The studio arts are an integral part of the Waldorf curriculum throughout the grades, introducing every child to his or her own creative capacity while nurturing a profound sense of aesthetic awareness and physical aptitude in drawing, painting, and sculpture.
Drawing is a fundamental human endeavor that supports fine motor skill development, cognitive function, emotional wholeness and creative innovation. It has served as a means of communication for thousands of years and continues to be a highly prized skill in both the cultural and economic spheres. In a Waldorf school, drawing is woven into the very fabric of the lessons as children work to craft their own illustrated lesson books rather than rely on printed text books. Through a constant interaction with drawing, children gain an innate awareness of form, line, space, and scale that grows ever more subtle as they advance through the grades. Form drawing, a regular period of artistic study that challenges students to recreate patterns and geometric constructions from sources as varied as illuminated manuscripts and Islamic tile, supports this development in the elementary school. In the Middle School years, perspective and charcoal drawing are both introduced, setting the stage for a host of drawing explorations in both wet and dry media in the High School.
In the earliest years' children are brought into an awareness of color through wet-on-wet watercolor painting which allows colors to gracefully interact under the brush. The emotional and optical nature of different colors comes alive for the young children, as does the understanding that when certain colors combine, other colors arise. Throughout the grades and middle school the painting lessons continue, supporting the rich stories and biographies of the thematic main lessons. Every child in these years produces a portfolio of works that serves as a vibrant review of the years' themes; it is a collection that can be displayed and shared for years to come.
Once in High School, the students turn their attention to the long history of artistic expression over the centuries, studying masterpieces from many cultures and reproducing works as a means of understanding both the techniques as well as intent of these master artists. Each child at the Santa Fe Waldorf School gradually develops his or her own skills, interests, and expressions through painting; all the while nurturing a strength of will and intention.
One of the fundamental qualities of sculpture is that it allows an individual to bring his or her own perception of form into the world. For a young child, the tactile reward of pressing, pulling, and pinching a form cannot be overstated, and the Waldorf curriculum encourages this exploration of the material world by first introducing children to sculpting with wonderfully maleable bits of colored beeswax. These first sculpted forms are very simple and usually relate to the animals and environments featured in the classroom stories. Eventually, the use of beeswax gives way to explorations of form using clay, Papier Mâché and wood. In the middle and upper grades, more complex investigations of form and locomotion take place, with projects such as the construction of a wooden marionette in Middle School spanning many months. These sculptural projects inspire a spirit of respect for the earth's materials which guides the student's aesthetic decisions.
A Waldorf education recognizes that confidence is born of experience and understanding. In today's world of mass production it is easy to lose sight of how the objects in our lives are fashioned. Subsequently, we grow disconnected from the objects we use. To counteract this, and to empower tomorrow's generation to confront any challenge, the Santa Fe Waldorf School includes a variety of handwork courses, including fiber arts (knitting, sewing, dying, and weaving), farming and woodworking/furniture making.
At the High School level, students are also introduced to blacksmithing/casting, small engine repair, basic building construction techniques and bookbinding. This focus on practical crafts not only allows students to develop a deeper appreciation of their world, it also supports the development of fine motor skills, patience, and self-esteem.