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    The Oxbow School: A Semester of Art + Academics

    The Oxbow School: A Semester of Art + Academics


    • Listing Type: Private Schools
    • Residency: Residential
    • Type: Semester
    • Grades Offered: 11th, 12th, PG
    • Country: United States
    • High School Admission Test: Not Required
    • Affiliation: Semester Schools Network
    • Tuition Boarding: $33,000
    • Enrollment: 48
    • Percent Boarding: 100
    • Financial Aid: Grants/Scholarships, Loans, Payment Terms
    • Call: (707) 363-0449
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    The Oxbow School is a single-semester art and academically-focused program for high school juniors, seniors, and gap-year students located in Napa, CA. The Oxbow School also offers an spirited and engaging 6-week Summer Art Institute for rising sophomores, juniors, seniors, and gap year students. 


    Our vision is for Oxbow students to develop a stronger sense of identity, self-worth, and the confidence to embrace the responsibility for their own learning and lives.

    The Oxbow School is a one-semester coeducational boarding school located in Napa, California with a visual arts and academic focus. High school juniors, seniors, and gap year students can choose to attend in either the Fall or Spring semester. Founded 1998, and opened in 1999, the school is set in an urban environment. The campus is located at the oxbow of the Napa River and includes 15 buildings: studios, classrooms, dining hall, and two campus gardens; students reside in three bedroom suites in two dormitory buildings.

    Enrollment is limited to 48 students per semester at maximum capacity, supported by a staff of 8 faculty, a residential life advisor, 4 office staff, 4 kitchen staff, and 2 facilities/housekeeping staff.


    Since 1999, more than 1,600 students from all over the country have found their way to Oxbow. Half of them have come from public schools, and half from private schools; they have been divided equally between students from California and students from other states and countries. Some have experienced living away from home, and for others, this is the first time. Some students are already seasoned artists, and some have never before made a painting or sculpture. Some of them want to pursue art or design, and others are looking towards, medicine, education or public policy; many are still open and searching.

    The Oxbow curriculum is sequential, project-based, experiential, and interdisciplinary. Courses are team-taught across disciplines and media. Academic and art projects are based on research, reading, writing and study skills that extend the students capabilities to fully engage with the topics through experimentation, testing, and revision. With a heuristic emphasis on taking risks and assuming responsibility for decisions made, the sequence of the projects builds basic foundation skills so that at the end of the program, each student is prepared to embark upon a comprehensive, month-long Final Project on a topic of their choice, supported by research in relevant domains.

    Oxbow welcomes applicants from a wide range of backgrounds. Previous art and studio experience is helpful but not required, as instruction at Oxbow supports emerging talents in a nurturing but rigorous environment.

    We seek a diverse group of mature, academically sound, naturally curious students who have a lively interest in the visual arts. All students are required to live on campus and adhere to the Oxbow community standards and, by choosing to attend Oxbow, they commit to fully engaging in the challenge of forging mature relationships with peers and faculty.

    Oxbow accepts applications for either the Fall or Spring semester of their junior or senior year in high school, and, if there is space in the Fall semester, we accept applicants who are recent high school graduates. The 6-week Oxbow Summer Art Institute is designed for 10th-12th grade and gap year students.

    Questions about admissions should be directed to Jason Tucker, Director of Admissions at 707.363.0449 or jason@oxbowschool.org.

    Reviews (6)

    • Rebecca Manson- OS 14 alum (spring 2006)
      stars stars stars stars stars
      Reviewed on Sep/01/2016 by Rebecca

      I am a proud alum of OS 14- ten years later and Oxbow has continued to make impact my life, both personally and in my career. Oxbow provides a kind of education that never expires. Between the students, faculty and staff, the support system while you are there is the strongest I've been part of to this day. The Oxbow family continues to play a significant role in my life- these bonds are truly life long. Oxbow isn't just for students who want an in depth arts education- it is for students who learn experientially, are interested in pedagogy, in exploring their purpose and goals- it is for students who want to look deeper into their education and make it their own. Oxbow helped me build my confidence and recognize my strengths.

    • I attended Oxbow because I...
      stars stars stars stars stars
      Reviewed on Jan/26/2015 by Daisy

      I attended Oxbow because I was tired of fighting for creative space in a really hardcore academic-focused school. At Oxbow, I got more creative space than I ever dreamed possible-but I got so much more.

      I got:
      - A new cohort of friends who didn't care who I was at my old school, but were genuinely curious and driven to meet and get to know the "real me"
      - A faculty and staff (hello kitchen ladies!!!) that treated me like an adult where appropriate but still made sure I was safe and had boundaries
      - A better understanding of myself, and through that, the kind of self-assuredness and empowerment I did not see in many of my peers (back at my high school) until they'd graduated from college
      - A hunger for knowledge, and a love of writing that I always had inside of me but had never fully explored
      - A new way of seeing the world, through eyes more open, more accepting, more artful, even when I went back to my high school
      - A home, a haven, forever. I will always know that Oxbow is out there, changing other lives, creating wonderful people out of the students lucky enough to set foot on campus

      I cannot say enough good things about this place. It is rare. It is a wildly special hidden gem. I wish everyone was lucky enough to be a student at Oxbow.

    • I can say with all...
      stars stars stars stars stars
      Reviewed on Jan/23/2015 by Logan

      I can say with all my heart that Oxbow has truly changed my life. In just one semester I saw a development in myself that I never thought could be possible. The creative and supportive atmosphere that they have created here is something that I know I will never find again because it is so unique. The school aspect of it was so much more enjoyable and exciting then traditional schooling is. Oxbow bridges the subjects and makes connections between all aspects of life. I made connections and built relationships that will last a lifetime. If you have this opportunity take it! I have no doubt that this experience has pushed me above me peers and has shown me what a life of art will be like.

    • I have never felt more...
      stars stars stars stars stars
      Reviewed on Jan/22/2015 by Zoe

      I have never felt more at home or excepted in my life than my time spent at Oxbow. I met friends that I will be close with for the rest of my life. I attended Oxbow my first semester of Junior year, I am now into my second semester at a selective university that is ranked in the top 25 nationally, which I attend on a half tuition scholarship. I whole heartedly believe that I would not be anywhere near I am today without the aid of the amazing, supportive faculty at Oxbow. In response to a previous review which a parent's child was expelled, all I have to say is I am sorry that your child did not have the experience he/she was hoping for, but I would not trade my experience at Oxbow for anything in the world. There were several students expelled during my semester and although it was deeply saddening to all of us, looking back at my experience now, I believe that it was the right decision for everyone involved. Those of us left at Oxbow, were able to continue our semester without the pressure of feeling like we had to cover up for our fellow class mates and friends. Being expelled was a wake up call for my friends that had been sent home. Those who need help emotionally got it and those who needed to change their substance abuse habits changed them. Expelling these kids was so upsetting to everyone involved, the dean was crying when he had to tell them they were expelled. The entire situation was handled beyond fair. No one was sent home that shouldn't have been and the students that deserved second chances were suspended and got them. If you are thinking about applying to the Oxbow School, there is nothing I would recommend more. It shaped me as an artist and a person and I would love nothing more than for everyone to have an experience like this in their lifetime!

    • An absolutely wonderful and transformative...
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      Reviewed on Jan/22/2015 by Sonia

      An absolutely wonderful and transformative experience, the Oxbow School provided our daughter with the tools to become not only a better artist, but to explore all kinds of possibilities within herself. She attended the Spring '14 semester, leaving our home a talented but somewhat shy young girl and coming back a shining, self-confident adult, all in the span of 4 short months. As for the other reviewer's opinion that " The director spends his time hunting for reasons to expel students", I respectfully disagree. Every school has its policies for what constitutes ground for expulsion, and they were made very clear to both parents and students at the beginning of the semester. And when some students broke those rules and were expelled, we heard how painful the experience was for the entire school body, especially the teachers who, in such a small environment, form very close relationships with each and every student. Yes, no adolescent is perfect, but when the behavior of some endanger and compromise the experience of others, I absolutely agree with the director's decision to expel, especially considering how much there is to learn in the short span of one semester.

    • The Oxbow School opened my...
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      Reviewed on Oct/14/2014 by Anela

      The Oxbow School opened my eyes to so many possibilities, whether they be artistic or academic. I started to see connections in everything I do, and began to hone in on the things that are important to me, while also exploring a wide range of experiences. I have never felt so at home, or been in a community as strong as this school, and I find myself craving to be in a place that has a similar sense of communal spirit. I cannot express my gratitude for having had an opportunity to be part of the thriving, ever-changing community that has been nurtured there, this was in every way the best months of my life and I strongly suggest that those who want to see the world, and themselves in a creative and constructive way should grasp this opportunity and apply.