Thoughts on Teaching Art

Over the years, I’ve had the extraordinary experience of working with countless students, on numerous art projects using the full breath of my artistic skills. During my short time at each school, I’ve watched my students grow from having no previous art experience to seeing them hold back nothing creatively. Each residency has brought a tantalizing taste of the power of art. However, once the students and I are in rhythm, my residency would be over. Students and teachers alike wish I could continue my work with them. We all feel inspired, enlightened and entertained. I am saddened to think that all schools do not have a full time art teacher on staff.

I understand the importance of creating a safe and secure environment for the students to express themselves and take risks without repercussions from shame, embarrassment and phobias.  In order to foster such an atmosphere, I maintain this security from the individual student to the collective. The sanctity of one’s and the whole’s expression are equally valued in all my classes whether it is a private or a public inner city school with all the students flourishing under my guidance.

I was teaching a class of 6th graders and as I walked around the classroom I noticed one student separate from the rest of the class. It was obvious from reactions of other students that he was not well liked and when I talked with him he seemed to lack self-confidence. To help him overcome this problem I made sure no one bothered him while he was working. I kept him focused on his drawing while visiting him as I made my usual rounds to all the students. He worked hard on his image of a red wagon with horses and when he told me he liked his image I asked if he wanted to share it with the other students. I then invited small groups of students to come over to see what he was doing and they complimented his work. I watched as he began to change from a quiet and timid kid to an open and self-assured person. With his newfound confidence he began to interact with his classmates and they in turn started to see him in a different way too. Near the end of my class session, he came up and handed me his business card artfully printed “Wagon Builder,” with his name, phone number and email address. The next week, as I entered the classroom he came up to me and said, “I gave you my card why didn’t you call me?” I kept his card to remind me how the experience of Art creates a real identity and lets one become self-confident and provides one with the power to overcome all kinds of obstacles.