Artistry in development

AP Art teacher accepts position on CollegeBoard’s global test development committee

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Sarah Hibberd

AP Art teacher Brice McCasland reflects on his current art piece. McCasland teaches Pre AP Art 1, Pre AP Art 2, AP 2D Design and AP Drawing.

It’s 5 a.m., the lights flicker on to reveal a room decorated with ink sketches and healthy green plants, the air stained with the smell of dried paint and woodshop shavings. For the next hour and a half, an art piece slowly meets its creator. 

By 8:20 a.m., 25 minutes before class begins, his apron is already splattered with color.

This past year, College Board recruited Visual Art Coordinator and AP 2D and Drawing Studio teacher Brice McCasland for a Co-Chair position on their test development committee. McCasland accepted the invitation and is preparing to spend the next three years contributing to the development of the AP Studio Art exam. 

One piece of McCasland’s portfolio, “The Land.” McCasland makes about 100 pieces a year, a collective 1,500 pieces in his 15 years of teaching. (Courtesy)

“The shift to the development committee is a fun one,” McCasland said. “I like to nerd out on things like that, like how we can make the test better for kids and how we can prepare kids to create the best work of their lives, the work that matters.”

For years, College Board recruited McCasland to score tests as an AP reader, but during digital learning, he found time to score and contribute to the AP Daily videos. Now, McCasland joins the committee as one of the three high school instructors of the eight global committee members for AP Studio Art. 

“[The high school has] been intentional with the community we have built,” McCasland said. “We’re focused on process and practice over product. In a lot of programs, there’s a facade created around the product. So we try to help people to chase their strengths.”

McCasland grew up in West Texas and attended West Colorado University as a Biology major and football player. After taking a ceramics class as a sophomore, McCasland had a sudden change in direction.

“My goal at that time was to be working for the Forest Service. I had a professor that blew my mind, and I wanted to be an art teacher,” McCasland said. “We’re still friends. He changed my life without question.”

Following 15 years of 12-hour days at the high school, McCasland continues to influence students with the world as a new addition. With said influence, McCasland is already anticipating future changes to the AP Art exam. 

“I think [I’d change] the availability to upload video,” McCasland said. “The kids can’t upload video or sound work because it’s too much memory space, so they don’t have a good format to do that. I would love, in my three years as Co-Chair, to be able to bring that about.”

Dr. Fela Mathy, Director of Fine Arts, manages the budget, needs, marketing and representation of visual and performing arts at the high school. Mathy has an Ed.D. in educational leadership and has known McCasland since they began working in the district. Mathy says McCasland does an excellent job encouraging risk-taking and telling students to “just go for it.”

“It’s very exciting and it’s an incredible honor for him to have been selected for this particular role with College Board,” Mathy said. It’s one of those things that’s also so beneficial to our school and in our visual arts program because he will be at the forefront of seeing artwork from not only across the nation but across the world.”

Senior AP Art student and Gold Key winner, Fariba Avali, works with photography and print-making. Nearing the end of her last year of high school with McCasland, she says the art room is “all she knows.”

A piece of McCasland’s second portfolio, “The Flood.” McCasland features his art in shows across the country. (Courtesy)

“There’s no such thing in this course as just drawing something, at this point in the year everything has meaning,” Avali said. “This room and these people have had such a big impact; this is all I know. I’m in this room six hours a day. All the pieces that I make have some sort of underlying connection, and he’s helped bring out that inspiration.”

McCasland sells and features his art in five art shows a year; this year’s shows may be in Richardson, Denver, Des Moines, Iowa, St. Louis and Park City, Utah. As an artist, teacher and Co-Chair, McCasland continues influencing artists on a local and global scale. 

“The test is not about how good of a painter you are, it’s how good of a thinker you are and where we see that in connection to the work you’re showing,” McCasland said. “We focus on trying to build artists out of everybody that speaks their own language. We don’t all speak the same language, and that is what’s beautiful.”