Genius Hour

Students in Art III are pursuing passion projects as part of the Genius Hour, an educational movement where students spend 20% of their class time on inquiry-based, student-led learning.

Passion is how Genius Hour projects begin. Art III students find inspiration from various places, many from well-known artists they follow on Instagram but also from members of their own families. They each choose a passion to focus on, and this semester, that includes large-scale weaving, hyperrealism, dressmaking, embroidery, calligraphy, printmaking, porcelain painting, and large-scale art.

Finding inspiration is the easy part. What comes next is not. Students teach themselves new skills, testing their endurance, patience, and capabilities along the way. They must create their own timelines, set their own goals, and discover their own resources. They rely on research for direction as they self-learn through online videos and tutorials and absorb problem-solving advice from chosen mentors. Grit and resilience are essential pieces of completing a Genius Hour project. Project development, experimentation, and creative risk-taking are all part of this lengthy, but rewarding process.

Along the way, students may hit points of failure. This is part of their learning experience and growth from failure is considered a success. They reflect, adjust, and continue. And while students will ultimately present their class with a final project, the end result isn’t really an end at all – it’s an ongoing appreciation of the art of learning.

A Closer Look

Origins of Genius Hour

The Genius Hour is largely based on a business practice successfully implemented by Google. Employees were allowed to spend 20% of their time focusing on passion projects with the idea that productivity would increase. Increase it did. Around half of Google’s projects – including Gmail, Adsense, Google News, Google Talk, and Google Reader – were developed during this self-directed, passion project time.


Student Perspectives

"For my Genius Hour, I decided to take on an art form completely unknown to me: weaving. After months of following fiber artists on Instagram, I was extremely inspired by an artist named Tammy Kanat and decided to attempt to work with fiber in a similar way. My vision was to create a large scale, free-form weaving project. My overall theme this semester was “Joy,” and I learned through this project a new meaning of joy. Initially, I choose the weaving to fit in my theme because of the happy colors and free-form, easy-going vibes the end result produces. After completing such a complex, time-consuming project, I can confidently say my project fulfills its title of joy as the process proved therapeutic and joyful. In all, my large-scale weaving project I titled 'Big Girl Weaving' taught me patience, perseverance, and how to find joy through the process rather than anticipating the end result." - Mignon

"I choose to teach myself how to paint on a set of ceramic tableware. I am pursuing this project because I have always fallen in love with looking at art that has the feel of being homemade.  My theme for this project is colorful flowers to show my personality and create a modern look while setting a calm and happy tone. My inspiration for creating this set of artwork is my Mia. Throughout my life, I have always admired my grandma’s set of tableware that gives her house an antique feeling because of the style. My grandma is a very special person in my life and the love of ceramic pieces of work is something that we share and I will always cherish. During this process, I have learned many things about myself, including my work ethic and my dedication toward a certain thing." -Sierra

"I chose hand embroidery for my genius hour project because hand embroidery runs in my family and I wanted to bring it back. My vision for this project was to recreate a picture my great grandmother hand embroidered but add more stitches and details. This portrait is not my usual style but has sentimental value, which made this project very special. Before doing this project, I had never sewn, so I had to teach myself, which took a lot of time, practice, and patience. I did a practice portrait and learned which stitch adds texture, which colors complement each other, and which technique I enjoyed." - Eleni

"The style of art I chose for my genius hour project is large-scale printmaking. I decided to use linoleum blocks for my prints instead of other possible mediums. I attempted printmaking on a much smaller scale in Art II, but I wanted to try it again on a larger block. I was inspired by the Instagram artist Lili Arnold. She often prints intricate design of flyers, flowers, invitations, and cacti on a large scale. I wanted my prints to be both detailed and colorful like her work. I also wanted to depict the love for my home, New Orleans. I achieved this by carving out my designs of the New Orleans skyline and of a shotgun house. I used the colors of black and gold to symbolize the New Orleans Saints and purple, green, and gold to symbolize Mardi Gras. Lili Arnold’s use of fine lines was an inspiration in both pieces as well as her use flowers was an inspiration for me to use magnolias in the skyline piece. I am also going to begin selling these pieces and donating the proceeds to charity which was inspired by Lili Arnold and the donation of her sales to the California Wildfire Relief effort. In conclusion, I wanted to show my love for the city of New Orleans through printmaking by depicting two iconic elements of the city." - Maddie

"This sketch is the first step in my attempt to create an 18x24 oil on canvas of Our Lady of Sorrows, which I will present in May of 2019. I chose to pursue the art of portraiture for my genius hour project. My goal is to immerse myself in techniques, observation skills, and step out of my comfort zone to better my talents in portraiture. I began this sketch with the intent to study the features and expression of Our Lady using a photo taken of the statue. This step in my process has helped me to learn what I am good at and what I need to better myself in before I begin painting on my canvas. I am excited to see what my final project looks like, and I have enjoyed this learning process so far." - Taylor

"I have always been intrigued by the beautiful art of calligraphy; however, I never imagined that I could successfully do it myself since I’m left-handed. However, I quickly learned that left-handed calligraphy is possible, despite what others, including myself, might initially think. I wanted my final project to be rewriting my parent’s wedding invitation and mimic the font they used as much as I possibly could. However, this proved to be a lot harder than I thought it would be. I ended up smearing a lot of my practice work and grew very impatient when trying to learn new fonts and master them quickly. I learned that patience really is a virtue, a very important one, throughout this process. Mastering new fonts is definitely not as easy or fast as I thought it would be, but once I have learned a font, the feeling of accomplishment is worth it. While calligraphy has become less popular in past years, I think that it is a very useful skill to have." - Josie

"I’ve always wanted to learn embroidery because my mother and great-grandmother embroidered. My goal is to create my own spin on my clothes and make them special to me. I want to create a whole outfit in my own embroidery styles. I hope I can inspire and influence others to start embroidering and just learn the basics. Embroidery has been around for ages but with the embroidery I am doing, it is more of a modern twist to it. This project has been very different than anything I have created before. I was inspired by my family and wanted to make something they would love and appreciate. For embroidery, it is very important to have patience and to use your smarts to figure out which kinds of stitches to do and how long to make your thread. I hope to create something that represents me and my personality, as well as inspire others to make something that represents them. Embroidery is something I hope I continue to master and even show my kids in the future." - Alyssa

"Growing up in a single parent home, money was always an issue, but my mom strived to never let my brother nor myself know this to be true. For this reason, any time we wanted new clothes or a costume my mom would have us pick out our favorite and she would make it homemade. In relation to beauty, beauty and fashion go hand in hand and allows us to express our ideas of beauty. When the project is all said and done, I hope to inspire others and show that even if you have no prior knowledge of an art form you can learn and teach yourself how to do so. As well, I want to inspire others to explore creative outlets because I believe is a healthy thing to do. In doing this project and learning these new techniques such as beading, I would like to bead more pieces and bead for others. Eventually, I would like to make a whole outfit from scratch and make more intricate designs. All in all, fashion amazes me because in today’s society the clothes we wear define us when really they should be an outward expression of our persona. Fashion, like other forms of art, is a conversation starter - the more we talk about each other’s fashion the more we learn about each other." - Giuliana

"For my Genius Hour Project, I chose to practice painting on a large-scale. The subject of my painting is a beach scene consisting of several flags. Every summer, my family goes to the beach and we hang up flags by our umbrellas. What started out as a way to locate our family has grown into a tradition that my family cherishes each year. As you can obviously tell, my painting is not completed. This is a full-year project that I will continue next semester in Art IV. I have run into many struggles while doing this project including patience, time management, and efficiency. This project has already taught me so much and I am looking forward to learning even more from it next semester." - Allie