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January 16, 2024

For information on admission to Notre Dame Prep, please click here.

Notre Dame Prep is setting the bar high when it comes to the visual arts. Also, research from the University of Maryland looks at the International Baccalaureate and its arts programming around the world. 

Then-Notre Dame Prep senior Thomas Fazio’s ”La Rivelazione di Nonno” pencil illustration (detail), received the 2017 ”American Vision Award” and was judged one of only five ”Best in Show” from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards regional competition. Other recent art by former NDP students is below.

Education in the visual arts has been a major focus of the Notre Dame/Marist pedagogy in the state going all the way back to the Marist Fathers-operated Notre Dame High School in Harper Woods (1954-2005).

Now, at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, in just the last decade alone, visual arts students have won more than 320 Scholastic Regional Art Awards and more than 30 Scholastic National Art Awards. And their portfolios have gained graduating students admission to some of the most respected college studio art programs in the country, including the Rhode Island School of Design, Savannah College of Art and Design and Detroit's College for Creative Studies.

It's the result of a concentrated and balanced arts curriculum that culminates in the upper school's International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, which is offered to students in 11th and 12th grade.

There's Notre Dame Prep, and then there's the rest of Michigan's Catholic schools

Notre Dame Prep was the first Catholic institution in the nation to offer all three main IB academic programs and the school remains the only Catholic school in Michigan with the IB.

Since the upper school was authorized in 2007 for the IB-DP, NDP students have enjoyed a range of arts courses, including advanced placement and IB classes such as IB music theory and IB visual arts, which is an intensive two-year course that allows students to explore the visual arts through their own as well as through other cultural contexts. This exploration is meant to encourage creative thinking, problem-solving and a respect for cultural and aesthetic differences. 

"The International Baccalaureate movement has a proud tradition of valuing creativity and innovation. These values, skills, and understandings have been enabled through the focus on the concept of inquirers; nurturing curiosity, developing skills for inquiry and research across learning stages and programs." — Michael Anderson
Associate Professor at the University of Sydney

The IB Diploma Program visual arts course at Notre Dame Prep also encourages students to challenge their own creative and cultural expectations and boundaries. It is a thought-provoking course in which students develop analytical skills and divergent thinking, while working toward technical proficiency and confidence as actual makers of art.

In addition to exploring and comparing visual arts from different perspectives and in different contexts, IB visual arts students are expected to engage in, experiment with and critically reflect upon a wide range of contemporary practices and media. The course is designed for NDP students who want to go on to further study of visual arts in higher education as well as for those who are seeking lifelong enrichment through visual arts. 

But what about the arts in high school elsewhere? Is a program like the IB a determinant of future success in the arts as students matriculate to university? Are the arts offerings universal in all IB-authorized schools? What exactly constitutes an art course in the International Baccalaureate? 

The IB organization itself, which catalogs courses like IB visual arts and IB music into what it calls "group 6" courses, also includes dance, theatre and film at both standard level (SL) and higher level (HL) in the category.

Understanding how the arts figure into the IB

In an effort to more fully integrate IB art courses into the IB Diploma Program and to understand the factors affecting uptake of the arts in the IB-DP, IB commissioned a study by Kenneth Elpus, Ph.D., of the University of Maryland. The research discovered that among many other key findings that about 25% of IB World Schools authorized to offer the DP do not have any provision for students to elect even a single group 6 course as part of their Diploma Program.

This study was designed to understand the uptake of arts education at schools authorized to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program (DP). The study had two main goals. The first was to develop a global demographic profile of DP arts students and to determine the student-level and school-level factors associated with elective uptake of the arts within the DP. The second objective was to understand the broader climate and context for arts education in IB World Schools.

More on the Maryland study is here. More on Notre Dame Prep's academic programming, including International Baccalaureate from prekindergarten through upper school, is here.

Amelia Cumming, (detail) Abovewater III, Chalk Pastels

Alondra Pedroza, Drawing and Illustration, (detail) Cross in the Woods Looking from The Sky

Audrey Thummel, Silver Key, Drawing and Illustration, (detail) Ford at the Fair

Mary Mardelli, Photography, (detail) Burning the Past

For information on admission to Notre Dame Prep, please click here.

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Follow Notre Dame on Twitter at @NDPMA.

About Notre Dame Preparatory School 
Notre Dame Preparatory School is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School's upper school enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame Prep's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three schools are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the National Association of Independent Schools. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School, visit the school’s home page at