Visual & performing arts ("f")

One unit (equivalent to one year) required, chosen from one of the following categories:

  • Dance
  • Music
  • Theater
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Visual arts (e.g., painting, web/graphic design, film/video, inter/multimedia arts)

Two one-semester courses from the same discipline is also acceptable.

Goals of the requirement

The arts enable personal, intellectual and social growth by nurturing creativity and providing opportunities for expression beyond the limits and boundaries of written language. Therefore, the intention of this requirement is to provide a meaningful experience with both depth and breadth of knowledge in the arts, so that students may apply their newly gained understanding to the appreciation and creation of art in its diverse forms. UC-approved visual and performing arts (VPA) courses must be directed at acquiring concepts, comprehensions and skills in the arts disciplines, rather than utilizing artistic activities to fulfill non-artistic course objectives.

The overarching goal of the VPA (“f”) subject requirement is to ensure that incoming college freshmen are adequately prepared to undertake university-level study. Courses in the “f” subject area recognize the common connections, as well as independent elements, in the different arts disciplines, and address the non-verbal and non-discursive aspects of each form while developing the ability to mediate complex artistic issues through language. Engagement in the arts includes the creative process of persisting, envisioning, observing, analyzing, reflecting, exploring new ways of working or thinking. As part of this process, students develop and present analyses of works of art from structural, historical, cultural and aesthetic perspectives. This provides the foundation necessary for engaging in multiple opportunities for self-expression, and more deeply understanding a variety of creative efforts. Moreover, in the California of the 21st Century, a focus on the arts may better prepare students to participate in the social, cultural and intellectual interplay among people of differing cultural backgrounds and national origins. 

All courses approved in the “f” subject area will be designed with the explicit intention of developing and encouraging artistic habits and dispositions important for university-level studies, and aligned with the five strands of the Visual and Performing Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools [PDF] summarized below:

  • Artistic Perception. Students will engage in processing, analyzing and responding to sensory information through the skills, methods and language appropriate to the specific arts discipline. They should understand that the arts provide alternative, often non-linguistic strategies for examining meaning that can guide our understanding of the world around us.
  • Creative Expression. Students will develop confidence and fluency in working within an art form by acquiring the skills required to create, produce, perform and present works of art. This involves learning through active practice, rehearsal and creation as well as performance and exhibition work.
  • Historical and Cultural Context. Students gain an understanding of the historical contributions and cultural dimensions of the arts. This includes knowledge of the multiple cultural and social meanings inherent in creative works, an awareness of how art forms evolved and function in different cultures and time periods, and recognition that ways of knowing in one culture may or may not be applicable to understandings in the art forms of another culture.
  • Aesthetic Valuing. Students emerge from high school with fluency in responding to, analyzing and making judgments about works in the various arts disciplines through appropriate behavioral and linguistic responses. They should develop a proclivity for using artistic processes and a variety of theoretical perspectives to examine the new and unfamiliar to determine the imaginative purpose as well as the multiple cultural and social meanings inherent in creative works.
  • Connections, Relationships, Applications. Students will be able to apply understandings developed within an art form to the other arts and academic disciplines. Students should develop enduring artistic values allowing them to relate knowledge acquired in the arts to understanding the world around them.

Course criteria & guidelines

Regardless of the artistic discipline, all approved VPA (“f”) courses are expected to satisfy these criteria:

  1. Courses will be consistent with and illustrate the goals described above. Courses that integrate these artistic practices into the key activities planned for each course, as outlined in the National Core Arts Standards: A Conceptual Framework for Arts Learning [PDF], will be taking a substantial step toward achieving these goals.
  2. Courses will address the major components of the National Core Arts Standards [PDF], which include Philosophical Foundations and Lifelong Goals; Artistic Processes; Enduring Understandings and Essential Questions; and Model Cornerstone Assessments.
  3. Courses will afford students opportunities to participate in all aspects of the artistic process, including creation, presenting, producing, performing, responding, critiquing and connecting. They will also, when appropriate, provide opportunities for students to discuss artistic ideas with other students, to read texts within the art discipline studied (including art works but also written critiques, etc.) and to write clearly and coherently on artistic topics.
  4. Courses teaching a specific set of skills that must be developed outside of class time (e.g., portfolio/performance preparation, reading, writing, instrument practice, research projects and/or critical listening/viewing) will have students document and summarize their work in an appropriate written format. For example, to gain proficiency on a band or orchestral instrument, once a week, students post on the classroom blog their own practice recordings demonstrating they have practiced reading Western staff notation.
  5. Courses will include a variety of assessments of conceptual artistic understanding as well as mastery of creative practices, skills and artistic literacies, and describe corresponding parameters to measure the course learning objectives. These measures could include, but are not limited to, authentic performance and/or exhibition opportunities, discipline-appropriate creative projects, collaborative projects, student portfolios, written exams, research and written projects, and multimedia presentations.
  6. Courses will include culturally relevant topics and activities, real-world problems and applications that are appropriate for the context of the school community and the course content. Maintaining a balance of theoretical and historical/cultural context with skills-based content is essential, especially in regard to production courses that primarily serve school events (e.g., newspaper, yearbook, broadcast). Each course must demonstrate how it provides ample opportunities for self-expression and the creation of individual as well as collaborative VPA projects. The activities should be aimed at engaging all students in artistic learning and understanding the role that the arts play in their lives.
  7. Introductory VPA courses need not have any prerequisite coursework.

Other options for satisfying the “f” subject requirement

Students are expected to complete a single yearlong VPA course to satisfy the “f” subject requirement, but they may also fulfill the requirement by completing two semesters and approved “f” courses within a single arts discipline.

UC-transferable college courses or satisfactory scores on AP or IB exams can also be used to fulfill the visual and performing arts subject requirement.