Top State Art Awards and the Highs and Lows of an Art Teacher

2 03 2014


It’s been a busy couple of weeks and they will only get more intense as results of juried art contests, scholarship awards, and exhibitions begin.  My art program at my current school is starting to catch air under itself.  I work very hard and dedicate a lot of time alongside my dedicated art students.  I have modeled what it takes to be successful as an artist and my students are exceeding most of my expectations.  Yes- there are a few who could work more but they are who they are and … I will keep working on them and not give up but I choose to focus on my achievers.  So my motto is “Get on board!!!  This ship is moving forward and you have a seat but you need to take it, it’s not reserved seating, and it may get taken by someone else if you don’t occupy it now! ” 

I take pride that my art classes don’t just encompass the gifted but all students with all kinds of skills and interests.  My demographic is pretty even for boys and girls, athletes and scholars, and I like it that way.  Art should be available for everyone to try it on and see where it will take them.

Recently, a series of seniors have been praising what the visual arts program has done for them in front of the whole middle school and high school.  They all mentioned how it is hard to be an artist but well worth all the time and effort with failures and successes.  One student in particular mentioned her experience with me in my studio for five years.  She was placed in my class as an eighth grader and has never left.  I was touched by her description of who I am and about what I have done for her.  I didn’t realize how much of myself I revealed to them. 

 NO- not anything crazy but she picked up on my kindness and support I give to students when they are struggling to be a teenager, to all the charity work I do, and a few quirks that she finds engaging.  I just do these things and I don’t really think about how much my students see or think about what I am doing.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because she is an artist and has keen observational skills but for some reason it surprised me.   She mentioned my work as an art advocate, my work with local charities, and my global efforts to help Haiti.  She stated that observing this has helped her see artists can and do make a difference.  It helped her decide to NOT listen to people who tried to discourage her from going to art school.  I nearly melted into a puddle of mush as she spoke about how she learns differently and it’s okay because she is an artist and can see and perceive the world differently.   I felt my heart skip a beat when she so proudly shared her path to become a secure young lady through the arts. Her success in the art studio helped her become more successful in other classes.   It was one of the very best speeches for the purpose of art education and what we do as art educators.  We do so much more for young people; more than teach our students to create wonderful art pieces- We create strong, healthy, positive, curious, creative people.


This year has been full of positive energy, honors, awards, but also challenges.  Most recently, I have felt that I need to pull out my art advocacy file and defend the Fine Arts program.  It is truly scary to think there are people who cannot see the value in a Fine Arts education.  I know it looks like we have lots of fun and it may even appear easy but I assure you it is not.  If it looks easy it’s because there is a heck of a lot of work upfront to support success.  I wish someone would wear my shoes for one week….be me!!! See how you handle all the different challenges that we as art teachers deal with all day.  I don’t sit in one spot and I do not have a correct answer to offer to satisfy my student’s questions.  I do offer more questions to propel discovery, I support self-discovery, I assist them to collaborate, try and try again, I help my students reflect, and learn.  I also ask them to show what they learn so everyone can see what they have struggled to create, question, think, and solve.  

This has been a strange couple of weeks where I should have been at my highest high, but found myself going into defensive mode instead.  It’s sad when the joy you deserve is tainted by someone else.  I am looking forward to the National Art Convention so I may steep myself in positive energy with other artist/art educators who understands the struggle.   Until then…. I will be in my studio matting all the latest art pieces who have landed in the top places in the state.  






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