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. ( 
  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:
  10. Go Electronic! Check our new NYSATA Advocacy Page,   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  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!