Wrigley Introduces New Comic Art Elective

Art teacher William Wrigley will teach a comic art elective starting this spring.

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Art teacher William Wrigley will teach a comic art elective starting this spring. Wrigley, who began teaching at Stuyvesant this past semester, also teaches Art Appreciation and Painting. The new elective will be open exclusively to juniors and seniors.

The elective will combine drawing with storytelling. “[Wrigley] is teaching Painting right now, and I’m one of his students. He doesn’t really focus on the technique or skill, but he focuses more on the concept behind it or the inspiration or the planning. In his comic class, obviously he’s going to teach us how to draw, but he’s mostly going to focus on making a narrative story,” senior Kelly Guo said.

Wrigley’s passion for art was heavily influenced by his high school art classes. “I was very fortunate to go to a school in Connecticut that was sort of a magnet school. It had an art program equivalent to the program at LaGuardia, and those teachers gave me purpose in a lot of ways when I was a teenager,” he said. “When I got into art classes, it just opened up a whole new world for me.”

Despite the support Wrigley received from his teachers, he felt that comic art in particular was often neglected in his classes. “I had painting teachers, and silkscreening teachers, and photography teachers, all these different things. The one thing I didn't have was anybody who would let me do comics as a project,” he said. “They didn’t consider it to be art.”

Undeterred, Wrigley explored comic art outside of the classroom. “When I was 17, I moved to New York City for a summer to intern at a comic company so that I would learn things that my teachers were not teaching me,” he said.

After becoming a teacher, Wrigley knew he wanted to incorporate comic art into his curriculum. “I’ve been teaching in the public system for about 10 years, and for nine of those years in my last school. I had a comic project with my students; I’d begin the second semester with a comic project,” he said. “We would only make one page, but the students learned that it was a really good way to do a memoir and to reflect their own lives in more than one way. It opened up a lot of students to the possibility of art in a way that they hadn’t thought of before.”

Despite only teaching at Stuyvesant for less than a semester, Wrigley saw an opportunity to introduce a comic art elective. “When I interviewed here, I knew that [Assistant Principal of World Language, Art, and Music Francesca] McAuliffe was interested in the comics that she had seen in my portfolio, and when I started getting to know students here, it occurred to me that something I could offer that would expand the art program would be to offer a comics elective,” he said. “I made a slideshow explaining what comics are aside from superheroes—that they are a medium, not a genre—showing examples from my students’ work from my last school, talking about what I felt it could offer Stuyvesant.”

To Wrigley’s surprise, the administration immediately approved his elective. “I wasn’t sure that it was going to be accepted,” he said. “I certainly didn’t expect that it would be accepted for the next semester.”

Though students have yet to take Wrigley’s elective, many have requested the class for their spring program. “I was pretty interested by [the] idea because ‘casual’ arts classes aren’t particularly common at Stuyvesant,” junior Adnan Quayyum said. “I was happy to be able to list Comic Arts on the [spring elective selection form] because I feel like modern forms of art are underrepresented at Stuy while more classical takes are promoted over them.”

Other students are excited to take the course because of how different comic art is than other currently offered art electives, such as ceramics and painting. “A lot of art classes in Stuy and a lot of mediums focus on a singular moment. Ceramics takes you into a singular moment into a pot, and painting makes you take the singular moment within a scenery. Within comics, you are telling a story, and you’re designing that story to however you want the readers to look at it and how you want to present it,” senior Md Hoque said. “It takes in personal writing, which is not really explored in Stuy, and it combines it with art, which is an astounding on by itself.”

Students taking Wrigley’s painting elective this semester have found his class to be one of the few places they can express themselves creatively and prepare to continue pursuing art beyond high school. “Painting this semester has been something that has impacted me a lot, especially because I’m someone who wants to major in art in college, but Stuyvesant does not really offer too many opportunities to learn about different mediums [and does not guide] students through portfolio building which is needed for some colleges if you want to major in art,” Guo said. “Right off the bat, [Wrigley] was really open to reaching out to seniors who wanted to apply to art schools […] he’s been helping me with the process for the past few months.”

Wrigley’s painting elective also inspired students in their own creative endeavors. “Up until this year, I’ve only had roughly two classes related to art. I’m trying to major in architecture, which is kind of daunting in a sense due to the lack of art experience. When [Wrigley] first came in and started talking about painting with this passion, I felt like I could talk to him about architecture,” Hoque said. “For students who want to do art, […] we don’t really have much experience, and that was the case for me. I started my own club because of the lack of opportunity here. [Wrigley] was one of the few teachers I could rely on instead of relying on myself.”

Though students are grateful for the new elective, many also wish that Stuyvesant offered more art-based opportunities. “When I was in eighth grade, I was offered the opportunity to go to LaGuardia for fine arts, but I [was] pressured by my parents to go to Stuyvesant instead,” Guo said. “I can’t do STEM—I’m really bad at math and science—and art is the only place I find confidence and comfort. I just wished Stuyvesant would offer more of that.”

Wrigley hopes his elective will bring more art to Stuyvesant while giving his students the same eye-opening experience he had in his high school art classes. “I would like to be able to spend my career giving some of what was given to me to my students,” he said.