Involvement in the arts is one of the central Putney experiences. The academic arts program, encompassing a diverse range of disciplines in the visual and performing arts, forms the core of the arts program. Students in visual art courses increase their awareness of the visual world, develop skills to creatively translate their ideas into visible form, and gain understanding of the context and language of each discipline. Music courses introduce students to the art of music, from both an academic and an aesthetic viewpoint. Many students continue their work in the arts during Project Week to delve into their media in greater depth and concentration.


Ceramics 1 ​

.5 credit

Students learn to work with a variety of hand-building and wheel-throwing techniques with an emphasis on functional ceramics. Design elements of form, proportion and surface will be explored. Examples of historical and contemporary ceramics are investigated. Along with different construction methods, students experiment with a variety of surface decoration possibilities, such as texturing, carving, and working with slips. There is a focus on good craftsmanship and attention to detail. Innovation and experimentation are highly encouraged. Basic glaze chemistry and how a gas kiln is fired will be covered. In the spring trimester there is a section on collecting local clay, learning about the geology of it, making pots and pit-firing them.  A modest lab fee covers basic materials.

Ceramics 2 & 3 ​

.5 credit

Students in advanced level ceramics  build on the foundations provided in Ceramics I.  Students challenge themselves with increasingly complex projects and explore more in-depth in areas of their interest. Prerequisite for Ceramics 2 & 3 is Ceramics 1, 2, or permission of the instructor.

Digital Filmmaking ​

.5 credit

Students explore the use of digital filmmaking as a means of self-expression and as an art form through both narrative and documentary styles. Students examine the elements of storytelling, composition, cinematography, lighting, sound recording, and editing as they create short films throughout the course. Through viewing a wide variety of filmmakers and film types students build foundational and historical knowledge of the medium.

Drawing 1

.5 credit

In this course, students develop their ability to perceive the world around them and skillfully translate their perceptions to paper. Students will become fluent in expression of the basic elements of visual experience: light, gesture, edge, mass, texture, and space. Subjects will include the human head, the figure, still life, landscape and interior in a variety of wet and dry media. Participants will be encouraged to explore personally significant themes by maintaining a sketchbook of images from daily life. Images of notable artists will be studied in class and in a visit to a major museum. Students will regularly critique and discuss each other’s work in order to share experiences, identify successful elements in their drawings, and support each other's’ efforts.

Drawing 2 & 3 ​

.5 credit

In this course, students learn to express the perceived world with greater skill and clarity as they develop the expressive elements of a personal style. Students are encouraged to explore new media and approaches and to develop their fundamental skills more fully. Students will also develop a portfolio on a single theme consisting of many extended studies and variations in approach. Prerequisite: Drawing 1 or permission of the instructor.

Fiber Arts 1

.5 credit

Through individual projects, students learn about a wide range of techniques as they create textiles and explore structure, function, color and design. The primary focus is weaving, but spinning, knitting, felting, basketry, dyeing, sewing, and quilting can be covered. A modest lab fee covers basic materials.

Fiber Arts 2 & 3 ​

.5 credit

Students expand their knowledge of fiber arts through designing individual projects in their areas of interest. These can include weaving on four and eight-harness floor looms, exploring color through dyeing cellulose and animal fibers, papermaking, knitting by hand and machine, and clothing design and construction. Prerequisite for Fiber Arts 2: two trimesters of Fiber Arts 1 or permission of the instructor.

History and Language of Art ​

.5 credit

The goal of this class is to give students bearings that will help them be able to look carefully at art. Through study of Western art from the late medieval period to the 20th century, students learn to see art clearly and relate what they see to its cultural context, with the aim of fostering a lifelong pleasure in looking at art. The class will study works in reproduction and in visits to major museums. Students will also study techniques and materials through hands-on experience of silverpoint drawing, fresco, and oil painting, including the manufacture of selected media from raw materials. Students will write critiques of paintings and will execute schematic copies of works of art to reveal their compositional elements. The course culminates in presentation of individual research projects. Meets senior humanities credit; does not fulfill the arts requirement.

Painting 1 ​

.5 credit

This course will focus on developing the expressive and structural elements of painting. Students come to understand and control color through the expressive application of acrylic, oil, and watercolor paint. Subjects include the figure, head, still life, landscape, and interior, as well as invented sources and images of personal significance to each student. The works of acknowledged masters and other relevant precedents are studied, both in reproduction and in a visit to a major museum collection. In frequent class discussions, students share experiences, identify successful elements of design, composition, materials and color, and provide mutual encouragement. Participants create a cohesive body of work related to a specific theme. Prerequisite: Drawing 1.

Painting 2 & 3

.5 credit

This course, intended for students with a strong foundation in drawing and experience painting, allows them to pursue ideas of color and painted form with emphasis on the head, figure, and landscape. Fundamentals of painting are stressed and students are encouraged, through specific projects, to develop a “painterly vocabulary” of color, light, and form. Concepts of abstraction and representation are addressed as students increase their visual awareness and understanding in relation to their own painting. The course culminates in large-scale paintings and projects based on themes of personal interest to each painter. Participants articulate their ideas through frequent presentations, group discussions and critiques. Prerequisite: Drawing 1, Painting 1, or permission of the instructor.

Photography 1

.5 credit

Through shooting with traditional cameras, learning how to develop and print 35mm film, students in our photography class start with the basic chemistry and physics of the process and learn the power of the single photographic image. Students explore photography as a visual language and the use of line, light, and motion to build strong compositions. Students work with many genres of photography throughout the class. They build narrative and independent projects as well as experiment with alternative processes in the darkroom. Journals and critiques help students develop language and the ability to assess both their own work and that of others. Cameras are available to students to borrow and supplies can be purchased at the school store.

Photography 2 & 3

.5 credit

Students in advanced level photography classes build upon the foundations provided in the Photography I. Students design independent projects and focused portfolios.  They have the opportunity to do in-depth exploration of a genre or learn new photographic skills such as the use of large format cameras, 19th​century processes, and digital photography.  Students gain a deeper understanding of the power of image making and the development of the art form. Prerequisite Photography 1, 2 or permission of the instructor.

Printmaking 1

.5 credit

In this course students focus on learning various printmaking techniques as well as developing their individual creative processes. Students will explore intaglio (etching, drypoint, and aquatint) and relief (linoleum cut and letterpress). Further emphasis in the class will be on the self-editing process, keeping an active sketchbook, studying the Elements and Principles of Design, looking at historic and contemporary printmakers, and developing an individual and expressive voice. Prerequisite: Drawing 1.

Printmaking 2 & 3

.5 credit

Students in advanced Printmaking classes explore techniques in intaglio and relief printmaking through sustained individual projects. Prerequisite for Printmaking 2: Printmaking 1. Prerequisite for Printmaking 3: Printmaking 1 & 2.

Sculpture 1​

.5 credit

This course guides students in exploring the skills and techniques of sculpture using various materials and approaches. Students will learn the processes of modeling, carving, and welding using clay, wax, plaster, wood, stone, and metal. Drawings and three-dimensional models will be used to create designs for sculpture. Students will be expected to complete sculptures in various media. Understanding the history and integrity of the material is emphasized as students create their work. Realism, abstraction, and symbolism are explored as ways of translating ideas into sculptural form. Reading and written work, presentations, discussions, field trips, and critiques integrate the work of other sculptors with the students’ studio work. Prerequisite: none.

Sculpture 2 & 3

.5 credit

This course, intended for students with previous sculpting experience, allows them to delve into sculptural materials of their preference to create a cohesive series of sculptures or one or two larger single works. Students will be encouraged to experiment, but also to develop mastery of their chosen sculptural techniques. Students learn to articulate thoughts and goals for their own work through reading and written reflection, presentations, discussions, and critiques. The class will study the work of past and contemporary sculptors. Prerequisite: Sculpture 1 or permission of the instructor.

Visual Arts in the Evening Arts Program>



Advanced Music Theory

.5 credit

In Music Theory II, we delve into deeper topics of music writing and analysis: harmonic progressions, non-chord tones, melody writing, advanced harmonies, modulation, and musical form. Basic orchestration and modern compositional techniques are also introduced. Advanced aural and harmonic skills are reinforced through technology-based work using Musition and Auralia software. The course culminates in the complete harmonic and structural analysis of a major work for piano in sonata form. The course is open to students who have completed Beginning Music Theory.

Beginnning Music Theory

.5 credit

Music Theory I is intended to take musicians with some basic knowledge of the mechanics of music (note reading, beginning familiarity with the keyboard or other pitched instrument) to a deeper understanding of the way music works. The course focuses on the written and aural comprehension of pitch and rhythm as well as phrase structure, melody, basic harmony, and four-part writing. The course includes technology-based work using Musition and Auralia software. Prerequisite: Music Foundation or permission of the instructor.

Guitar Basics ​

.5 credit

This class provides students with a comprehensive introduction: playing technique, basic chords and their structure, and voicing. The course gives students the opportunity to build practical playing skills and familiarity with music theory. This single trimester course is intended for students with little to no formal guitar training or experience.

Music Composition ​

.5 credit

This course explores the creation and notation of musical ideas for acoustic and electronic media. The course is designed to be a natural progression from the Music Theory II course and continues the process of learning to create and notate musical gestures and ideas. The course begins with melody writing in modes and scales and progresses into counterpoint, harmony, and modern techniques. Students will notate their music both in manuscript and in the Sibelius notation program. The structure of the course will be flexible to suit the strengths and desires of the individual student, but will always include at least one composition for acoustic instruments and one for electronic media. Prerequisite: Music Theory 1 and 2 or equivalent with permission of the instructor.

Music History

.5 credit

Students in this course analyze the language and varying styles of music from antiquity until the late 20th Century, with a focus on the major eras of Western music composition: Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Post-Romantic/Modern. Students consider the features of representative composers and their artistic works through intensive study of cultural/societal, historical, and aesthetic contexts. Students explore the constant dialogue between composer and audience, the crucial role of the interpreter, and the historic role music possesses to both reflect and embrace its time as well as the potential music has to challenge its environs. Students reflect and deepen this understanding through extensive listening, individual research, and writing. Prerequisite: Music Theory II or demonstrate equivalent theoretical knowledge. This course is both writing- and research-intensive. Admission to this course is with the permission of the instructor.

Music Intensive ​

.5 credit

This course is designed for musicians who would benefit from a focused and individualized setting in which to develop their skills. The curriculum for the course will be developed by the student in collaboration with the course instructor, but is subject to approval by the private lesson instructor where appropriate. Students must establish and adhere to a weekly schedule of at least three hours per week of practice time (in addition to class time and private lessons). Three short performances (such as performance of a song in school assembly) and a longer final lecture/demonstration are required. Admission to the class is by permission of the instructor. Students enrolled in private music lessons receive priority.

Piano Basics ​

.5 credit

This piano-based class helps students build comfort, ability, and basic functionality at the keyboard. Students will learn proper hand/finger position and coordination, notation reading skills, and basic keyboard harmony. This single trimester course is intended for students with little to no formal piano training or experience.

Music in the Evening Arts Program

Support for Music Program

In addition to the academic program, the following non-academic programs exist to support Putney student musicians.

Afternoon Practice

With the permission of the music faculty and the director of afternoon activities, students may sign up for Afternoon Practice during afternoon activity time one or two days per week in up to two of the three trimesters in Putney’s schedule per year.

Private Music Lessons

Private lessons on-campus for an additional fee billed to the students’ accounts. Scholarships are available to students receiving financial aid for tuition. In order for lessons to be scheduled, students and parents must sign the Music Lesson Agreement form, which explains the financial and scheduling terms of music lessons at The Putney School. Music lessons may be taken for Evening Arts credit


Acting Styles ​

.5 credit

Students will learn the skills needed to perform in a variety of theatrical styles.  Students will explore those developing skills through exercises, intensive scene study, text analysis, research, and writing.  Students will study the cultural background within that style and how it informs their acting choices in any given play. This course meets the requirement for a senior humanities credit as well as an arts credit.

Theater Elements

.5 credit

Students will explore three major aspects of theater: acting, writing, and directing. Through exercises, improvisations, and text and scene analysis, students will acquire a working knowledge and fluency with these three elements of theater. They will develop a vocabulary for watching and working in theater.

Theater Intensive ​

.5 credit

This course is designed for advanced theater students interested in pursuing an aspect of theater. Students may choose to direct, perform, or write a play. The emphasis is determined by the student before enrollment and approved by the theater director. A presentation of the work is required at the end of the trimester. Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor.

English Diction

.5 credit

Students in Diction are introduced to the International Phonetic Alphabet as a practical tool for consistency in pronunciation of the English Language. Students learn the governing reasons for words' particular sounds and comprehend the simpler vocal components of verbal communication – vowels, consonants, syllabification, intonation, inflection, and affect—and use them to speak with clarity of articulation and intelligibility of intent. The course is structured to make native English speakers aware of the inconsistencies and arbitrary nature of their own use of the language, while allowing non-native English speakers to gain mastery and comfort with its execution. Students engage each other in vocal exercises, rehearsed conversations, recitations of literature, and improvisation/role-playing exercises. As such, any student who has interest in theater, singing, or public speaking is encouraged to take this course.


Theater in the Evening Arts Program

Drama Tech​ and ​Drama Tech Lights ​are offered in our Afternoons.

A comedy or drama is performed during the during the fall term and is performed the last four days of the fall Project Week and a spring musical is performed at the end of the spring Project Week.




Elements of Dance​

.5 credit

In this class, students explore dance as an evolving art form. We start with the development of ballet within its historical context, then continues with a similar exploration of modern dance. Students learn basics of both ballet and modern dance through movement and practice, preparing them for more advanced afternoon classes. This is supported by journaling, reading, and viewing recorded and live performances. In addition, students study anatomy from an experiential perspective, learn basic elements of injury prevention and how to “listen” to their innate physical intelligence. This class may be repeated (Elements of Dance II, III, etc.), as an independent path of study that relates to the focus of the class, developed collaboratively with the teacher.

World Dance ​

.5 credit

One day a week, dancing to live percussion, we focus on modern dance, combining elements of the Horton, Graham, and Limón Techniques, influenced by other diverse styles. On the other day, following a vigorous workout focusing on full-body strength, flexibility, and technique, students explore contemporary styles of jazz with an emphasis on rhythm, energy, and fun! Level 1: All are welcome, no prior experience necessary. Level 2: For dancers with previous experience, offering the opportunity to further expand movement vocabulary, strength, and ability. Partnering and advanced performance techniques are offered, as appropriate.

Dance in the Afternoons

Dance in the Evening Arts Program

Please note, some courses require a materials fee.