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Visual & Performing Arts

The visual and performing arts are a vital part of Pacifica.  The curriculum will be centered on our belief that students need a basic understanding of the arts through classroom instruction and the ability to express their knowledge and creativity through production work.  This two-fold approach provides a balanced arts education.

The course of study at Pacifica will include a minimum of two semesters of UC approved Visual & Performing arts classes.  Students will be required to complete two sequential semesters in one discipline.  

Different from writing or speaking, the Visual and Performing arts is a unique way of communicating experience, and the proper training in arts develops a healthy lifelong aesthetic. The arts are important at Pacifica because they help develop the whole student (body, mind, soul, and spirit).

In such a backdrop, the objectives of the Pacifica visual and performing arts department are to:

  • Develop in students the language of aesthetics — including various art forms and their individual, historical, and cultural context. 
  • Develop in students the skills necessary to comprehend and respond to art, design forms, the visual environment, and to the relationship between form and content. 
  • Heighten student’s personal perception and awareness of the world and their reactions and responses to it. 
  • Teach skills necessary to use and manipulate materials while encouraging experimentation. 
  • Build a tradition of craftsmanship in all the artistic disciplines. 
  • Encourage students to observe, analyze, think, make decisions, and solve problems in the exploration of personal expression. 
  • Develop a corporate dimension to the arts in a predominantly individualistic fine art culture. 
  • Develop opportunities for the Pacifica student to develop a breadth of learning across artistic disciplines. 
  • Develop opportunities for the Pacifica student to develop a depth of learning in a specific discipline. 
  • Develop an array of opportunities for the Pacifica student to apply concepts learned to production experiences.

Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) Courses

Graduation requirement: 2 semesters of a UC approved VPA course (both semesters should be in the same year-long course)

Visual Art

Beginning Art: Drawing AND Painting

(Year Course)
UC Approved

This course is an introductory course in the Visual Arts track of the Visual and Performing Arts Department.  Beginning drawing and painting is designed to help students learn to investigate the principles and elements of art and apply these principles to their own artwork.  Students will study and analyze works of art ranging from the Renaissance to modern artists with an emphasis on elements such as:  line quality, shape, space, value, form, proportion, composition, balance, rhythm and movement.  Students will enhance their drawing and painting skills using many different mediums and tools such as pencil, ink, charcoal, pastel, acrylics, watercolor and collage.

Intermediate Art: Mixed Media

Grades 10-12 (Year or semester course)
UC Approved

This course is an intermediate course for the hands-on student with an interest in design and 3D art forms.  Mixed Media explores how art and design permeate our lives.  Students create projects ranging from fine art to design with an emphasis on repurposing materials, incorporating found objects and combining visual art with non-visual elements such as drama (performance art), dance (motion), music (sound) and interactivity.  The course will expand the students’ worldview of practical application of art and design as well as guide them through exploring varied approaches to visual communication.

Advanced Art: Advanced Art Studio

Grades 11-12 (Year Course)
UC Approved

Prerequisite: Beginning Drawing and Painting or Mixed Media and instructor recommendation

 The final course in the Visual Arts track of the Visual and Performing Arts Department,  the advanced art course gives students the opportunity to deepen their understanding of drawing, painting and develop a multi-faceted college ready portfolio. The course is structured for the serious art student, with an emphasis on advancing technical skills, color theory and concept development to create a portfolio that exhibits growth and a refinement of the student artist’s voice.


(Year Course)
UC Approved

Prerequisite: Students need their own digital camera for the course

The photography course is a project-based course in digital and film photography.  Students will explore different forms of photography including conceptual, still life, portraiture, editorial, photojournalism, advertising, fashion, food, landscape and urban photography.  In addition to learning Photoshop basics, for the digital portion of the course, students will learn about film processing and film camera controls.  Students will gain and demonstrate knowledge of compositional elements, lighting and style as well as study and investigate significant contributions to the world of photography and fine art.  

Film Studies

American Cinema (Film History 1900–2000)

(Year Course)
UC Approved

This course is the introductory course on the Film Track of the Visual and Performing Arts Department.  American Cinema introduces basic film making theory and vocabulary, as well as a survey of American film history from the silent era to modern digital production.  Students will watch films that demonstrate historical and artistic high-water marks, expand their awareness of film criticism, and develop their own informed opinions about what makes a film “great.”

Digital Film Production 1

Grades 10-12 (Year Course)
Prerequisite: American Cinema or Instructor Approval

The second course in the Film Track of the Visual and Performing Arts Department, this course puts the lights, camera, and action in the hands of student filmmakers.  Students learn elements of pre-production, production, and post; concepts of screenwriting, story boards, shooting scripts, scheduling, budgeting, production design, cinematography, editing, and sound design will be covered.  Students will work in groups to create two five minute films first semester, as well as work on their own individual projects.  Students will produce the spring break film semester as well as organize the Screen Student Film Festival.  

Digital Film Production 2

Grades 10-12 (Year Course)
Prerequisite: Digital Film Production

The final course in the Film Track of the Visual and Performing Arts Department, this course expands on the material of Digital Film Production I.  Digital II students have first priority as Cinematographer or Director for all Digital Film productions, including the Spring Break Film.   All Digital II students write, direct and produce their own thesis film of 5 to 10 minutes by the end of the second semester.  

Performing Arts

Introduction to Dance

Grades 9-12 (Year Course)
UC Approved

Introduction to movement and a basic understanding of different dance styles. Genres include jazz, ballet, lyrical, tap, hip-hop, musical theater, contemporary, modern, and freestyle/improvisation. Typical class work includes warm-up, center floor technique, across-the-floor passes, and/or dance combination. Students will also learn basic dance history, dance terminology, attend live dance performances, and explore the fundamentals of composition and choreography. 

Intermediate/Advanced Dance  

Grades 10-12 (Year Course)
UC Approved
Prerequisite: (1) year of Introduction to Dance or audition/approval by Instructor

Intermediate/Advanced Dance is the second course in dance of the Visual and Performing Arts Program. Students will participate in more challenging movement and higher levels of technique in the styles of dance including jazz, ballet, lyrical, tap, hip-hop, musical theater, contemporary, modern, and freestyle/improvisation. Typical class work includes warm-up, center floor technique, across-the-floor combinations, and/or dance combination. Students will continue their knowledge about dance history, dance terminology, and also create more developed pieces in composition and choreography.


Intro to Theatre: Theatre 1

(Year Course)
UC Approved

Intro to Theatre is both an historical and hands-on approach to the performing arts, dramatic literature, and modern theatre techniques.  It is the first course in the Theatre Track of the Visual and Performing Arts Department.  Students read scripts, study historical playwrights, and analyze the historical context of staged drama, while also performing scenes rehearsed in and out of class.  Students will help on all Pacifica theatre productions, learning light board operation, set design, prop design, and stage management.  

Intermediate Acting: Theatre 2

(Year Course)
Prerequisite: Intro to Theatre or Instructor Approval

This is the second course in the Theatre Track of the Visual and Performing Arts Department.    This course focuses strictly on performance and acting techniques, ranging from mask work to Shakespeare to modern American realism.  This course develops the actor’s sense of truthful behavior in imaginary circumstances through exercises of movement, improvisation, sense memory, and relaxation.  Emphasis is made on the inter-connected relationship to voice, body, imagination and intention.  Students audition for all Pacifica productions, and participate either on-stage, back-stage or in pre-production.

Senior Thesis Theatre

Grade 12 (Semester Course)
Prerequisite: Intermediate Acting and Instructor Approval

The final course in the Theatre Track of the Visual and Performing Arts Department, Thesis is a senior honors project.  Thesis students develop, in coordination with their instructor, a performing art work of art to be shared as part of the iSight festival.  The course functions as a seminar, meeting twice a week one-on-one, over the course of a semester.  The goal of Senior Thesis is to stretch an artist’s individual voice as performer, playwright, director, designer, etc. culminating in a critiqued final.  Students successfully completing this course receive High Arts Honors upon graduation.

Pacifica Arts

Michael Balsley

There can be no bravery without fear, and there can be no discovery without rigorous inquiry. We welcome the fearful to become bold. We welcome the confident to become inquisitive. We are excited to welcome a new class of artists to our department every year. For more information on how you can be a part of the arts at Pacifica, please email me anytime!

Michael Balsley
Director of Visual & Performing Arts

B.A. English/Theatre Arts, Illinois Wesleyan University
M.A. Fine Arts, New York University

T: 310.828.7015 ext. 106

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