The visual arts program at SI includes photography, sculpture, studio art, art & architecture, art & nature, sacred symbols, sculpture and multimedia design.
The program began in 1977 when Katie Wolf (pictured above on the left) offered to develop a course of study in for SI students. Katie was a St. Rose graduate who had studied fine arts at Santa Clara University and had earned an MFA at the San Francisco Art Institute. She had acted in plays at SI and, later, assisted Peter Devine by designing sets. For nearly 30 years, she has developed curriculum and taught the creative process to thousands of young artists whose work has earned national honors.
“I had great visions of presenting a variety of art styles that would generate the students’ interest in the process of creativity,” she wrote in a Genesis II story. “Who wouldn’t get excited about works by Picasso, Matisse, Magritte, Miro and Munch? I remember presenting posters of abstract and non-objective paintings for class critique, hoping to stir up some insightful discussions on color, form, line quality and feeling. I was rather surprised when a student called upon had the following comment: ‘Miss Wolf, why is that art? My 8-year-old sister could paint something like that!’ I then realized I had some attitudes to change….”7
Since 1978, Wolf has taught several classes, including Art and Architecture, 3D Studies, Studio Art, Sacred Symbols, and Art and Nature, taking students on an inner journey to discover their own creativity and on hundreds of journeys beyond the school walls to see art firsthand in museums and buildings around the Bay Area.
In the 1990s she led a summer workshop for students who designed large-scale outdoor pieces that are on permanent display around the school. In the summer of 2003, she and a group of students (pictured above) were artists in residence at the NorCal Transfer Station near Candlestick Park where they transformed trash into works of art. In 1993 the San Francisco Unified School District honored her as the Outstanding Art Teacher of the Year and featured the work of SI students at the de Young Museum. St. Mary’s Cathedral also chose her to be its official fabric artist for San Francisco’s cathedral, and all the banners and in that building are her creations. Her work ranges from environmental fabric designs at St. Mary’s to stained-glass pieces, steel sculpture and Byzantine icons in intimate sacred spaces. She redesigned Jensen Chapel on the SI campus in 2003 when the school moved that facility from the second floor to the Student Activities Center, and her work incorporated her sense of the natural and the sacred.
Wolf is a working artist who continues her personal expression through printmaking, large format acrylic canvases, theatrical set design and the design and construction of wearable art. She also spent her 2003–2004 sabbatical year investigating ways sustainability and nature could enter into the artistic process. From her studies, she designed a new course that asks students to involve those concepts in their sculpture to experience “nature as master designer” and to help students “experience growth in awareness of the creative process.”