Photography at M-A for the past eight years and is also the head of the visual and performing arts department. She first discovered her passion for photography when she took a darkroom film class during her senior year at Sequoia High School. “I just fell in love, and it changed my world,” Frivold said.
Frivold went on to leave UC Santa Cruz and enroll instead in the Academy of Art University in San Francisco to focus on her love for photography. During and after college, Frivold spent much of her time volunteering in photography classes at elementary and high schools. “I always knew that I loved art, and I always knew that I wanted to share that passion,” she said.
Despite having to receive a master’s degree and the same credentials as general education teachers, Frivold feels that arts education teachers are forced to prove themselves. “I would love to work towards having society, especially in a tech-heavy one, view the arts as equally valuable as any other subject,” she said.
Mitzi Ulloa started working at M-A this year as a teacher for all Drawing and Painting and Art Studio classes. After graduating from San Francisco State University, she began working with after-school programs and non-profits.“I saw the power of art on so many levels, aesthetically, spiritually, and emotionally,” she said.
Ulloa went to San Francisco State, and double-majored in youth development as well as dance and received her art education there as well. Soon after, she began teaching art in an after-school program at Buena Vista Middle School, which inspired her love for teaching art.
Her love for art itself began in college at San Francisco State as a result of a mural tour her professor took her on.
Her favorite moments as an art teacher include “the lightbulb moments when students get excited about their work” as well as “seeing the progression in students’ artwork.”
Outside of school, Ulloa practices many forms of art, such as visual and performing, as well as working on her 1975 Monte Carlo car. She strives for this level of passion in her students and said “If you’re interested in art I say go for it. Don’t let anybody stop you.”
Ceramics teacher Mike Tilson has been working at M-A for 25 years. In addition to ceramics, Tilson has also taught Drawing and Painting and Graphic Design at M-A.
Growing up, Tilson was constantly exposed to art both at home and in school, which helped him develop a passion for it later in life. “My mom would always put me in the backyard with a bucket of water and a paintbrush, and that was my entertainment,” he said.
In his classes, Tilson focuses on supporting students’ curiosity and encouraging them to try new things in their projects. “It’s important to let students know that failure is part of the learning process and not a bad thing,” he continued.
Away from the classroom, Tilson enjoys working on his own drawings, watercolor paintings, and ceramics projects.
Junior Elizabeth Hoffman is currently in AP Art Studio with Ulloa. As a kid, Hoffman’s grandpa would make books and she would illustrate them. She formally began art in her freshman year at a school in London.
Hoffman enjoys working with a multitude of mediums, including oil paint and colored pencils. He said, “I enjoy being outside and just being able to work underneath the trees.” She likes the social aspect of art at M-A and has met “so many people through art”. Outside of school, she likes to paint when she has extra time and is working on a mural for her room. She believes “a lot of people rely on technology for entertainment” and that the “benefits of art are not talked about enough.
Her message to freshmen who might be interested in art is, “Just keep going, because it can be a lot to start something and then get really unmotivated […] when you get to the higher classes you actually have a lot of freedom and it’s worth it.”
Junior Samuel Goldman currently takes AP Photography with Frivold. He was first exposed to photography through his dad and has been encouraged by Frivold to explore different mediums of photography.
“The summer before ninth grade, I went to New York and I bought a film camera with me. I had a lot of fun taking pictures there. That trip started my film photography journey, which has been a constant since then,” he continued.
At home, Goldman and his dad have constructed an at-home art studio so Goldman can improve his photography skills outside of school. “I’ve been spending a lot of time doing that and it’s been very rewarding.”
Goldman said, “Art is unique because it definitely challenges a different part of your brain. It is more about personal expression.”
Sophomore Olivia Tantisira is currently taking Drawing and Painting I. She has always been interested in art, but more interest sparked when she “went to a couple of museums when [she] got to go to Paris for the first time”. She had never taken art classes outside of school until this year but did an intensive art camp over the summer which she really enjoyed.
Outside of school, Tantisira enjoys doing traditional art, such as painting, and she’s “never gone into digital [art],” During her intensive art camp, she discovered the use of acrylic paints and started using them. Tantisira said, “In other classes, there is typically only one right answer, but in art, you can spin it any way you like,” Tantisira said. In her art class, she normally works on long-term projects while also learning technical skills like shading along the way.
“Taking art classes is t a really important experience because it’s not like anything else you’re gonna get in any other classes. It’s nice to have a creative outlet,” said Tantisira.