25 05 2013

I have had the opportunity to work with talented and compassionate artists throughout my career as an art teacher.  I have had several alums become art teachers, designers, and advocates for change.  I am so proud to have been a part of their development.  This is no exception.  Celeste Jennings is a junior in my art studio and she has been in my studio for three years.  She has participated in Curbside Couture as a designer and has blossomed through this experience.  Celeste can draw, paint, sculpt, sew, and just about anything else.


Celeste Jennings “Broken Heart”

Celeste created a touching painting about the loss of her father. She completed the piece during the last three weeks of school.  She often has several works of art going on so it wasn’t a surprise to see her sprawled on the floor with a large piece of mat board with watercolor, ink, and scraps of paper strewn all around her work space.  As I was teaching a different class Celeste came in to work during her study hall.  I circulate around the studio all the time, so I glanced over to what she was creating and what I saw, jerked at my heart strings.  A beautiful silhouette with gradations of thinned India ink dripped down the long surface.  The addition of a realistically painted heart was placed in the chest area of the girl who is symbolic of Celeste.  I watched as she tore the heart into pieces and placed it scattered away from the figure like a broken heart.  The lines of ink that dripped down the composition completed the figure but also reminiscent of a gown.  “Very Celeste”  She glued the pieces down on the surface and added crumpled pink and red pieces of Oriental paper.  I did not say a word but I knew I would need to ask her about this imagery later.  I continued with my class and the bell rang.  Celeste kept working….I looked over to her work space and she added red and pink drips of watercolor streaming down from the girl’s heart.  I had to walk away.  Such a powerful image and it said so much about her feelings- so personal.  I watched her clean up and prop the image against an easel.  Celeste was happily putting things away.  She was very pleased with her painting.  I did not speak to her about it.  I couldn’t – not yet.


OK Love- Progress Celeste Jennings

Days went by and Celeste left the painting alone and worked on a new design for a skirt.  I removed the painting from the easel and elevated to the front board.  Then during my prep Celeste came into work so we talked about her imagery.  She was not sad and was happy that I found her work so moving.  I told her that it was so different from her other works of art.  This was emotional and sad.  Celeste did not feel it was sad….she saw beauty.  Yes- it was beautiful …..a beautiful way to express her feelings about the loss of her father.  Celeste’s father passed away two years ago to a sudden heart attack.  We speak of him often and I feel I am beginning to know him through her.


Artist Celeste Jennings

I posted the image on my twitter and on the Ning Art2.0 and it got the attention of a friend who is an art teacher in Wisconsin.  She offered a suggestion….”maybe adapt the lines at the bottom and turn it into a tornado.  Do something with this image to help the children in Moore, Oklahoma.  You know like you did with the Homes for Haiti project.”

It never entered my mind….I was still captivated by her original image about her father.  Yes- I could see the possibilities but I already work very hard to support my Homes for Haiti project and this is a personal image for Celeste.  This needs to be her project and her decision.  It was exam week so I did have the opportunity to go to lunch with Celeste and so I offered her the suggestion.  She lit up!  She was so excited to have the opportunity to help the children in Oklahoma.  We raced back to the studio and within three hours she completed the painting.

I documented the process for her and we discussed how she can make this project work.  She took to the ideas like a duck to water.  The whole time she spoke about her father and what he did and that he loved working in elementary schools so this is a perfect tribute to her dad.  So today Celeste has opened her Etsy store to sell poster prints of her painting and is in the process of selling t-shirts too.  She is taking this project on with her mother and brothers support.  Our school community has embraced her idea and is supporting her project too.  It is my wish and hope that many more will support her efforts to help the children in Moore, Oklahoma.  Proceeds from the sales will be donated to an organization in Moore, OK for immediate support for families and hopefully a sizable donation can be given to an elementary school to help pay for rebuilding the school with a safe room.


Artist Celeste Jennings- OK Love Project

Just have to repeat myself again- ART CAN CHANGE THE WORLD!

Link to Celeste’s Etsy Store

Support and Pass Along



22 05 2013

On May 17th I was awarded the highest honor a faculty member can receive at our school.  It was our Class Day Awards ceremony and I had my son a graduating senior in the audience, in addition, my husband, my parents, and my brother-in-law and sisters-in-law.  I was already feeling very nostalgic about my son and this graduating class.  It was a big day and I had a heavy but full heart.  I hung in the balance of near tears most of the week and this day was not helping.

It has been a full wonderful school year and I have accomplished so much in my new school, my new city, and my new art studio.  This graduating class was instrumental in following my lead and supporting the efforts to help Haiti and improve and heighten the visual arts in our school.  I am the only art teacher in the Upper School and I teach several different courses.  I love the variety and I cannot imagine limiting my options.  It has been hard work but I finally feel I am making some headway.  I work hard to raise the standards, expand my student’s experiences, and provide new exciting opportunities.  The opportunities vary in range from local art shows, local art competitions, charity events, and community based exhibitions.  My students excel in all venues and I am so proud of them.

On this day my son was awarded the Citizenship Award and I was filled with pride.  He sang in the choir a beautiful song and I began to cry as I heard his voice sing out to the audience.  I did regain my composure to award the Fine Arts Awards and my voice only quivered once when I announced some of my student’s names.  A few are seniors and they are moving on…I will miss their faces.  I listened again to the other awards and my son was awarded an AP Calc Award, super happy…. Wow!   I was thinking to myself, I will miss him in my daily life at school and at home so much.  But I know he is well prepared and excited about his future so I am very happy.

Then the Trustee stepped up to read the award and he begins to mention bits and pieces of the award winner’s accomplishments and whispers fill the area surrounding the students.    Then it hits me…he is talking about me.  I am unable to breathe and I say to myself breathe and live in this moment.  My colleagues closest to me begin to tear up and this is not helping me maintain my composure.  So I decide to keep breathing and look out to the audience.  I spy a parent and trustee of one of my senior students and she is crying through her smile.  I look to my students below and they are all smiling and several are crying too.  At this point I glance to my family in the crowd and I see my husband.  It takes my entire self-talk not to get sick or break out in tears.

I accomplished something that I was always hoping to achieve.  I did it!  I stood up and accepted my award and I did not cry.  I did have damp eyes but I stood proud.  I really believe I made a difference in my student’s lives and I was accepted into my new community.  One of the things that was said during the reading of the award was the mention that,” I was a transplant Arkansan from Milwaukee, Wisconsin”.  I was touched that I did break through, I broke out, and I made it!

The Jackson T. Stephens Faculty Award-2013 winner is Joy Schultz.  I will be able to go to Haiti now with the award money to see the BeLikeBrit Orphanage, something I really need to see.  I will be able to select another enriching professional development experience too.  I am just not sure what that will be.

Right now, I am satisfied and looking forward to spending the summer with my son before he leaves for college.   I will refresh and begin a new school year ready to take on the world!

Wow! What a wonderful way to end the school year.Image

Here comes summer!

15 05 2013

Dancing Shadow- Ivy Cox

This photo says it all at the end of the year- artist Ivy Cox

As the year ends I strive to enjoy my students and all of their accomplishments.  Tomorrow we present awards to our students for each class and I am excited to recognize my students in a large forum.  This year is also exciting and bitter sweet because my only son is in the graduating class too.  My son is the light of my life and my biggest and best accomplishment.  We have been at the same school and have driven to school every single day of his life.  It will be an adjustment for the both of us when we are no longer tangled up in each other’s daily lives.  Lucky for me we have always enjoyed each other’s company.  The next school year without him will make me sad but I know I will just throw myself into new and exciting projects for my students.  I already have a plot to help expand my gifted photographer’s works next year.  I will also begin my summer working on a super summer program with the Clinton Foundation and the Oscar de la Renta show.  It is going to be a fashion illustration class for young teens to encourage students who are interested in the field of fashion design.  This is going to be fun to document and blog about this summer.

To all the art teachers and moms with kids graduating- keep Kleenex close by, take one day at a time, and live in the moment with a smile on your face.

Leaping into summer

Artist- Morgan McKay

Finding rewards after a long school year.

5 05 2013

At the semesters end we all are exhausted and have lists of things to complete before we can be off on our summer adventures.  We need to stay focused on our students and remember what is truly important.

Relationships with our student’s and celebrating successes our students have achieved by our combined hard work.

I have several things to be celebrating as the year wraps up.  One is the acceptance of two of my seniors heading to SCAD to explore an exciting fine arts education.  Plus- four of my younger students will be enjoying SCADs summer art experiences as well.  A bonus is one of my talented Juniors was awarded a scholarship to attend the Rising Star program.

Second is a request from our Congressman who was so impressed with my student’s photography submissions that he asked to display three of my student’s works in his local and DC office.  Two in the local office and one in Washington D. C.  This is so wonderful for my young photographers to get kudos for their hard work.

Third is one of my artists is donating a photograph to the local permanent art gallery collection at the Psychiatric Research Institute.


Photograph donated to Arkansas PRI Hospital- Artist Nick Simmons

 This makes me so proud that one of my students was selected and is donating his piece without a prize award for his contribution.

 Fourth is all my students who have donated time, energy, and talent to support local and International charities with their art.  I have dozens of orphan portraits to send to Haiti to the BeLikeBrit orphanage.  I also have five Home Plates to submit for auction in the Fall to help support local children’s charities.

 Fifth is the completion of three separate successful Curbside Couture fashion shows. We brought awareness and excitement to our community.

 Sixth are my students having confidence and works to sell on their own Etsy stores. Excited to see them taking control of  opportunities and learning about business.

 Seventh is completion of a fourth year working and continuing our work to help Haiti with our Homes for Haiti project.

  Eighth is all the beautiful art works that competed in local art shows.  Winning awards are great reinforcement for their talents but completing original pieces to showcase is a reward too.  I especially love to hear compliments from viewers and smiles on my student’s faces= priceless.


It has been a very busy school year with so many projects completed; artists’ works developed, minds expanded, hearts opened, and one proud art teacher.  Phew!  Yes- there are days I am stressed out and exhausted but I need to reflect on the accomplishments.

 Focus on the students because they are only in my presence for a short time and I want it to be worthwhile.

To all the art educators out there finishing up AP Art portfolios’, firing up the last kiln firing, returning art work, and hugging Seniors as they walk out your door.  We have an important job to do and we will be gathering strength soon enough, so take time to write down all of your accomplishments and reflect too.


   We  need to be ready to inspire next year’s students.  We have a very important job to do.

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