402a0495The visual arts are an integral part of everyday life, permeating all levels of human creativity, expression, communication and understanding. They range from traditional forms embedded in local and wider communities, societies and cultures, to the varied and divergent practices associated with new, emerging and contemporary forms of visual language.
They may have sociopolitical impact as well as ritual, spiritual, decorative and functional value; they can be persuasive and subversive in some instances, enlightening and uplifting in others. We celebrate the visual arts not only in the way we create images and objects, but also in the way we appreciate, enjoy, respect and respond to the practices of art-making by others from around the world. Theories and practices in visual arts are dynamic and ever-changing, and connect many areas of knowledge and human experience through individual and collaborative exploration, creative production and critical interpretation.

The IB Diploma Programme visual arts course encourages students to challenge their own creative and cultural expectations and boundaries. It is a thought-provoking course in which students develop analytical skills in problem-solving and divergent thinking, while working towards technical proficiency and confidence as art-makers. In addition to exploring and comparing visual arts from different perspectives and in different contexts, students are expected to engage in, experiment with and critically reflect upon a wide range of contemporary practices and media. The course is designed for students who want to go on to study visual arts in higher education as well as for those who are seeking lifelong enrichment through visual arts.

Supporting the International Baccalaureate mission statement and learner profile, the course encourages students to actively explore the visual arts within and across a variety of local, regional, national, international and intercultural contexts. Through inquiry, investigation, reflection and creative application, visual arts students develop an appreciation for the expressive and aesthetic diversity in the world around them, becoming critically informed makers and consumers of visual culture.

Distinction between SL and HL

The visual arts syllabus demonstrates a clear distinction between the course at SL and at HL, with additional assessment requirements at HL that allow for breadth and greater depth in the teaching and learning. The assessment tasks require HL students to reflect on how their own work has been influenced by exposure to other artists and for them to experiment in greater depth with additional art-making media, techniques and forms. HL students are encouraged to produce a larger body of resolved works and to demonstrate a deeper consideration of how their resolved works communicate with a potential viewer.

The Visual Arts Aims

The aims of the arts subjects are to enable students to:

  • enjoy lifelong engagement with the arts
  • become informed, reflective and critical practitioners in the arts
  • understand the dynamic and changing nature of the arts
  • explore and value the diversity of the arts across time, place and cultures
  • express ideas with confidence and competence
  • develop perceptual and analytical skills.
  • make artwork that is influenced by personal and cultural contexts
  • become informed and critical observers and makers of visual culture and media
  • develop skills, techniques and processes in order to communicate concepts and ideas.

Core areas

The visual arts core syllabus at SL and HL consists of three equal interrelated areas.

Visual arts in context

The visual arts in context part of the syllabus provides a lens through which students are encouraged to explore perspectives, theories and cultures that inform and influence visual arts practice. Students should be able to research, understand and appreciate a variety of contexts and traditions and be able to identify links between them.

Through the visual arts in context area, students will:

  • be informed about the wider world of visual arts and they will begin to understand and appreciate the cultural contexts within which they produce their own works
  • observe the conventions and techniques of the artworks they investigate, thinking critically and experimenting with techniques, and identifying possible uses within their own art-making practice
  • investigate work from a variety of cultural contexts and develop increasingly sophisticated, informed responses to work they have seen and experienced.

Visual arts methods

The visual arts methods part of the syllabus addresses ways of making artwork through the exploration and acquisition of skills, techniques and processes, and through engagement with a variety of media and methods.

Through the visual arts methods area, students will:

• understand and appreciate that a diverse range of media, processes, techniques and skills are required in the making of visual arts, and how and why these have evolved

• engage with the work of others in order to understand the complexities associated with different artmaking methods and use this inquiry to inspire their own experimentation and art-making practice

• understand how a body of work can communicate meaning and purpose for different audiences.

Communicating visual arts

The communicating visual arts part of the syllabus involves students investigating, understanding and applying the processes involved in selecting work for exhibition and public display. It engages students in making decisions about the selection of their own work.

Through the communicating visual arts area, students will:

• understand the many ways in which visual arts can communicate and appreciate that presentation constructs meaning and may influence the way in which individual works are valued and understood

• produce a body of artwork through a process of reflection and evaluation and select artworks for exhibition, articulating the reasoning behind their choices and identifying the ways in which selected works are connected

• explore the role of the curator; acknowledging that the concept of an exhibition is wide ranging and encompasses many variables, but most importantly, the potential impact on audiences and viewers.

Visual arts and international-mindedness

International-mindedness represents an openness and curiosity about the world and its people. It begins with students understanding themselves in order to effectively connect with others. The arts provide a unique opportunity for students to recognize the dynamic cultural influences around them. The IB Diploma

Programme visual arts course gives students the opportunity to study a wide variety of visual arts disciplines and forms. Students are expected to explore and engage with art from a variety of contexts. Through making, investigating and critically analysing and appreciating differing art forms, students deepen their understanding of the visual arts, as well as their knowledge, understanding and experience of the visual arts within the global community. They become more informed and reflective, and develop their abilities to become enriched practitioners, communicators and visual thinkers. They learn to acknowledge the aspects that appear in all art forms and art cultures, and also to recognize the unique ways in which particular cultures express and represent their values and identity visually.


Previous experience and an interest in visual art would be beneficial.

Click here to view Subject Brief – Visual Arts SL

Click here to view Subject Brief – Visual Arts HL