South West Co-Vice President
Starting a new position as an art educator can be daunting, especially if you are just beginning your career. Starting out as a new teacher, I felt overwhelmed. I had many of the same concerns that all art teachers face; how do I promote my art program, how do I show my administration the importance of the arts, and how can I show core teachers the importance of art in their classrooms?
Throughout my first two years of teaching, I have used many different strategies for promoting and advocating for my students and the art education program. The first thing I did was to be visible. When I say this I do not mean just artwork around the school; I mean making myself visible before school, after school, during prep time, during passing time, and most importantly during lunch. I feel that making a solid connection to the colleagues you work with on a daily basis is pertinent to developing your art program. I also updated the display cases throughout the year with new student artwork to show other students and colleagues what type of learning was occurring in my classroom.
The next thing that I did, as most art educators do, is to have a district wide art exhibition of student work. To form an even better bond with my administration, I created personalized invitations for my administration and handed them out in person. Doing this led to the superintendent and multiple other administrators and principals attending the art show. After making this connection, I used the support of the administrators to start an art club for the students. To advocate for the art club, I created a proposal that outlined expenses, student benefits, community benefits, and district benefits. I later wrote a letter to the school board with detailed notes about how the art club would help student development and how it would be beneficial for them. It took me about a year to get the art club approved, but it was well worth the effort and persistence.
What I found to be the best way to promote and advocate for my art program and myself was my love and interest for inter-disciplinary units of teaching with other subjects. Bringing art into the science, English, and history classrooms has really shown my fellow teachers and administrators the positive attributes of art education. My administration loves when teachers work together in collaboration and doing this has really helped illustrate how important the arts are to student development as a whole. Showing other teachers a positive way to integrate art into their teaching has allowed them to explore the arts in their curriculum, and has reinforced the importance of art as an integral part of education today.
Some of my favorite advocacy resources have been blogs and websites from other art educators. They are listed as follows:
North East Vice President
Visibility. If you want people to support something, they first have to be aware of it. They need to see it and understand it before they will be willing to support it.
Visibility. That’s one of the challenges facing art education today. Too many people see art education as simply drawing and painting and making pretty things. They fail to see that art education can be the vehicle for teaching students important life skills such as creativity, collaboration, communication, responsibility, leadership, independence, thinking, problem solving, and inquiry, to name just a few.
Visibility. That needs to be the focus when advocating for art education. Everyone involved–students, parents, community members and leaders–must be made aware of the values of having students actively involved in an art program. These values go beyond merely learning the color wheel and the elements of art. If students understand, for example, that they are learning to draw or paint as a means of communicating their ideas, it will become more authentic and relevant to them. As students gain creative confidence through the choices and decisions they make during the artistic process, they will be able to become advocates for art education themselves. If parents see the relevancy art has to lasting life skills, they will be more likely to support art education, as well as their students’ efforts at school and at home. The community will also be more likely to offer their support for programs they are familiar with and see the value in.
How do we do this? How do we make our art programs visible? It starts in the classroom. Students should always be made aware of what they are learning and why. This information can be communicated to parents through e-mails, newsletters, teacher websites or notes attached to artwork when it goes home. Options and suggestions for continuing learning at home could be included as well. Making classroom teachers aware of what is happening in the art room is another strategy to garner support. E-mails, copies of lesson plans, samples of projects, and hallway displays with objectives included can all help secure support from teachers and administration. An effective way to reach the community is through regular displays of student work. Whether that is an annual art show, pieces on display in area businesses, business partnerships developed to provide supplies or student incentives, or a space dedicated to student art in a prominent community location, we need to make and keep the community aware that our art programs are alive and well and are having a positive and far-reaching effect on our students’ learning.
Visibility. When I first started teaching, I was frustrated by the fact that there were no local venues for the display of elementary art. I wrote a proposal, put together a portfolio with examples of student work and ideas for displays, and approached a local museum, Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass in Neenah, WI, as well as the YMCA in my district. Both were very receptive to the idea of displaying student art and provided space in their facilities. I provide a new display of student work each month, drawing on support from other area art teachers. For the past five years, these displays have provided a consistent visual reminder to the community of the benefits of a visual arts program. An informational and educational poster describing the process and the objectives always accompany the displays. It has been a win-win arrangement! Students feel pride in the work that they are able to share with the public, parents are provided with an opportunity for a free family outing focusing on the accomplishments of their students, the community gets a peek into what goes on in the art rooms they support with their tax dollars, and the museum has been very pleased by the increased number of new visitors. Whenever possible, I use grade level projects, instead of just one class, to involve as many students as possible.
Visibility. Art educators have the opportunity to share the great learning that goes hand in hand with the great creating in their art rooms. They can make the value of their programs visible to their students, parents, and communities. Advocating for art facilitates collaboration with supporters and other art teachers, which serves to advance the quality of art education. We must not only be leaders in the classroom with our students, but also convey our objectives outside the classroom to ensure visibility and support for the future of art education.