Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Polishing the Apple

I'm retired, so I no longer have to worry about getting ready for Open House.  But the truth is, getting my room jazzed up and filling multitudes of hallway bulletin boards with kids' art was one of my favorite things to do.  And, it is something I believe is actually incredibly important advocacy for your art program.  So today I'm going to talk about some hows and whys of starting the school year with a blast of visual excitement in your room and the halls.  (Below, a couple of pics of my classroom door.  Come on in; the color's fine!) 

If your school is anything like mine, the kids love showing the art room to their parents at Open House.  And they love showing off what artwork they have been making, even if they've only been in school a few short weeks.  So it's worth the effort to be incredibly prepared for these visitors, even if it means a bit of extra time on your part getting it all ready.  You want those parents (and board members and administrators) who walk in your room and past your bulletin boards in the hallway to be impressed.  You want them to be able to tell that amazing things are happening in the art room.  You want them to be able to feel the enthusiasm and sense the learning simply by seeing the kids' creations on those bulletin boards.

I had a large bulletin board in my classroom (you can see a view of it directly below), and three more outside my classroom.  Over the years, I took every opportunity to "adopt" other bulletin boards in the hallway, particularly those by the elementary office and cafeteria, very visible locations to any visitors to the school.  I highly recommend doing this!  I regularly kept these filled and changed every couple of weeks.  It may seem like a lot of work, but the positive image it gives both the school and your program will pay off when you need support for your art program.
To make things easy, cover all the boards with neutral bulletin board paper that can be re-used in the months to come.  I liked covering boards with either black or white paper, and occasionally a mid-tone blue.  Find a way to hang art that works for you; my preferred tool is the stapler.
You probably will have very little time for your students to create finished art that is ready to fill those boards in time for Open House.  One option is to do quickie one or two day projects during the first classes, simply for the purpose of filling these boards.  (If you need help with ideas for such one-day projects, I suggest hunting through the resources offered by art education bloggers, and Pinterest.)  A good idea for the start of the school year can be projects using kids' names, as seen above, or those based on books with an empowering theme, pictured below, such as A Bad Case of Stripes, or Only One You, which are both perfect start-of-school-year books. 
Above, A Bad Case of Stripes projects by grades 2 & 3, and below, an Only One You board with artwork by grade 2.  Signage for both these boards were hung on the wall next to the board and are not visible in these photos.

Another idea is to have the students create "welcome back" artwork in the final days of the school year.  Hang it up, and cover the boards with some newspaper for the summer so that the artwork is protected while the hallways are cleaned.  In September, pull off the newspaper, and voila!  Your boards are ready to go!  I don't generally like using patterns or templates, but a project like the "put your best foot forward" board shown at the top of this post can be an quick easy solution to filling a bulletin board in a hurry!  Make sure you make signage for the board explaining the grade level of the work and the motivation. 

If you are an elementary art teacher with hundreds of students, you likely won't be able to post work from every student in the school in time for Open House.  My solution: label the tables in your room by grade level.  Then place piles of student artwork in piles - one for each teacher, on the appropriate grade level table.  Guide visitors to your room to find the their child's grade level and teacher to see what the kids are currently doing, but make sure they know not to take the work home!!

As for that giant, room-length bulletin board in the classroom, this one was important for Open House.  Use bulletin board or wall space in your room to give the parents a sense of what goes on in there - what are the rules and expectations perhaps, and anything else that can be shared visually.  I always had an area of the board with a Word Wall, and another board with the work of a Featured Artist the kids would be learning about.  The bulletin boards pictured in this post are several years old, but nowadays, you can/should use your classroom boards and/or a parent handout to show your connections to the Learning Standards and Common Core. 

If you have a complicated teaching schedule, posting it visibly can be useful for both you and insightful for visitors to your room.  Below I have shared one of my old schedule charts.  These large posters helped me remember what class was coming when, since each day was different, but they also showed visitors to my room that I was BUSY.   That's subtle PR, and a great way to advocate for the importance of your program.

Here's a thought: music teachers "sell" their programs through their well-attended concerts; physical education programs are promoted through well-attended sporting events.  In art programs, a lot of the learning that takes place can best be seen through the visual product the students produce. So make sure what you display reflects that learning, and the value of your art education program!  As visual people, art educators should be able to use their know-how of basic design to "polish the apple", so to speak, and hang eye-catching displays that grab the viewers' attention! 

Note: all images in today's post are from my former K-6 art room in North Warren Central School in northeastern NY state, and have been previously used over the past six years in my personal art education blog There's a Dragon in my Art Room.  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Top 10 Art Advocacy Strategies for Back-to-School

Today's blog post is written by guest blogger and fellow NYSATA (NY State Art Teachers Association) board member Donnalyn ShusterDonnalyn recently retired after a 35 year career in K-12 art education. She serves as one of our award-winning  NYSATA Youth Art Month Co-chairs, conducts professional development for art educators and is a practicing watercolor artist. A graduate of SUNY Potsdam with both a BA and MS in Education, she mentors art education students and teaches at the Mohawk Valley Center for the Arts in Little Falls, NY.  Below is her article


As summer turns the corner into August, along with hot and humid days the all too-familiar "Back-to-School Blues" becomes the tune playing in the back of our heads. What to do? What curricular areas should I focus on? What will be the new ‘buzz words’ this fall? How can I manage more students, more classes, less money in the budget, and at the same time, find ways to advocate successfully for my program?

The answer lies below…in our Top 10 August Art Advocacy Strategies to ease that stress!
  1. Never sell yourself short! That means – you can self-promote your program and curriculum shamelessly – without the nagging fear that you are simply blowing your own horn. Start off with a program promotional brochure to hand out at Open House! (An example of a promo brochure I've used can be seen at the bottom of this post.)  Include key areas such as:
    • Your educational background ( degrees and certifications), professional memberships (of course starting with your state association of art educators), and some basic information about you (years in education, specialty as an artist, recent exhibitions, etc)
    • Photo of you
    • List of classes you teach
    • Learning Standards for the Arts
    • Brief Big Ideas or Essential Questions
    • Resources for parents
    • Student work or shows from last year
    • Include a copy of this as an insert:
    • Contact Information (school phone, email and web page)
  2. Get on the Board of Education meeting calendar for fall – to discuss program, new Learning Standards, ways you incorporate Common Core, advocacy work done, and orient them to the skills taught that are in demand for the job market.  Consider giving them a creative challenge along the way too….
  3. Update (or create) your school web page. Sounds trite – but offer course material lists, links to new exhibitions, interactive web sites, etc.  Perfect spot for #6 and #8!
  4. Plan, with your principal – a short, hands on workshop for your faculty to engage in during the first day of meetings. I have introduced themes and school wide events that way. (At my former elementary school, The Dot by Peter Reynolds was the motivation for a short drawing for staff to do for a collaborative installation of their works along with the work of students.  I pointed out that the book could be a resource for spin-off lessons, including fractions, repetition, cylindrical sculptures, mixed media paintings, collage, and pattern, as well as the concepts of taking things one step at a time, creating giant one day art installations, etc.)
  5. Set up a meeting with content area teachers – how you can assist Social Studies teachers with use of primary source documents, how to ‘read’ a historic painting or photograph using Visual Thinking Strategies, demonstrate the clear integration of art with traditional content areas. Share your content area standards with them directly – and find a way to build a meaningful, collaborative unit.  Demonstrate how valuable your support can be!
  6. Design info graphics using Canva – for display in room or on web site – statistics on the importance of art, etc. ( www.canva.com) 
  7. Make “Business Cards” to hand out at Open House – name and contact information – laminate and glue a magnet to the back.
  8. Create a set of 5 talking points on value of Art Education – have them ready to expand on at any time.  Keep them on a card in your plan book, date book, store on your phone…for that ‘teachable moment’ that can occur anytime! Building allies that support the visual arts – the opportunity can arise at any time! 
  9. Get on the agenda at a fall PTO meeting – to educate parents who are involved in education about the value of art programs – give them a challenge to complete as well. Planning ahead for YAM (Youth Art Month)? This is the time to put March on their radar screen now….and enlist their support in planning and hopefully helping to fund events.Need information? Click this link for our NYSATA (NY State Art Teachers Association) YAM page: http://www.nysata.org/youth-art-month
  10. Go Electronic! Check our new NYSATA Advocacy Page  http://www.nysata.org/advocacy,   loaded with resources, relevant information, strategies and step by step guides to make your art program ‘highly visible’ this school year! Use this Pinterest page https://www.pinterest.com/cr8tive/advocacy/  for inspiration and resources at your fingertips. 
Ready, Set……ADVOCATE! 

A couple of quick notes from Phyl - 
  • This blog is generated in NY state, where school traditionally starts right after Labor Day.  I know readers from elsewhere in the United States are often back to school as much as a month before us, but if you are a reader who is already well into your school year, you might still find some helpful info for right now, or to tuck away for future use.  It is never too late to incorporate new advocacy ideas!!
  • All links in this article are now included in the  "Useful Links" on the right side of the blog, if you are viewing a web version.  Check back frequently, as I plan to be adding new links on a regular basis!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Why an Art Advocacy Blog?

Hello world!  This is the first post of what I hope will be many regular posts, dealing with the topic of advocacy for the arts, and in particular, advocacy for art education.

So who am I, and why am I writing this blog?  Let me introduce myself to you!

My name is Phyl, and I'm a retired art educator living in northeastern New York State.  I retired four years ago after teaching art for 37 years in public schools, but, despite my retirement status, I have remained actively involved in art education.

I'm not new to the blogosphere - I've been blogging for several years at There's a Dragon in my Art Room.  On that blog, I have shared art lessons, my opinions about various topics of art education, and my own personal creative creative pursuits. 

Meanwhile, I recently began serving on an art education advocacy committee, and we've talked about how to share our advocacy tips and ideas with other art educators.  We are aware that art education isn't always valued the way we'd hope.  So to preserve and protect our programs, it is essential, as art educators, that we do everything we can to bring awareness to our communities of the positive benefits of  art education.   A blog seemed like the perfect way to share ideas beyond the framework of our little committee.  Since I already have blog experience, the logical next step was for me to create an art education advocacy blog.  So here I am!

Here's what you should expect to read/see, if you come back regularly to visit this blog:
  • Quick tips/ideas for how to advocate for your art programs
  • Discussion about WHY advocacy is important
  • Posts with stories/anecdotes and images submitted by other art educators about something they've done that successfully advocated for their programs.
  • Links to various resources and articles about art advocacy
  • Interviews with various art educators about their advocacy successes
It will take a few posts to establish the "rhythm" of this blog, but I hope you'll stop by regularly and find information that will be very useful to you, and heighten your awareness of the importance of being an advocate.  Don't be surprised if the blog looks a little different next time you stop back; this is definitely a "work-in-progress"!