Visual & performing arts ("f")

One unit (equivalent to one year) required chosen from one of the following disciplines:

  • Dance
  • Drama/theater
  • Music
  • Visual arts

Course guidance

The intention of this requirement is to provide a meaningful experience and breadth of knowledge of the arts so that students may apply their knowledge and experience to the creation of art and are better able to understand and appreciate artistic expression on the basis of that experience and knowledge. Approved visual and performing arts (VPA) courses must be directed at acquiring concepts, knowledge and skills in the arts disciplines, rather than to utilize artistic activities to fulfill non-artistic course objectives.


Introductory courses need not have any prerequisite coursework.

Co-curricular work

Work outside of class is required, for example, portfolio/performance preparation, reading, writing, research projects and/or critical listening/viewing.

Course standards

Curriculum must be designed to include the California VPA Content Standards [PDF] at least to the proficiency level in each of the five component strands. Each visual and performing arts course shall sufficiently address all five component strands of the content standards, listed below:

  • Artistic Perception: Processing, analyzing and responding to sensory information through the language and skills unique to a given art.
  • Creative Expression: Creating, performing and participating in a given art.
  • Historical and Cultural Context: Understanding historical contributions and cultural dimensions of a given art.
  • Aesthetic Valuing: Responding to, analyzing and making critical assessments about works of a given art form.
  • Connections, Relationships, Applications: Connecting and applying what is learned in a given art form to learning in other art forms, subject areas and careers.

Examples of acceptable and unacceptable courses

VPA Discipline




Ballet, modern dance, jazz, ethnic dance, choreography and improvisation, dance history, dance production/performance

Aerobics, drill team, cheerleading, recreational dance, ballroom dance


Acting, directing, oral interpretation, dramatic production, dramaturgy/history/theory, stage/lighting/costume design

Speech, debate, courses in other disciplines that require students to perform occasional skits


Band (concert, symphonic, jazz), orchestra, choir (concert, jazz, soul, madrigal), music history/appreciation, music theory/composition

Musical group that performs primarily for sporting events, parades, competitive field events and/or community/civic activities

Visual Art

Painting, drawing, sculpture, art, photography, printmaking, contemporary media, ceramics, art history, architectural design

Craft courses, mechanical drafting, yearbook and photography offered as photojournalism

Courses that are primarily recreational, athletic or focused on body conditioning, courses for social entertainment and commercial courses specifically designed for training for a profession, are not acceptable to meet the VPA requirement.

Course and policy clarifications

Performance, production and studio courses

Courses emphasizing performance and/or production must include appropriate critical/theoretical and historical/cultural content, as referenced in the state VPA Content Standards [PDF]. Such courses should emphasize creative expression, not rote memorization and/or technical skills.

Appreciation, history and theory courses

Appreciation, history and theory courses should focus on the ability to make aesthetic judgments about art works and performances and must include all component strands of the state VPA Content Standards [PDF], including creative expression.

Design and technology courses

Visual and performing arts courses in design are expected to provide substantial time for students to understand, learn and experience the elements of art and principles of design that underlie the medium/media addressed. Design courses must also include standards from all five component strands of the VPA Content Standards [PDF].

Courses that utilize technology must focus primarily on arts content. If the technology (i.e., software, equipment) is used as a tool of artistic expression, as a paintbrush would be used in a painting course, and all other component strands are adequately met, then such courses are acceptable. If the technology/software is so complex that the primary concern becomes learning the technology, then the course may not be approved.

Often, design and technology courses focus more on the technical aspects of these disciplines, rather than the “art.” To be acceptable, such courses must focus significantly on the fundamental elements of art and principles of design, adequately cover the historical/cultural context, allow ample opportunity for students to critique art (self, peer or professional-produced) and make connections to other art forms, subject areas and/or career opportunities.

Private study

Private or community-based study in the arts will not qualify for approval to meet the VPA requirement. However, at the discretion of the teacher and consistent with school policy, private study in the arts, which includes standards-based comprehensive study in all five component strands, may serve as an adequate prerequisite for placement into advanced and/or honors-level VPA courses.

Independent study

Following school district approved guidelines, school-sponsored independent study in the arts may fulfill the VPA subject requirement, if it is appropriately monitored by a faculty member, matches a concurrent “a-g” approved high school course and meets the “f” subject requirement guidelines as set forth above.

Sample courses

Samples of courses approved in the “f” subject area are available for reference as you prepare your own course for UC approval.


Other options for satisfying the “f” subject requirement

UC-transferable college courses or satisfactory scores on AP or IB exams can also be used to fulfill the visual and performing arts subject requirement.