Yes, and...

Several years ago I attended a workshop at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art that was facilitated by Trike Theater. The improvisational skills used in theater that were introduced have become very influential in my own teaching. “Yes, and…” consists of active listening and responding to the so-called, “gifts” that the person speaking provides. The “gifts” are words that are spoken that become springboards for a continuing chain of connecting responses. Here is a simple example-- Person A: “Good morning.” Person B: “Yes, and my fresh cup of coffee is adding to its goodness.” Person A: “Yes, and I am meeting a friend for coffee later today.” Person B: “Yes, and my best friend just share

Teach like a curator

A curator of an exhibition for a museum or gallery is given the responsibility of selecting the artworks that will be on display. Decisions such as the criteria for selecting, how many artworks, how many different artists, how the artworks are arranged, the wall text, the lighting, and the overall objective for the show are all up to the curator. As a teacher, I have never identified myself in the role of curator. But when I was invited to curate a Fibers exhibition for the University of Central Arkansas’s Baum Gallery, I soon discovered the correlations! I wanted to organize an exhibit that taught my visiting audience about the scope of techniques, materials, and forms that contemporary fib

Pete and Repeat

I am attracted to visual rhythm. Alternating patterns and repetition are very much a part of my personal aesthetic. The traditional silk Kente cloth of the Ashanti of West Africa that has influenced my own artwork, is a skillful interweave of the solid with the striped; the complex with the simple. Rhythm and pattern are also key components in teaching and learning. The beginning of the year is the best time to set up and repeatedly practice those routines that will lay the structure or pattern of your classroom. Learning requires ritual and familiar. For many struggling learners, they must have that predictability to feel safe and secure. But as with art, teaching and learning also requires

Praiseworthy?

One of my favorite roles as an art education professor is supervising my students’ experiences teaching in public schools. Often when we are scheduling the time for me to come and observe them, I will hear, “You can’t come on that day because I won’t be doing any teaching.” And I love to respond with, “So, what will you be doing?!” That idea that teaching is when challenging content is explained and presented in an interesting and engaging way by the teacher is really hard to give up. Of course what my students meant was that their students would be in the middle of an extended studio assignment and they would be spending their class time monitoring their students’ progress. While moving aro

for Real?

Author of the books Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work!, Austin Kleon says, "As every writer knows, if you want to be a writer, you have to be a reader first." hummmm.... that has lots of carry overs, doesn't it? If you want to be heard, you need to listen first. If you want to be famous, you need to be a fan first. And for me--If you want to be a teacher, you need to be a learner first. If you want to be an artist, you need to be a patron first. I've been in a room full of teachers, totally embarrassed with the disrespect being shown to the speaker. Perhaps there may have been reasons for their disengagement, but my thoughts today are that as I start a new semester as a teaching profes

Stubbornness

Don't you love it when someone puts a label on something for you? That is exactly what the book that I referenced in my last post, Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education, did for me. The authors labeled the studio habit of mind Engage and Persist as embracing problems, focusing, and persevering. As an artist, I think I can say that there is ALWAYS at least one point in time in the process of creating and making that I want to start over. And throughout my public art teaching career, I continually saw my classroom as a place where I asked those important questions like: "How can you fix that? What else can you add? Why do you not like it?" And I continually answered quest

May I have your attention, please

I am continually noticing how many similarities there are in teachers and artists. In their book, Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education (2007), Winner, Veenema, & Sheridan identify eight studio habits of mind. One such habit is Observe--giving attention to visual contexts. Yes, we as artists must continually develop our acuteness to visual elements and implications. The first step in the art critique process is also looking closely and describing what we see. A great teacher habit of mind is also Observation. One effective tip I gleaned from the book Teaching with Love and Logic, by Fay, J. & Funk, D. (1995) is the "I notice..." Begin to closely observe that student tha

First Day of School

As all of my former students know, my absolute favorite, user-friendly handbook with ways to engage any audience of any age is titled: Experience Art: A Handbook for Teaching and Learning with Works of Art by Nancy Berry, et al (1998). One activity that has resulted in very personal and reflective responses from viewers involves selecting a work of art to be a new friend. This will include creating a list of qualities that the viewer looks for in a friend and then matching those with a work of art. How does an artist communicate humor or honesty, or faithfulness? Then, the participants introduce their new friend. As I think of teachers' first day of school and their desire to get to know the

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