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Visual & Performing Arts

The visual and performing arts are an important focus at the Khabele School. Unlike many schools that require one or two years of study in the arts for high school graduation, we believe that practice in these creative forms is imperative for development.  In our high school we require four years of study in the arts and provide options for advancement in many creative genres.

Visual Arts

Students who learn to express themselves through art tend to be more confident, happy and focused academically.  Current research supports the concept that analytical education is alone not sufficient to prepare young people for an ever changing world. According to  the Washington Post, “In our competitive and evolving economy, being logical and analytical is no longer enough. Left brain is out. Right-brain noodling, the kind of processing that is intuitive and creative and synthetic, will soon rule the day.”  Khabele offers classes in studio art (from beginning painting, drawing, sculpture and printmaking to International Baccalaureate (IB) and AP Studio Art), film-making, media arts, journalism, and digital photography.

Studio Art

High School Studio Art: Critical skills in visual expression
The Studio Art course at Khabele enables students to become visually literate. The course teaches students to use and understand art as a form of visual and tactile communication and to have confidence and competence in reading and evaluating visual images and artifacts. It also aims to develop students’ design capability, their capacity for imaginative and original thought and experimentation, and their capacity to learn about and observe the world in which they live. In addition to these aims, students will develop their ability to articulate and communicate ideas, opinions and feelings about their own work and the work of others. Students will study art-making techniques, art history, aesthetics, and art criticism. Students will work in the mediums of drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, and design.

AP and Advanced Studio Art
The AP Art program is designed with the goal of preparing students who are highly motivated for a potential career in art and/or design or who are interested in attending art school. Students who had previously shown a passionate interest in visual art and who expressed a willingness to work exceptionally hard to develop their skills further are invited to participate in the program. During the first semester, students are given a series of projects to complete which will allow them to experiment with a variety of media, techniques and concepts. Students are expected to develop strong skills in the use of materials and techniques, as well as conceptual and compositional planning.


MS Photography
This hands-on introductory course will explore the basic concepts and techniques of digital photography as well as introduce more artistic ways to use your images. Through structured assignments and weekly outings, students quickly begin to develop their own perspectives and will use photography to express ideas and emotions.  From learning basic photo retouching/editing, using natural light and learning about historical and contemporary art, photography will contagiously become a way of life.

HS Photography
This introductory course will explore the basic concepts and techniques of digital photography and it’s application in constructing a creative working method, one that expresses ideas and/or emotions and is rooted within the fine arts.

Students will produce photographs based on structured assignments.  A brief overview of the history of photography from creation to contemporary practice will be presented through slideshow presentations relevant to course assignments in hopes of constructing a lineage for each topic to be explored, i.e. portraiture, photo documentary, etc.  The course will finish with a final project of the student’s own interest.  Students will be amazed at the quality, intent, and personal aesthetic they will accomplish by the end of this course.

Advanced Photography
Generating artwork that is truly one`s own and developing a personal aesthetic are ongoing processes for any artist in any medium. This class is designed for students who have already taken HS Photography and would like to develop more personal expression in their art. Studying the works of master/contemporary photographers and focusing on emotional weight in imagery will be topics of discussion. Students complete challenges designed to develop a personal voice, hone their editing skills, and pinpoint the unique elements in their work. Each semester students will produce a body of work that is meaningful to them through either traditional photography or digital mediums. Semester 2 the class will learn how to put on an exhibition of their own work at a gallery in Austin.

IB Visual Art (concentration photography, printmaking, site-specific)
IB Visual Art: Concentration in Photography, Printmaking, Site-Specific Art is a two-year course where students study the theoretical practice of visual art, explore various forms of art-making, and participate in curatorial practice. The course is intended for self-motivated students who are serious about the practice of art. In addition to class-work, students are expected to devote additional time towards independent study. The course is a two-year commitment.

Take a look at what our Photography program is up to on Tumblr.


Khabele TV Production
In this course, students will have the unique chance to produce Khabele’s first ever TV show. They’ll work with a separate class of production designers to create props, makeup, costumes, puppets, and an overall aesthetic that makes our show visually engaging. Every student will leave the class having produced, directed, written, storyboarded/shot, and edited at least one project. It’s going to be fun.

Advanced Film
In this course, students will have the unique chance to make and watch movies all year long. The focus is on making sure that every individual edits, sound designs, shoots,production designs, and directs at least one movie that they show at events and festivals.

IB Film
In this course, students will have the unique chance to make and watch movies all year long. In year one, the focus is on making sure that every individual edits, sound designs, shoots, production designs, and directs at least one movie that they show at events & festivals. We will also use some of our time prepping for the IB Film Portfolio to be turned in during year two.

Verite Filmmaking (Middle & High School)
In this specialized course, students will have the unique chance to make cinema verite films as wells as films that simply showcase something that feels real, true, and important to us.

Non-Sync Filmmaking (Middle & High School)
In this specialized course, students will have the unique chance to make films sans synchronized sound (i.e., location sound or dialogue). Instead, we will focus on advanced cinematography as well as intricate layers of sound design that is creating using professional editing software, including Premiere (for moving pictures), After Effects (for special effects), and Flash (for animation). The ultimate goal will be to find outlets such as the internet, film festivals, and community events to share our movies.


Music is an integral part of the Khabele School curriculum.  Over half of our students are currently taking coursework in vocals, jazz, world music, or theory.  Music is one of the most integrative arts courses as it crosses paths with history, culture, math, art, and philosophy.  The Khabele School music program covers almost every instrument and offers courses from beginning music to International Baccalaureate (IB) Music.

The Khabele music program is unique in many ways:

  • We focus our program on learning jazz and improvisation. While students do gain important fundamental skills such as sight reading and scales, the main thrust of the program is creativity and improvisation. Student performers learn to create music from within themselves, not just to re-create notes from a page.
  • In the Middle School, students are allowed to learn rock instruments—guitar, bass, drums, and piano—and still participate in the school jazz band. Most middle school ensembles are either orchestras or symphonic bands, and exclude the instruments most young students are most interested in.
  • The Middle School music class is generally unlike any other class offered in Austin. Students nominate the songs they’d like to learn and the teacher whittles that list down to eight songs that are learned over the course of the semester. Every student is required to sing lead vocals on at least one song, and to play an instrument on at least one song. Other than that, nearly anything goes! In addition to the basics of learning an instrument and learning how to learn material by ear, students learn a number of essential soft skills: how to overcome stage fright; how to work with a group to accomplish a shared goal; and how sustained, hard work towards an objective can not only be rewarding but can be incredibly fun. In addition, they learn that music really is for everybody, and that anyone who wants to can learn to play something on an instrument—regardless of whatever natural “talent” they may think they have.
  • Instrumentation and repertoire is flexible in nearly every ensemble at Khabele.  We try to work with students’ interests as much as possible, and give them as much leeway as possible to explore the music that interests them.  We also try as much as we can to make the repertoire we learn connect with the music that students listen to on their own—even as we try to broaden their horizons and get them to love jazz, classical, and other types of music that they might not hear on a daily basis.Learn more about the music program on our Music Blog.


Engaging in a theatre arts program teaches leadership, self-confidence, teamwork, and creativity. Our Middle & High School offers drama classes and an after-school theatre program. Students learn techniques in acting, stage design, production, music, lighting, and costuming. Recent productions include The Wiz (May 2014) and Godspell (February 2013).