Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Roadrunner Art Walk

The article for today's post was written by Thom Knab, whose bio appears at the bottom of this post. 

Advocating for your program can require creativity on your part. Let me share what I called the Roadrunner Art Walk.  The event received its name from my school’s mascot, the roadrunner.  I created an art show, showcasing my students’ art work along the main street of my district.  I contacted businesses regarding allowing me to display the works, facing out to the street, from their storefront windows.  Families and community members could walk along the street enjoying the student work displayed. The steps I used to organize this event follow. 

 First, I composed a letter inviting businesses to take part.  I actually walked up and down Main Street to hand deliver them to make that personal connection and get any immediate feedback.  I found that I received a variety of responses… some businesses absolutely loved the idea, some agreed with less excitement, others decided late, and some did not respond to my invitation at all.  It all worked out well as many businesses agreed to participate.  I even communicated with the local newspaper which was so enthusiastic that the editor sent a photographer to take pictures of students hanging their work and published an article advertising the event.  He was also very helpful in spreading the word to other businesses through the town’s Chamber of Commerce.  Next, I had to organize the show. 
  • I took photos of store fronts to determine size and number of pieces each could accommodate.  
  • I framed the art works to honor each student’s work and to make the best possible impression. 
  • I created a spreadsheet of businesses and the work to be displayed at each along with business hours so I knew when I could hang pieces.
  • The biggest challenge, or so I thought, was going to be to hang all the art work.  It actually progressed rather quickly and several businesses required or offered to hang the work themselves.  Those 3M clips work quite well for hanging, where necessary, as they come off cleanly after the exhibit.  Many store fronts have existing hooks and nails to hang their own displays or in some instances I just set the art work on the window sill when that worked best.  Again, I just had to be creative. 
I planned and communicated an end date (about two weeks later) to come back and pick-up the art works.  The Roadrunner Art Walk was quite the success.  Families and especially students were excited and proud.  Many made an event of locating their child’s art work and then finding lunch somewhere in town afterwards. The community was able to view the type of quality art work students had been creating and in turn what my art program was facilitating the creation of.  The newspaper’s coverage reached a far greater number in the community and helped educate them on the art program.  I wish you all the best if you should try this for your school and community.  Start out small, and if it is successful, it can grow.

Today's guest post author is Thom Knab, who has been teaching at Dodge Elementary School in the Williamsville Central School District here in NY State for 27 years. His name may seem familiar to some of you, because Thom has been serving as NAEA Elementary Division Director from 2015-2017.  He also served as NYSATA Host State Committee Chair for the 2017 NYC NAEA Convention, and was NYSATA President from 2013-2015, and was Vice President from 2012-2013. Thank you,  Thom, for giving us a wonderful idea that could be easily adapted for many communities.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Banner of Peace and the Universal Protection of Cultural Values

Up until my recent travels to NYC, I had never heard of Russian artist Nicholas Roerich or the Roerich Peace Pact.  But my visit with my husband to the Nicholas Roerich Museum, on the upper west side of Manhattan, changed that.  (All paintings in this post are paintings by Roerich).

You may wonder why I'm writing about a visit to an art museum on an advocacy blog.  I hope I can make the association clear in this post.

Roerich was much more than an artist; he was a painter,  a costumer and set designer, a writer/poet, an archaeologist, and a philosopher, and an advocate for peace and the preservation of cultural institutions, and art and architecture during wartime, regardless of geographical borders and boundaries.

Cultural preservation was very important to Nicholas Roerich throughout his career. Roerich believed that "the best products of humanity's creative genius were almost always neglected, or even destroyed, by humanity itself" (All quotes in this paragraph are  from the Nicholas Roerich Museum website.)  He composed a treaty known as The Roerich Pact, which "declared the necessity for protection of the cultural product and activity of the world—both during war and peace—and prescribed the method by which all sites of cultural value would be declared neutral and protected, just as the Red Cross does with hospitals."   He designed The Banner of Peace (below) based on ancient symbols.  "This Banner, flown at all sites of cultural activity and historical value, would declare them neutral, independent of combatant forces."

Quoting again from the Nicholas Roerich Museum website, "In so many countries we see a deterioration of cultural values and a disregard for the right of all cultural treasures to have their own continued existence, forever protected and unimpeded. We see destruction of life, property, and the inheritance of the creative genius of the nations. One can only hope that a greater awareness of the importance of humanity’s cultural heritage will increase, rather than deteriorate. There is no greater value to a nation than its culture."

That statement was not written recently, but it seems significantly relevant today.  When the protection of our cultural institutions is no longer seen as a priority, it becomes our responsibility to advocate strongly for the arts and make sure that the arts continue to be recognized and valued.  I believe, as our art programs are often ranked low in priority, we need to become more visible than ever before. 

I suggest you search through previous blog posts and keep reading future blog posts here on The Artful Advocate for ways to make your art program visible and ways to stress the importance of visual arts education.  And to learn more information on Nicholas Roerich, the Nicholas Roerich Museum, and the Roerich Peace Pact, check the museum's website HERE for more detailed information. 

And while you are visiting the website to learn more about the Peace Pact, don't forget to explore Roerich's beautiful artwork.  You will find many possibilities for lesson inspiration based on his artwork and his philosophy.  And if you find yourself in NYC with a few hours to spare, hop a subway to the upper west side and visit this hidden gem!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Become a Published Author in a National Magazine!

 Would you like to inspire fellow art teachers with your unique lessons, or classroom tips and tricks? You can write an article for a national magazine with a huge readership, and become a published author.  All you need is a great idea and a little bit of time to write!   Here are the steps you can take to create a wonderful article for an authentic audience:

First and Most Important: FIND a topic you LOVE and want to share with the world!
  • Brainstorm: Write things down, make a graph or chart.
  • Organize: Bring everything into one folder, such as any pictures you have taken so far, writing you've done, notes you've kept, etc.
  • Write a rough draft.
  • Have at least two different people look at the rough draft. 
  • Take clear and clean pictures.
  • Finish your rough draft.
  • Have permission slips filled out by parents.
  • When the article is written and you have all of your permission slips, you are ready to submit. 
Visit the two links below to find guidelines for submitting to both School Arts and Arts and Activities.

The article above was written by guest contributor Heather McCutcheon.  Thank you, Heather!
  • And here's an added bonus, when advocating for preservation and support of your art program.  When your article is published, make sure you send copies of the publication that contains your article to your administrator and school board.  They are sure to be impressed and proud that you are published in a prominent publication and representing your school district in such a positive way! 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Why the "A" is important in "STEAM"

Recently, there was a video posted on the Ford Motor Company's Facebook page that stirred up a lot of comments from people arguing about STEAM vs STEM.  There were so many comments on the original post that I can no longer find the specific comments I intended to share here, but since they were posted in a public place, I feel it is OK for me to paraphrase and share with you.   It may help you realize how essential it is to advocate for art education, because there are still  people who truly do not understand how indispensable the arts are in our culture and in our lives. 

Here's the theme of the comment that most concerned me: The author said that he felt is was a shame that Ford was promoting STEAM over STEM, and that it was not presenting a good message for our sons and daughters.  He felt that STEM was the right answer for our children because it leads to careers that pay well.  He further indicated that people who study STEM earn more than those who study art, and that and that suggesting that art was an an equal means to a career was not substantiated by facts.

So here's where advocacy comes in.  The fact that the author of this comment feels the way he does, indicates to me that perhaps we aren't doing a good enough job explaining the "A" in STEAM.  I think we as art teachers have placed a lot of emphasis on how art teaches kids to think creatively, to use critical thinking skills, and to solve problems.  We know this is true.  But, I may be unpopular for saying this, but the truth is, we are NOT the only discipline that uses critical thinking.  Scientists and engineers also use critical thinking skills and solve problems.  But there's another element besides critical thinking/problem solving that art adds to the STEAM equation, that I do not think has been emphasized enough, even though it's something we innately (and exclusively) know.

Let's say that someone has come up with an idea for a new product, whether a fuel-efficient car with modern technological innovations, or a prosthetic limb, or a faster toaster, or a more comfortable ergonomic shoe, or even a healthier breakfast cereal.  The scientific innovations of these products are important to making us want them.  But to SELL the product, it needs more.  Image is important.  The car needs to look cool.  The toaster should look great on your kitchen counter.  The look of the prosthetic should make the wearer feel confident.  The shoe should look stylish, fashionable.  And the breakfast cereal needs packaging that will make your child want to eat it.  The artist is essential to taking the invention, the innovation, and creating the visual design, the "packaging", that makes it saleable.  It takes that technologically advanced car and makes it beautiful, or sexy, or sleek, or fun-looking, etc.  And beyond the product itself, the artist is also the person who creates the advertising design that makes the public crave the product.

If you are doing STEAM projects in your school, go ahead and work on the problem solving, the critical thinking, and the innovation.  But don't stop there.  Remind your students that they are artists, and that if they are creating an innovation, that their job is also going to be to sell it.  The scientist, the engineer, and the mathematician expect the design artist to work on the packaging and advertising.  For the "A" in STEAM, our students need to go further than the conceptual part of innovation, and learn the design skills necessary to sell their innovations.  Don't forget the visual part of art!  Teach your students the importance of creating the visual design of their inventions.  If you are doing a STEAM event, make product design and advertising a part of the event, after the problem-solving part of the challenges have been completed.  I think here's where parents and community will begin to  understand how essential art is to innovation.

Back to the original comment.   Remember, the author said that STEM was preferred to STEAM because it leads to careers that pay well.  I have two thoughts about that.  First of all, he's just plain wrong.  Design careers can be lucrative.  Not all artists are poor and starving!  Second of all, we need to remember that career decisions aren't just about which career will make you richer.  For example, I chose to be a teacher, knowing that a teaching career wouldn't be the highest paying option.  But we don't strictly choose our life careers by which one earns more.  We find the career that best suits our skills, our personalities, our lifestyles, etc.  We who choose to teach do so because it is what we are, what we do; our choice to teach is a noble and meaningful choice, even if we will never be paid what an attorney or a doctor or an engineer will earn.  Everything is not always about money!! 

Thanks for reading my ramblings.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on how we can get people to better understand the importance of that A in STEAM!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Movies as Advocacy, for Youth Art Month and beyond!

It's Youth Art Month!  Showcase all of the great things you are doing for Youth Art Month in your classroom or district, while advocating for your program through a video.  It does not have to be a long video or take you three weeks to put together.  


Here are some tips to create a great movie in no time at all!
  • Take a lot of photos and some sort video clips.  
    • This can be on your phone, ipad, or video camera.  
  • Upload the photos and video clips to your computer.
  • Open your favorite movie-making program.  
    • My favorites are iMovie and Adobe Spark.
      • iMovie is on Apple products only, but can be used on any device.
      • Adobe Spark is a free internet-based program
    • Both programs are easy to use.
  • Once you have chosen a program, import the photographs and video clips.  
  • Drop them where you would like them.
  • You can add text and music if you'd like.  
  • Export and SHARE. 
    • Share your videos with us! @youthartmonthNY on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
Ideas for your movie:
  • YAM in your school
  • How students feel about the Arts and why they are important.
  • Why is YAM important?
    • Ask students, teachers, and administrators.
  • YAM in the Community
  • Students working..  They are the reason for YAM!
  • Special projects and ideas in celebration of  YAM.
  • YAM in your community.  How the community or schools partner together to support YAM.

 Today's blog post is written by blog contributor Heather McCutcheon.   Heather has submitted articles for Artful Advocate blog posts before.  Thanks, Heather, for another great contribution!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Another Fab Five, just in time for Youth Art Month!

5, 4, 3, 2, 1!  Here we are, standing on the doorstep of Youth Art Month!!  Are you stressed over time?  Still need some last minute project and event ideas for elementary students?  Why not jump right in with these 5 super ideas:

1 NYSATA  Youth Art Month Bookmark lesson -
Perfect for elementary school students to distribute in your building and at the local library.

2 Create book art sculptures (handmade books or recycled folded books) for a library display.  Perfect for older students.

3 Ask your students to write a short statement about why art is important to them... and have them read these statements daily, during morning announcements.

4 Read a story about an artist each day (choose one that's grade appropriate).  Example: Action Jackson, Linnea in Monet's Garden, When Pigasso Met Mootise, Ish, The Dot, The Boy Who Drew Birds, Uncle Andy's, etc.  Hook literature right in with the art skills, concepts, or media you are currently working on.  It is a perfect way to meet Common Core Reading standards in your classroom, and remember, discussing works of art on view can count as visual text.

5 Make a giant March is Youth Art Month banner to hang in the lobby; have students and staff sign it.  Hang student work all around it. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

A Vacation Week "Fabulous Five" Advocacy Ideas

It is vacation week for many, and at least a long weekend for most (well, I suppose the long weekend is over by the time you'll be reading this)!  If you are off this week, use the time to rest and recharge, as Youth Art Month is less than two weeks away!!!  If you cannot get away for a vacation,  use some of these virtual art trip ideas for your students to experience artwork from around the world, and some from home.

Visit an online museum, or build your collection of artworks. (Art Institute of Chicago has a "build your own 3-D collection" feature.)

Host an Artist in Residence Program during March, invite in community artists to demonstrate and/or talk to students.  Local museums nearby?  Set up a visit, and  if area artists have work present, try to arrange it so they can be present to discuss work with your students.

Do you love the work of George Rodrigue and his "Blue Dog"?  Take a virtual trip to New Orleans via Google and step foot in his gallery on Royal Street.  For elementary students, read Why is Blue Dog Blue? and create some mini Blue Dogs for the local humane society.

Create a Photo Story of a collection of work by an artist; include some biographical material, title slides, and music.  Display on your school web-page.

Cannot get to a museum?  Build a "Gallery Walk" - five famous works of art and gallery tags.  Challenge students to visit the gallery, observe quietly and write a "Twitter" style short critique/statement on Post-It notes as they choose their favorite work.  Post the notes and use different color Post-Its for classes or grades.  Do an informal poll to see what the top artwork is and announce to the school (beset at elementary level).  A great way to teach gallery manners, too!  Added benefit - have  the staff and teachers choose their favorites to write about as well!