Academy of Art of Highland Park

Pursuing the excellence of art through the art of excellence

Sunflowers (2019), by Cheryl Zankman. Ink on watercolor paper.

Summer Session 2019

We are now in week 4 of 6

Swing back into creative action with us
at the drawing board, bench, or easel.
We have everything ready for you!



Enter Website


This is Ana, Director of the AAHP. On behalf of our wonderful teen teaching assistants, and my fellow Senior Staff members—Aaron, Alina, Amber and Michael—I wish you a summer full of wander and wonder, sunny days and starry nights.


During summers, the majority of our practitioners and their families travel all over the world. Altogether, we visit some 25 (!) different countries in just under three months! Those of us who stay local also do a lot of day trips and weekend travels across the wonderful northeast and across states beyond. Wherever you go, we wish you safe and exciting travels, and the joy of seeing new sights, old friends, and family.


We encourage all our practitioners to carry a small sketchbook, pencil and/or pen, and sketch while traveling. This is a venerable and technically important tradition; 600 years ago, Maestro Da Vinci urged his students to always carry “a little (blank) book” for the purpose of sharpening one’s observational and rendering skills at all times.

Keep in mind that fieldwork is as exciting as studio work. And yet it is an entire practice al its own, with its own principles and aims. As a reminder, allow your sketches to be brief, to perhaps lack grey scales if you wish, and to actually remain unfinished, even though you sign them. Under your date and signature, also add a brief line—part of your field notes—that tell where the scene unfolded. I assure you that you will never forget the particular feel of the place and time when you do fieldwork, as this practice totally anchors you deeply in place, both emotionally, and intellectually.


Welcome to the studio! We the staff will also travel in August, but not before happily spending a fun and also challenging six-week Summer Session in studio with many of you, and with those former students now returning after a hiatus. We are also excited to welcome all new students! We look forwards to meeting all of you, and your families!

Let’s do this!

Saluting Lt. Gary S. Panichella

By A.E. Soto-Canino
AAHP Director/Chief Instructor/Chief Safety Officer

The Academy of Art of Highland Park salutes Lt. Gary S. Panichella, of the Highland Park Police Department (HPPD). Gary Sensei, as I call him, has always been a good friend of the AAHP.

On Friday, June 28, 2019, the administration of the Borough of Highland Park, together with guests such as myself, honored Gary Sensei for his amazing run of 42 years of service as a policeman here in town.

Gary Sensei was ignorant of the surprise retirement party unfolding for him on the street last Friday. He thought he was just driving back to headquarters at the end of perhaps his last traffic patrol. What he experienced instead was a great shock; a large crowd breaking into applause and cheers as he drove past a double line of fellow members of the police, all standing at attention, all saluting him in honor. Further well-deserved honors came to Gary Sensei across the afternoon. We at the AAHP presented him with a plaque, honoring not only his lifetime of service as a cop, but also honoring his life as a martialist, and as a martial arts instructor, his work as a fellow small business owner (Gary Sensei owns Studio 808, the gym/dojo across the street from the AAHP), and his commitment as a friend to our own operation.

Gary Sensei approached me on several occasions across the years to engage in collaborative projects between the AAHP and the HPPD. That’s how we at the AAHP came to paint the street banners for earlier episodes of the annual National Night Out; how we came to restore the mural-sized shield that hangs at the entrance of police headquarters; how we together explored an art education project for special needs citizens.

But there was more. When we at the AAHP began celebrating our annual, in-house Autumn Artstravaganza, Gary Sensei pointed me in the right direction, and that’s how our studio ended up obtaining traffic assistance from the HPPD. And so, every year, on a given night in October, HP Police place traffic safety cones along 8th Ave. North to protect young artists during our outdoor Drawing-in-the-Dark event, and which highlights our Artstravaganza. In more recent years, Gary Sensei also offered me a safe space to work on my giant, 23-ft. long painting when space was not available to me in our very own studios due to our high student traffic.

I should also note that I witnessed Gary Sensei working long hours in support of the families of one young adult, and later one child, who were lost to our community in tragic accidents; I will never forget Gary Sensei’s commitment to their families and to the memories of these youngsters.

All in all, Gary Sensei truly embodied the spirit of community here in town.

On behalf of myself and the staff of the AAHP, I wish Gary Sensei a wonderful excursion into retirement. But as many of us know about running a small business, there will be no rest for the weary even in retirement. We wish him the best as he keeps keeping busy!

Introducing Skin & Bones Studio

A Studio for Live Figure and Skeletal Anatomy Studies

Adults 18 and over are invited to join the Skin and Bones Studio, our new live figure and skeletal anatomy drawing workshop. Classes are held on Thursdays from 7:45 – 9:45 PM.

Beginners can receive full instruction while seasoned artists are welcome to explore on their own. All materials are provided.

Learn more…

Spotlight on…

Student Achievements
Mayu Burr and the Art of Linocut Printmaking We have been enchanted by these hand-made prints by local artist and adult AAHP practitioner Mayu Burr. Mayu, now exploring deeper craft matters in her oil painting practice here at our studios, has been developing delicate printing techniques in her home studio practice. She has been working on fine cardstock made for watercolor postcards, traditional linocut tools, craft knives, linoleum, and ink stamp pads she purchases in Japan. Read more