Arts Department

Desert Academy prides itself on a very strong and successful arts program.  From performing arts to visual and film, the students have the ability to immerse themselves in the genre that best suits their talent. With highly qualified and dedicated visual artists, sculptures, photographers, filmmakers, and musicians as teachers, the students are able to develop and hone their skills, which allows them express themselves as confident and competent artists.
We believe it is imperative that our students develop the creative, intellectual and practical skills necessary to express themselves visually, to understand the visual world in which they live – and to appreciate the cultural diversity of humankind.

Artwork by Erin Kennemore

Artwork by Erin Kennemore

Visual Arts in Middle School

The Visual Arts program starts in the Middle Years Program and progresses through to IB Visual Arts in the Diploma Program.  Art students develop the following understandings in the four strands of visual art:
Creative processes
•    Elements and principles of art and design
•    Reflection and appreciation
•    Visual art in society

Our students learn about art through the examination of artistic production from various cultures and periods of history, by visiting different cultural centers and by meeting artists. They learn by creating art and by experiencing the creative process in all its many forms of planning and execution. The comprehensive range of art experiences students have throughout their years at Desert Academy includes:
•    Drawing
•    Printing
•    Sculpture
•    Printmaking
•    Ceramics
•    Photography
•    Digital Film and Video
•    Technology-aided Design

The success of our graduating art students illustrates the high level of expectation and training; Desert Academy graduates have gone on to attend some of the finest art schools in the world and receiving substantial scholarships, too. Among them are a $60,000 Presidential Scholarship at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a $40,000 RISD Entering Freshman Art Scholarship (only five awarded per year), a $60,000 Maryland Institute College of Art Merit Scholarship, a $70,000 Recognition Scholarship from School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and scholarships at Carnegie Mellon, and UCLA Art School, to name a few. Our most recent film student was accepted to the University of Arts London.



IB Visual Arts course

For students who are seriously interested in visual arts, Desert Academy offers demanding courses at the IB level. The IB Visual Arts course stresses practice in the use of various media, the acquisition of techniques, the mature development of creative ideas, and the ability to relate to all form of art in their many social, cultural and historical contexts. The course has specific criteria set for both studio work and an "investigation workbook".

In its first year, the course is teacher-directed. During the second year, the course evolves into more student-initiated and student-guided study, and teachers serve more as objective guides for the student as they progress through exploration and experimentation of themes and use of various media.

The IB Diploma work in Visual Arts culminates in the Diploma Level Art Exhibition at a prestigious gallery in Santa FE and final exam/interview with an external examiner. Our results are consistently above the world average and our graduates' acceptances and scholarships at some of the world's best art schools is a testament to the rigor and breadth of the Visual Arts program at Desert Academy.


Performing Arts

The Desert Academy Performing Arts Department students will be performing at Carnegie Hall in New York City during the 2018-2019 school year!


Drama is recognized as a subject that benefits the learning and development of children. There are three main strands to the effective use of drama: a means to build children’s confidence and develop their social skills; a teaching approach for exploring cross-curricular subjects and issues, and an aid in developing children’s performance and self-presentation skills. These strands often overlap or interact.


From Shakespeare and Moliere to Rodgers and Hammerstein and Christopher Durang, our students have the opportunity to be on stage in quality productions directed by our faculty of theater professionals.
Production: Students are encouraged to participate in the design and technical areas of backstage theater through stage management, design, sets, lights, props, costumes and sound. Emphasis is also given to understanding the entire process of producing and directing a play.


Improvisation, Acting and Musical Theater are all taught with an overview of theater history and World Theater that give students an appreciation for the discipline of theater in a safe, supportive environment.

Recent Productions

As You Like It, Proof, The Music Man, Rumors, The Laramie Project, Tartuffe, Our Town, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, An Evening of Christopher Durang, Left To Our Own Devices, & An Evening of Rodgers and Hammerstein: A Musical Revue.



For a small school, Desert offers a variety of music classes and opportunities in voice, choral singing, guitar, performance, music theory, music appreciation, IB Music and musical theater throughout the 6-12 grade curriculum.As music is fundamental to human expression on many levels, at Desert Academy our award-winning music teacher gives students the curriculum and environment to learn about, explore, experience, perform and enjoy music in relation to themselves, others, and the world around them, past and present.

Desert’s award winning choir, “Crescendo” students participate in All State Choir, New Mexico Honor Choir, and have placed in the top three spots in Choral State Competitions.

Orchestra, band and guitar students also participate and audition for All State Ensembles.

The Performing Arts Department will be performing at in New York City during the winter of the 2019/2020 school year!

Performing Arts in Middle School

Public speaking, music, guitar, write a comedy scene, improvisation, acting, world music, rock and roll, composing music- it’s all part of the middle years performing arts curriculum at Desert Academy.

Performing Arts in High School

Acting, technical theater, playwriting, improvisation, traveling to NYC to take workshops, plays, singing, guitar, composing music, winning state singing festivals, singing at Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center, putting on shows, Middle School Glee, Honor Choir, auditions, going to All State Music Festivals in choir, orchestra, and band and an award winning Speech and Debate Team.  Desert is full of exciting performing arts activities and possibilities!


DESERT Film Winner is Cole Sullivan “Coping Device ” 1st Place in Animation category

DESERT Film Winner is Cole Sullivan “Coping Device ” 1st Place in Animation category


Like all the Desert Academy art courses, the IB Film courses engage students in the creative process, providing them an opportunity to master technical skills and develop their ability to engage in a collaborative process. Broadly, the IB Film course covers: study of the film text (form, script, theoretical frameworks, semiotics, film theory, sociological and cultural context, history and reception) as well as film making—technical skills, and the collaborative and creative processes.

Rather than focus simply on practical use of technology, the course seeks to provide ways in which students can understand the relationship between artist and viewer at more than face value. They learn to look critically at what they are being shown, to mine the content for a deeper meaning, and to place these in context. They also learn how to talk and write about films, and to communicate in the language of film. It encourages students to recognize the complexity of this experience in an increasingly interconnected and globalized environment.

The IB Film course also covers the history of film, relating the development of the medium in both historical and social contexts. Students are required to study the films and filmmaking traditions of more than one country, and this is built into the Independent Study, a key requirement in the IB’s external assessment.

Many of our students participate in the annual 48 Hour Film Festival and Future Voices of Santa Fe.



The world needs documenting and in today’s world the discipline of photography competes with film, televisions, video games and other visual stimuli. But the photograph requires a particular kind of observation and focus that is an instant, a decisive moment, frozen in time.  This course, which includes historical context of the development of photography, begins with sun prints and photograms and discussion of the early photo processes. You will also build our own camera the first quarter. Once we pick up our film cameras, we will be shooting on completely manual mode, learning how to control depth of field and motion with the aperture and shutter speed. We then move into the darkroom, first processing our black and white film and printing our favorite images with the creation of a portfolio of our work the final goal of the first semester. The second semester introduces digital photography and the endless possibilities of Photoshop. For the final quarter, we will incorporate both analog and digital photography together to produce works that reflect each students' range of development as well as individual interests within the photography realm.


Photo by Gabe Wagner

Photo by Gabe Wagner