Surprise! I'm presenting!
This is not my finest moment but I will survive! Somehow, I missed the email that informed me the proposal I submitted for the AENJ Full STEAM Ahead conference was accepted. I think it went to spam or something. Regardless, I was reallllllllly shocked to look through the conference offerings the night before it started and find my name listed as a presenter for Monday.
Lucky for you, I think fast on my feet and the proposal I had submitted related to an activity/lesson that was completed last spring.
If you are interested in the presentation, please click the button to be taken to my school website where you can find the document.
Each year, my 8th grade class(es) add a piece of art to the building. This year's mural was a really special experience because we were able to collaborate with a local artist, Jonathan "Lank " Conner. Jon taught the students about the use of stencils in public art projects. Each student created a unique design to be used as part of the image's background. The design was created in a tone on tone style - so as not to take away from the powerful mage of the Uncle Sam Cougar. Each member of the classes applied his or her stencil to the wall numerous times and helped to fill in the lower section of the cougar as well. To see the process from start to finish, check out the video below.
Society places certain expectations on those of us who choose to become educators. Whether those expectations are fair or reasonable is a very sensitive topic. Some expectations are, in my opinion, reasonable - but those tend to fall into the category of being a generally decent human being and nothing that goes into an individual's personal life.
Lately, I feel like society wants to judge me for my beliefs and activities as an artist. There are people who cannot understand that an art educator is still an artist, and thus may participate in activities that are not always mainstream. For instance, figurative drawing; despite the historical evidence supporting the role of figure drawing/painting in the study of art, the thought that a "teacher" would draw from a nude model horrifies some individuals. The broad association of nudity with sexuality taints this traditional part of artistic study for society, causing many to get their panties in a bunch over the thought of a person who teaches children participating in such practice. And heaven forbid the art teacher participate in the act of modeling for a studio of artists!
Another topic that ruffles the feathers of society is the study of anatomy and the use of carcasses to do so. I cannot tell you how many of my fellow educators have questioned me about the appropriateness of my recent work - still life paintings containing dead rabbits. "What you are doing is just so gross." "Why are you so morbid?" "How is that art?" I'm on the defensive at all times, armed with the names and dates of artists who used dead animals as part of their still life compositions.
You might ask, how do these people even know about the work? And I would say, SOCIAL MEDIA. What a mess! I made a FaceBook page linking to my personal/professional website to showcase my work and hopefully make some meaningful connections - both for professional development as an artist and for potential marketing of my work to galleries and curators. Friends start to "like" my page, and then their friends "like" the page, and before you know it through "likes" and "shares", the uber traditional folks see the work. Lovely. Just what I wanted; exposure - but this exposure wasn't quite what I had in mind.
I'm left wondering, would society prefer that its teachers are uninvolved in the subject they teach? Should I stop painting because I am a teacher? Should I not try to market my work as an artist because I am a teacher? Should I only explore work that is socially neutral and safe? Should I lose my passion for art and become just like "them"? Is this what would make society accept me? And really, do I even care if I fit society's norms?
I believe that an art educator should be a person who makes art. I believe that to be an art educator one MUST be passionate about art, whatever that art may be. I believe that all art educators should be encouraged, not discouraged, to pursue activities that tie him or her to the professional art world. These ties give the art educator opportunities to connect his or her classroom to the real world - and isn't that what teaching is all about? Aren't we supposed to make learning applicable and relevant to the life of the student?
If you are an art educator and you make art that is socially acceptable, great! If you don't, WHY IS THAT WRONG? Don't misunderstand me, there are boundaries in the classroom. I don't believe in sharing "inappropriate" art with students. But what I do in my free time, as a professional, as an artist has nothing to do with my classroom or with my ability to share my passion for art with students.
Oh, and one last thing... WHAT I DO IS NOT INAPPROPRIATE!
As many of you may know, March is Youth Art Month. This year I had the privilege of co-chairing the county show for AENJ. Artworks Trenton serves as our amazingf site.
Our exhibit will be on display until the end of the month. If you're in the area, please visit and see the work if the students.
Please take a moment to view this time lapse video produced by my friend, Andrew Wilkinson. He's an amazing local artist who is so community minded and supportive.
Sitting in an auditorium full of amazing people who are all excited from a few days at the WDS (World Domination Summit) can give even the most skeptical person a sense of grandeur and hope... That seminar in Portland, Oregon was where the idea for my daily teaching blog began. It is unfortunate that six months later the excitement and desire has dwindled. The truth is, I don't have time for this. Beyond the time issues, I've come to find that I do not I actually have much to say! Teaching is my passion, and art is the subject I love to teach. Please take note, writing about teaching is not my passion.
So, for now, here ends "The dust of daily life. I'd rather spend time painting daily and posting that work rather than searching my mind for an event worth writing about. Please be sure to check out the other art education blogs I have linked. Those people have something to say and say it much more frequently than I.
Foolishly, I planned clay lessons for both 7th and 8th grade at the same time. If I taught all ceramics in a ceramics designated space this wouldn't be such a disaster. As of today, my room has been the d-zone (dusty, dirty, and delicate)for 7 school days.
I am extremely fortunate to teach in a building that has a functioning kiln. This is not the case for some of the other schools in my district. I am also extremely lucky to have access to a slab roller and a great collection of glazes. So despite the mess, I feel very fortunate to be equipped to provide my students with this experience.
The 8th graders have been working on a hand-built slab mug during this project. The mug is a common project that I have done with classes in the past. This year, I decided to add some fun to the mug by incorporating a sculpture in the bottom of the mug - I can't take credit for this ingenious idea as I saw it first on Pinterest... Each student was asked to identity a "Personal Demon" - a personality trait that challenges them in behavior or thought. The students created sketches of the demon that made use of symbolism. The results are both enlightening and humorous. We are still drying out the clay to prepare for firing so I don't have photos to share yet. I'm really excited about this activity and look forward to its completion.
I've heard people joke about sleeping like a baby - you know, when you fall asleep crying and wake up screaming. I am pleased to say this isn't me, but this year has really done a number on my sleeping patterns.
My sleep is routinely interrupted by super realistic dreams. So far this school year I've woken up giving instructions for an assignment, convinced I forgot to grade something, and with a great project idea. Last night was the weirdest. I was completely convinced I was at Grounds for Sculpture last night - more specifically, in the basement. I went so far as to wake up my boyfriend and ask him why we were in the basement. He's a pretty good sleeper so I don't think he remembers this incident. I guess this isn't that odd since I was at GFS with the college students last night, but it sure was confusing at 4 AM.
I don't know if these dreams are connected to stress or to passion. Sometimes I think they are the result of my over-extended schedule. Regardless, I'm tired today.
I wonder all the time.
My mind is always turning and I am always thinking about why things are the way they are and what could be done to improve various situations that are dysfunctional...
Right now, I wonder why I bother. Mind you, I realize I am writing this to no one...
I've been really frustrated with systematic things lately - things that I can not change on my own. I get consumed with wondering why I bother going out of my way when so few care.
But that's just it - I CARE. I place value in the reflection process I go through to write this blog. I place value on the opportunities I pursue for my students. I place value on the big projects that shape my practice even if the people who sign my check don't bother to notice. I place value on my involvement with the larger arts community.
I believe in reflection. I believe in promoting student art programs. I believe in public art projects. I believe in the impact the arts can have on the community. These beliefs are part of my identity. They are part of who I am as an educator and who I am as a person.
I have to remember this because I will not let a dysfunctional system change who I am.
Middle School Art Educator. Adjunct Art Education Professor. Non-Profit Arts Organization Board Member. Artist. Arts Advocate. Dog-Mom. CrossFit Enthusiast.
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