Busy Studio

4 02 2016

Alisha mural close up.jpg

Many students have selected different media to explore and the artist proposals are being carefully planned, researched, and recorded.  I am very excited with all the progress we have made on our individual projects.



I love the level of seriousness each student takes in planning the and practice to create a strong outcome.  We have inspired graphic designers, industrial design, 3D printing designers, aspiring graphic novelist, potter’s, and many other forms of visual artists.


We are also closing in on some important deadlines for the Curbside Couture Recycle Runway Show, our Garden Murals for a big Garden Convention Art Auction, and several other art competitions.

It’s exciting to see all the changes in my students confidence in planning projects and following through with artist studio habits.  The documentation of the artists progress is  impressive.

If you want to learn how it all happens please tune into the Winter STEAM Arts Integration Conference.  Winter Arts Integration Conference

Weekend Workshop- Art Teacher’s Day Off

17 01 2016

DSC_0422We started this Saturday with a recycle fashion workshop mixed with a garden mural workday.  I have been busy preparing a session for the Winter Integration STEAM Conference including a Twitterchat and launching my new semester so a few of my big projects have taken a back seat.  Today we changed that and spent time in the studio designing.  The deadlines are approaching to complete our garments and murals; so the time was now.

The students trickle in and the materials I have collected over time, are piled in the studio for students to select for their designs.  Many of my students have prepared sketches, research, and materials so my offerings add to the mix.



It was busy the whole time and the structures emerged quickly.  This is a wonderful opportunity for my students to discover how to build garments and to play with unconventional materials. Students collaborate with one another on ideas and offer suggestions.  The conversations are a mixture of upcoming events and ideas for accessories for the runway.  The workshop never seems long enough and we anticipate the next workshop so we can see what everyone has accomplished.  I see these projects as a direct growth of what I do in the studio everyday but it has a team feel to it.  We are a school that is out to impress and hopefully win a few awards in the process.





Today we also had several artists who have volunteered to paint large garden murals for a local garden club for an upcoming Floral Convention.  The students planned the concepts and most students had a drawing complete so it was” block it in day”.

I am thrilled the end results of the auction of our murals will go to a organization that provides money for art supplies for public school art programs.  My students get a opportunity to paint on a large scale and contribute to other young artists development.

Providing time and programs to extent the discovery of new skills is a great way to build and advocate for an art program.  See you on the runway!





Happy New Year!

1 01 2016

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 9.04.39 AMFeeling like I have been neglecting my blog lately but I have been busy with life and preparing for a new semester.  I am proud to let you know I have also been working on my presentation for the Winter STEAM Integration Conference.  I have only 25 minutes but it will be filled with great imagery of my studio and information on how you might modify or blend your art studio.  Winter Arts Integration Conference

If you haven’t ever prepared a presentation to be viewed on-line, I would encourage you to try.  I knew well in advance that I would be discussing my transition to a Choice Blended Artist Studio, so I kept that in mind all semester while I was documenting my journey with my students.  I do find it difficult to really capture what is happening between me and my students without live video.   I am sharing small video clips to let you see through my student’s eyes, the way they see the studio.  I am also trying to share how I created my environment with my student learning platforms with plenty of room for each viewer to glean something that could be implemented into their studio.  Each course is different and each class has a culture, so taking what one educator creates and placing it into your space may not be effective.

I view what I have created and accomplished with my students as a joint system that works for our studio.  I have already made adjustments for the new semester based on feedback from my current students.  I will be including my seasoned artists as studio mentors to help continue to build and shape the program.


I don’t feel I fit into a particular group of educators so placing a label on what I am doing is not really my goal.  I know I am a student-centered educator that wants to engage my students to achieve something beyond what they believed possible.  If my studio is a pathway to spark creative thinking, open their minds to new possibilities, engage them with the world in a new way, empower them to have a voice, than that is what I do.

I am an educator with many skills, talents, ideas, and passions. If we look at ourselves as educators and what we can offer students beyond our own disciplines, our students will be better for the experience. I spend more time with my students than most people in my life. I love it and I believe it shows in my dedication and faith in my students. I may not have all the answers but I will keep after it until I feel I have met the expectations.


Wishing you a Happy New Year and looking forward to the National Art Education Conference in Chicago. Hope to see many of you there.



8 12 2015

Alyssa Gratio“Creative thought is a trial-and-error process that generally produces a series of failed associations before a creative solution emerges.”


So the semester is beginning to wind down or up, if you have frantic artists striving to complete works at the end.  I have placed the above quote on my laptop for me to read and reread.  It is necessary for me to have an orientation for what I am doing this semester.  I have a formula or so I thought, that would work this semester, and for the most part it has.  I need to adapt for larger enrollment starting next semester. I need to update and tweek a few Google forms.  My plan it to keep the set of Themes and add some Verbal Prompts to help assist my artists that need a bit more to get started.  I am also thinking, I may need to limit some of the media or steer students to materials to consider for their art proposal.

This of course has me diving in for more research and better ways to get my artists to connect deeper into their individual inquiries.  I also need to find a method to drop-in skill building techniques for the students who need it.  I am finding that often many students need some individual attention on a variety of media skills all at the same time.  I tell you I am a “jack of all trades” but I haven’t figured out how to clone myself yet.

I want to accomplish more than I can ,but I do enjoy the research and challenge.  I want to keep the discovery, inquiry, and choice for the individual artists.

Most of my students are developing, exploring, experimenting, and creating wonderful works that speak to their interests.  But I am still struggling with the student who craves more framework and directions.  I am doing the scaffolding and individual skill building but the motivation to do the work on researching the concept/process is still not there for some students.  I think for some students it may not be what they want from a studio experience or in the cycle of comfort or desire to learn more about creating.  It could be that the student has come so accustomed to just being told what to do. If that is the case, I will need to continue to offer support and guidance to lead them to choice.

I am preparing to present at the Art Closet Arts Integration Conference –http://artsintegrationconference.com/  

I will present what I have learned from a semester of doing the work and offer a few new questions for the viewers to research to customize the concept of Choice Based Art for their programs.




Serving Your Local Organization- Do the Walk

15 11 2015

DSC_0021We just wrapped on the Arkansas Art Educators 2015 Art Convention.  I volunteered to present two sessions and to also step into a Regional Directors position.  Yup!  It’s official I am full.  I have my hands full at my school all day and the addition of all the other organizations I run, advise, host, do…I am nuts.  So what’s the big deal to load on more?!  


Okay- yes prepping for a sub for two days and preparing two sessions was a challenge.  Stepping into a position and finding my footing along the way was stretching me but I think I survived.  My sessions did not go without their hiccups with poor Wi-Fi issues but overall not too bad.  I hope some of the teachers who attended my sessions gleaned some new ideas.  I was excited to meet with the region I have been assigned to lead, about what we can do to continue to connect throughout the rest of the year.  I proposed a few art coffee meet-ups to have face-to-face discussions and encourage professional development.  It seemed to be well received.  I guess we will find out when we have our first meet up.

I was honored at a reception this year for the Secondary Art Educator of the Year and as much as I felt it was an honor I wasn’t prepared for the emotion that spilled out of me in the moment.  I was so humbled and appreciative of the selection from the other art educators.  They get it…they understand what we do as art educators all day.  We are passionate people who are driven by a calling that we cannot control.  All week as I was preparing my sub plans and my session materials, I was thinking of my undergrad college art education professor.  Dr. Ernella Hunzinker, she would have loved to see me get this award.  Her eyes would have lit up, her smile would have stretched across her face, and she would be beaming.  She believed in me before I believed in myself.  I grew under her support.  She was a tough professor and students either loved her or disliked her.  I loved her.  I truly admired her ability to meet her demands as an art education professor in a male dominated field and manage her disabilities as MS took control of her body.  She never complained and pushed herself to get it all done despite the physical challenges.

Dr. Hunzinker came to my first district art show at my first full time teaching position.  She found a bench in the hallway and admired the display I had hung of my students work.  She sat there and waited for me to find a break from a group of parents and students to visit with her for a few moments.  I wasn’t expecting her.  I turned around and I saw her.  I was so happy she came and I was excited for her to see me in action.  I was her prodigy and she was my mentor.  I sat next to her on the bench in the hallway surrounded with my first years student work and she held my hand.  I looked at her and she had tears welling up in her eyes.  She said, “I knew you would be this great.  I knew you could do it.  I am so proud of you.  You will be great.”  I was a little surprised by her tears but not her words.  I could sense her pride in me.  We hugged and she stepped out the side door and was driven away.  Not long after I received news that her MS had limited her mobility and she retired from teaching.  Not long after she passed away.  My mentor was gone.  To this day I hold that last meeting in my mind.  This memory flooded my mind when I reached the podium to receive the Secondary Art Award.  I was overcome with her memory.  I could see her face again in my mind.  Dr. Hunzinker would have been in the front row.  


So I do the walk and the talk to help elevate art education in her honor. She would want it that way. Represent and elevate others to carry on long after you are gone. This is the legacy she would want me to leave behind.

 Street Sticker

I encourage you to step up and serve your art organization and help elevate art education in your area and then I challenge you to spread it on up to the National Level.

Many ways to nurture creativity, innovation, and service.

8 11 2015

IMG_6593My philosophy is, I have so many interests and I am passionate about all of them, so why not share it with the individuals who I spend most of my time influencing everyday. It just makes sense to me. I often hear this in my mind. “Be the change you want to see in the world” and “you will be remembered by how you made people feel”. No one knows how much time you have on this planet and I want my time to count for something worthwhile. I am one person, I am just an art educator, but I want to make a difference and I can by influencing others who will continue to influence more people. In my opinion, this is the best way to spend your time.

My program at school includes many moving parts that flow seamlessly and often has students gliding between one and more of my programs.  I believe in empowering students to take charge and to explore many different interests.  So with that in mind I host several projects and programs.

It is crazy at times because while I am teaching art in a TAB studio to five different courses, I’m striving to keep creating my own art and grow as an artist. Plus, keep up with art shows, professional development, home life, being a mom…..



I find it is all worth it. You can see it in the student’s eyes when they are learning something new or they accomplish something for someone else. You can sense the pride they feel and it is contagious. So this is my method to balance.


Art Club

I am the Art Club advisor that includes our Homes for Haiti project and our Curbside Couture Recycle Runway Show, mixed in with multiple service learning projects.  This year we are taking on a project to help raise money for local area art programs in public schools.  We are painting canvas tabletop cloths for the Garden Society of America’s big Garden Convention that will be hosted here in Arkansas.  We will be painting flowers and butterflies onto canvas that will be sealed and serve as the tabletop decorations for the luncheon.  The paintings will then be auctioned off at the event and all the money raised will be given to the Thea Foundation.  Specifically, Thea’s Art Closet that helps to serve under supported visual art programs.  It’s a way to get my art students to make beautiful art for one organization and to help local art programs.  Keeping vibrant art programs alive with great art supplies helps students stay in school and helps our community grow in a positive direction by fueling creativity.


Culinary Club

Culinary Club exposes students to cooking, meeting and learning from local chefs, assists students to gain knowledge about food and quality foods, and we get to explore culture through food.  With the cooperation of area chefs and home cooks we are able to teach students how to cook great healthy food.  Today we had our first event and our focus was Sushi.  It was so much fun watching students prep the food and learn how to prepare sushi rolls and to get creative with new sushi roll combinations.  Culinary Arts is an art form and learning to feed yourself is a life skill.

Sushi Class6


Fishing Club

I am also the advisor for the Fishing Club in our school.  I have over thirteen years of experience working with young children and fishing.  This week we had the Arkansas Game and Fish education coordinator come and share how to teach youth about fishing.  We fish tournaments but we also focus on conservation and exposing other children about fishing.  One of our goals is to host a youth fishing derby to teach kids how to cast, identify fish species, and how to take care of our local resources.


Fishing Class5

As much as this seems unrelated it is not. How to keep this all working? Is to teach young people to step up and be the student directors, mentor them to be organized, good communicators, good advocates, and stretch into the world for experts to help you with your goals. Tap the people who surround you. Other teachers in the building may have a skill set and an interest that would love to help you with a project. I work with the French teacher to support our Culinary Club and I tap several professionals outside my school to help support the Art Club and Fishing Team. You become involved in the school and the greater community. You build a network of support for more opportunities to enrich the young people in your lives. You gain pride in the projects and you gain stronger bonds with your school community.   Plus- YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE. When you make a difference so many other elements in your life fall into place.


Arts Reveal Night

18 10 2015


Bravo and take a bow! My super six artists owned the evening with the reveal of their thoughts, talents, and ideas. What started as a passing thought that I had to help bolster a few students and the new choice based studio, turned into an event that will be repeated several times this coming school year.

Here is the back stage story.

I had this idea early in the quarter for this event. I wanted to share what I was seeing, reading, and hearing from my artists in the studio. I was moved by the deep connection many of my artists had made to the Themes and how they utilized the Artistic Targets to help guide them to make decisions for the path of their work. The individual Artist Proposals and the Blendspace links had content that was interesting and the documentation of their progress was impressive. Problem was I was the only one who saw this entire piece happening. All most people saw was the finished artwork. The viewers rarely had conservation with the artist about the work of art. My artists rarely, if ever shared the meaning behind the work of art. What a shame. So much more is to be appreciated about the work when you see the whole process.

PROCESS is the most valuable part of creating art.

I have based my whole teaching career on the process. I LOVE the process and I am sad when the end of the piece arrives because the creating is over. All that is left is to display the work for others to view and judge. The connection to the making of the piece is gone. Until you begin the process of designing and creating a new work of art.


One artist had to leave early to go win a volleyball game.

So one month earlier, I either tapped a few artists or they volunteered to present. My brave pioneers- the SUPER SIX! All of the artists did different types of media and different themes. Most importantly they all had different amounts of experience.   I wanted a spectrum of artists, not just my Senior Artists and not only the very gifted. I wanted artists who have been creating in my studio and had something to say.

I knew of a passionate and talented Broadcast student so I asked him if he wanted to join me on this unique event and film it? He said YES! This young producer gathered his best crew and filled the library with equipment to film the best angles and record the best sound from the evening. I feel blessed to have such great young people who want to expand their own skill set and experience to accomplish something bigger than them. I will provide the link when the produced piece is available.

After teaching non-stop studio classes, an Art Club meeting, and my morning duty. I was able to get all of the necessary materials collected to fill the library to transform it into a stage for our artists to speak to an audience.

Photo on 10-15-15 at 5.38 PM

The evening before I painted a few banners with one of the artists and created a few photo booth props. You have to provide those social media photo opportunities. We hung the banner above the library doors so it greeted everyone the next day. I wanted to have students see that something special is going to happen.

After the last class was dismissed the same dedicated artist helped me move all the props and materials to the library. Down in the library a few more students volunteered to give me a hand. So I put them to work.

We rearranged the furniture, set up the white backdrop and lights pulled up the podium, big TV screen, and rolled out the red carpet. Next, were the flowers, setting up the homemade cookies with tea and coffee. (I had three of the presenting artists at my home to bake all the delicious cookies) We added a red velvet rope to the entrance and set up the photo booth area.

I set my computer up to cycle a PowerPoint with music showing all kinds of #Artists Hands for the early arrivals.

Soon my artists arrived all dressed up and a little nervous. They soon calmed down when the music started and they could see their artwork surrounding the area. We set up special seating for the artists on deck so they would be comfortable and could see and support the other speakers.

The audience trickled in slowly while we got our Broadcast team assembled, lights and cameras aimed at our presenters. I queued up a few of the student’s presentations and assured myself that a few technology glitches will happen just go with it. I was nervous too but I needed to be in control and focused on helping my artists give a good presentation.


The night before the Arts Reveal Night I was up a few times with fear that my artists would flop or worse not do it. Then I dreamed that the technology just wouldn’t work and all the artists’ presentations would be unavailable or worst yet…the audience would not appreciate the event.

I was so wrong on so many levels. My artists looked polished, engaged the audience, prepared a great presentation, spoke from their hearts, and made a deep connection with the audience. The audience was so appreciative of the artist’s messages and powerful voices. The passion my artists shared was goose bump worthy. The kind words and care my students expressed about the support and hard work I give to them each day was evident. I was touched because it wasn’t necessary.

The parents beamed with pride and they should! What brave artists!

Needless to say I was exhausted, my feet throbbed, and I was so happy. I came home and was so tired but my mind was racing. I did fall to sleep to wake up at 2AM to rewind the event in my head. I was so thrilled. That feeling was not mine alone. As soon as I got to school I was greeted with kind emails from parents and happy artists. I was told that they felt so validated and proud of what they did. They couldn’t believe they did it but they are so glad they did. In fact several want to do it again. Imagine that…THEY WANT to PRESENT to an audience! One of my artist said her parents could not stop telling her all night how proud they were of her. I could see it in her eyes that a new door opened and she wanted it opened. In fact I feel she kicked it off the doorframe the night before and the door won’t ever be shut again.


We need to model and provide our artists the opportunity to share their passions, ideas, and thoughts. It is such an important and necessary part of their growth.

Did it elevate my artists? YES

Did my artists feel supported and encouraged? YES

Was I nervous trying something new and different? YES

That is never a reason NOT to do it.

I am so glad I stuck with my gut.

I knew I could make this happen and I knew my artists could hold their own

and speak from their hearts and to share it with an audience.



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