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Visual Arts & Design Academy
A California Partnership Academy

Industry Sector: Arts, Media, and Entertainment



Pathway Description

VADA is an Art & Design focused “school-within-a-school” at SBHS.  Created to support and develop emerging artists and all kinds of creative students, VADA offers a four year experience with a focus on Community, Creativity and College & Career.  The goal is to make high school more engaging and fun for creative kids by wrapping their education around art & design while preparing them for college, career and life after high school.


  Demo Lesson 

Skills Acquired

  • Teaches and trains the skills, attitudes and mindsets of the artist-designer, practiced in a creative, working  studio environment.  
  • Students graduate with a solid technical art and digital design foundation as well as with highly transferable soft skills in self-management, creativity, collaboration/teamwork, emotional intelligence and more.  
  • Students develop their innovation instincts using Design Thinking as a method for problem solving. 
  • Students are confident users of Adobe Creative Suite





Work Based Learning Activities

  • Students have the opportunity to participate in internships and mentorships
  • Field Trips to local businesses (Patagonia, Deckers, UGG)
  • Field Trips to Norton Simon, FIDM, the Petersen, LACMA
  • Partnership with Advisory Committee to design projects that develop skills employers need, and reflect what it’s like to work in creative business.  
  • Work with artists-in-residence

“VADA has given our son an opportunity for leadership, and participation in team projects and endeavors. A chance to compete, to achieve, to fail. The VADA leadership team has been a valuable opportunity for him to work with his peers and to hone his leadership skills. Most importantly for our student,


VADA has given him confidence in his identity as an artist.

VADA’s well-earned excellent reputation in the community of artists has given students access to multiple local and regional arts institutions and organizations. He has heartily embraced these relationships, relationships that began with an introduction by VADA.” 
- Tami Sherman, VADA Alum Parent

“By having art as an essential component to their English, History, and Science classes, learning becomes more meaningful for VADA students. VADA supports its students with knowledgeable and accessible teachers and staff” 
- Jenn Mislang, VADA Parent

“Without the VADA community, I wouldn’t have been able to develop my skills as an artist, student and friend as easily during high school.” 
- Sofija Ninness, VADA 2020 graduate currently attending UCLA

“VADA's industry connections, guest speakers, college & career focused field trips, and student mentorships and internships have explicitly been developed to make sure our high school graduates are prepared for college, but more importantly, ready for a career.  VADA has always sought to graduate their students ready for both college AND career - not just college readiness.” 
- Spencer Barr, SBHS College & Career Counselor / Career Tech Ed. Site Coordinator

Student Leadership Group

Developing students who are leaders in their community and in their profession is important, and the VADA Student Leadership Council is one way we support this.  We value student empowerment, and VADA Student Leadership acts as a “Mini VADA-ASB” to help us showcase, promote and even influence the program from a student point of view.

Visual Arts & Design Academy Courses

Overview of Courses  Video Overview of Courses  Course

Course Title and Description Type of Course UC a-g Dual Enrollment 

Introduction to Graphic Design (SBCC GDP 111)




Freehand Drawing




Digital Imaging (SBCC MAT 131)




Advanced Freehand Drawing




Introduction to Photography (SBCC GDP 109)




Advanced Painting




AP & Honors Studio Art




Visual Arts & Design Academy Instructors

Daniel Barnett

In 2007 Daniel became VADA Program Director leading an amazing team of educators, but has always maintained the vital link to students, teaching Painting, AP Studio Art and VADA Student Leadership Council.  He also plays a key role in guiding the Friends of VADA, whose current major initiative is supporting a new art facility.  Daniel considers his greatest accomplishment to be the successful cultivation of a community in which radically diverse students welcome each other like family and thrive as growing artists and people. 


Nicole McKee-Barr

Nicole has designed and taught the digital art component of VADA since 2001. She is also responsible for overseeing the 9th grade VADA program. Nicole threads the use of digital media into the traditional art template to add dimension to the already strong program. With the addition of Photography, Graphic Design, and Digital Illustration students will cast a wider net of career prospects. Nicole worked in Graphic Design prior to working for VADA. She also has been working as an Adobe Education Leader for Adobe which entails writing curricula with other leaders around the globe. 


Brandon Teris

Brandon graduated from UCSB with his Bachelors in Studio Art, & Masters of Education degrees.  He taught Art in the bay area at a small public charter school where he grew the art department from the ground up.  Brandon then moved back to Santa Barbara to join the Visual Arts & Design Academy team. He is the field trip coordinator for VADA & is part of the administration team that oversees all aspects of the program.  He also teaches Beginning Drawing, Advanced Drawing, Painting, & Calligraphy.