Just the other day, I debated with a “friend” on
Facebook who is a professor at a medical college. She was reading applications
for students who were applying for the masters program. She mentioned that one
applicant had taken a ceramics course during his undergrad studies, and among
other things, she remarked, to get an “easy A.” Thus began my turn at educating
her on all of the things her applicant learned in his “easy” ceramics class.
We have all had similar conversations and it is
difficult not to be sensitive toward these types of opinions. With the ongoing
threat of shrinking budgets, art teachers are especially sensitive. All too
often we hear of art programs getting cut permanently from schools. Add in the
uncertainty of how the Common Core movement will change arts education, and it’s
an intimidating time to be an art
The undervaluing of art education seems to be
growing at an alarming rate. We as teachers of the arts are sitting ducks,
waiting to see if things will change and how. We are victims of circumstance… or
are we? There must be something we can do. No, I’m not suggesting marches and
picket signs. I’m talking about using the skills we already have as innovators
and educators. Just think about the effect we could have if every art teacher in
Wisconsin used his voice and creative ingenuity that we gained from our art
Here are a few examples of how we can start to
educate the public on the benefits of
The old fashioned kind… on paper. Email is great, but it is easy to skim an
email and hit the delete button never to think about it again. A paper
newsletter can sit on the counter or even get clipped to the fridge if you’re
lucky! You could discuss what each grade level is creating in art class, what
skills they are learning, and how they are preparing children for the future.
This is a great way to educate parents on the developmental benefits of art.
You can offer tips to parents of elementary kids as to how they can assist
their child in further developing their motor and communication skills. A
newsletter would also be a great place to ask for supplies and especially
volunteers when needed.
Summer Mural Painting:
Contact some local businesses to see if they would allow you to paint a mural
on their building. In Augusta, high school art teacher, Karen Clark, holds a
summer class where high school kids can sign up to help paint a mural. Ms.
Clark tries to create one per summer and most are located in the downtown area.
Many murals are based on the history of the town. At last count, there were
seven murals in the small town of Augusta.
Community Art Projects:
Offer an opportunity for parents to come in on a Saturday or a few evenings
after school to create a large group project with their child. It could be
anything from a bottle cap mural, junk art sculpture, or anti-bullying art. You
may even want to plan this project and display it during a busy time in the
school, such as parent-teacher conferences or a Christmas
Giving Bowls Event:
In Fall Creek, art teacher, Tasha Newton, holds a spring giving bowls event.
Throughout the school year, each of her elementary kids creates and glazes a
ceramic bowl. In the spring Ms. Newton holds an evening event where the
community is invited to buy a bowl of soup and a ceramic bowl. Children give
tours of the school including the art room where volunteers are throwing pots
on the pottery wheel. The entire school is decked out in art from each grade
level. Ms. Newton also invites the news station in to cover the event. All of
the proceeds go to the local food pantry.
All of these examples will require more work on your part.
We all work hard and our time is limited, but we are creative people.
Enlist some help and find your voice. It’s worth it for the sake of our kids and
As a young graphic art student at Minnesota State University-Mankato, Amy had an opportunity to teach art classes for economically disadvantaged students. This began her passion for teaching. After finishing her BFA in Graphic Design and Sculpture, she spent a month backpacking through Europe where she was able to see, first-hand, many of the art pieces she studied in college.
Amy enjoyed 15 years as a graphic artist, website designer, and entrepreneur. Finally, the opportunity presented itself for Amy to go back to school and pursue a career in art education. Last summer, Amy graduated and became licensed to teach art. She spent the past school year as a long-term art substitute teacher in two different school districts and is looking forward to having her own classroom. Because of her diverse background, Amy feels that she can guide her students in their current artistic achievements and also help them envision themselves as artists in the future.