Visual Artist in Residence Ikumi Kayama Teaches the Art of Observation

In April, Teel Campus welcomed award-winning scientific and medical illustrator Ms. Ikumi Kayama as our first Visual Artist in Residence. She founded Studio Kayama, a studio dedicated to creating dynamic and accurate illustrations to enhance the learning experience, and is vice president of the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators. She shared her time and talents with our Middle and Upper School students, demonstrating how to communicate complex ideas through art.

The Art of Science and the Science of Art

Ms. Kayama started her visit with a presentation to the entire Upper School based on her popular Ted Talk, The Art of Science and the Science of Art. During her talk, she explained how illustration provides a path for understanding natural phenomena, often more effectively than written narratives or photographs.
Artist presents at Severn School
Ms. Kayama showed how a single illustration can provide more clarity than an entire page of words.
After her presentation, she took questions from the audience. Our students were most interested in her life as a young, developing artist. She shared her struggle with learning English after moving to the U.S. from Japan at the age of seven, finding art as a way to communicate without the challenges of grammar and language. She talked about her experience as an art student in high school where she felt disconnected from her teachers who were less interested in realism. It is valuable for our students to hear how working artists navigate the twists, turns and hurdles of their personal and professional lives.

A Tool for Seeing

Following the morning presentation, Ms. Kayama spent the day working with students in class. Through every workshop, she emphasized careful observation in creating this type of work. Although the result is often quite striking, the intention is less about creating an artful piece of beauty and more about communicating the intricacies of the natural world through illustration.
Visiting artist shows Severn School Middle School student how to draw from a taxidermied animal model.
Middle School students examined taxidermied animals to accurately represent the structure of their forms.
Severn School high school students practice drawing with digital tools
Upper School digital arts classes learned about using technology to create realistic and precise illustrations.
Severn School high school students learn to draw using a microscope
A combined class of visual art and science students drew cells based on what they saw through a microscope.

A Community of Artists

In addition to working in class, Ms. Kayama met with a group of students and art faculty over lunch. During the free-flowing conversation, the group traded creative problem-solving ideas, exploring the challenges of different art disciplines. She also volunteered to judge the annual Upper School Spring Art Show along with Mr. Theodore Johnson, Professor and Curator at Anne Arundel Community College. Fully immersed in our community for the day, Ms. Kayama demonstrated to our students the type of interaction and support alive in the professional art community, both locally and on a global scale.

Relevant for Our Students

Our visual arts department endeavors to show students that art isn’t merely something to be placed on a shelf and admired. Art is a functional part of our everyday lives. The process of creating art helps students develop the skills to both understand and communicate challenging ideas. And programs like this show our students the many careers that a well-rounded arts education can prepare them for.
“In our department, we teach theory and fundamental practices, but this was a way of showing our students how art professions are grounded in reality. I’ve worked with Ikumi and have known her for years. We've noticed that a lot of our students are interested in environmental science so with her experience in scientific illustration and working with young people, she was a natural choice for our first visual artist residency. That's how we plan to move forward, by choosing artists that reflect our students' interests. We want the experience to be relevant.” — Ms. Carsley
Severn School art teacher with a visiting artist.
Ms. Carsley and Ms. Kayama


Lower School

Upper School