Friday, May 10, 2013

Happy (Art) Teacher Appreciation Week!

My take on the "Keep Calm" meme, via

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! Of course every week should be Teacher Appreciation Week (and especially Art Teacher Appreciation Week), but why not pick one to celebrate and give everyone the warm-and-fuzzies? Following are some inspiring stories that may make you want to run and hug the closest art teacher.

Trading Security Guards for Art Teachers
Talk about art teacher appreciation! If this doesn't convince the world of the power of an art education, I'm not sure what will. MSN reports that a Roxbury, MA K-8 principal turned his school around through the power of art - or really, through the power of art teachers. When Andrew Bott took the position of principal at Orchard Gardens, the K-8 school was known as a "career-killer" after burning through 6 principals in seven years. But Bott injected life back into the school by thinking outside the box and reinvesting funds for security guards into art teacher salaries. Longer school hours and public recognition for exceptional art projects (or "shout-outs") have also helped re-invigorate the school. Principals, are you listening? (Thanks to Davis Publications staff for sharing this story!)

Teaching Art to the Down-And-Out
This next story is a little dark, but very inspiring. All art teachers have had more than their share of difficult students or classes (or so I presume, having once been a student myself!). William Murray spent over thirty years teaching art to one of the toughest crowds - prisoners. Murray was Minnesota's first full-time prison art teacher, teaching art to the incarcerated at Stillwater Correctional Facility in Bayport from 1974 until his recent retirement. Murray's stories from prison are not exactly replete with unbridled joy and redemption; the pictures he paints (both in his art and in his stories from prison) are rather grim. Despite this, I was touched by the humanity of Murray's work in the prisons. And there are sweet anecdotes too - one prisoner painted a Matisse-style portrait on cardboard. (On a related note, actor Tim Robbins recently spoke in support of prison arts programs at a hearing in Los Angeles. If you're interested, the NEA has more information on the arts in corrections.)

Art Teachers Are Doing It For Themselves
Finally, I recommend checking out this Kickstarter project from a New Jersey art teacher trying to reach the Arctic Circle for a unique expedition this fall. Laura Petrovich-Cheney has been accepted to a residency program in the Svalbard archipelago, between Norway and the North Pole. Her mission in attending this residency is to integrate her experience there into her elementary art teaching classes, where many of her students are disadvantaged. Petrovich-Cheney is obviously lucky to have this opportunity in the first place but the project demonstrates a devotion to her students and an interesting perspective on integrating environmental issues into the art classroom.  I hope she reaches her goal!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Oobleck Alert! The Brooklyn Museum of Science and Art Makes Its Way

Oobleck: a non-Newtonian "fluid"
Oobleck! This weird gooey stuff is the centerpiece of the Brooklyn Museum of Art and Science's first pop-up, coming this Saturday. Image by Flickr user Mrs. Dr. The Ivan.

A few months ago I posted a tidbit about a proposal for an art and science museum in North Brooklyn (my home!) - and it was very popular with you, my loyal readers! I'm happy to say that it looks like this exciting proposal is moving forward.

Meredith Hoffman of DNAinfo reports that a planning group has identified sources of funding and created a plan for a 100,000 square foot center, deemed the Brooklyn Museum of Science and Art. "It's not just a science or art museum," according to architect Darrick Borowski, "and it's not just crafty exhibits for kids explaining science. It's scientists and artists coming up with ideas and exploring issues together." Borowski also notes that the North Brooklyn neighborhood of Greenpoint, where the museum will be located, is a great location due to the number of families as well as artists and creative workers.

An exact place for the museum has not been identified yet, and it likely would not open until 2019 - but in the meantime planners will host pop-up events in the community. The first event is coming up this Saturday, May 11, in Brooklyn's McCarren Park. As part of the evironmental festival Go Green Greenpoint, a pool of oobleck - a material that is both solid and liquid, made of water and cornstarch - will be placed in McCarren's playground, so visitors can experience "walking on water." Oobleck papier mache activities will also be on-site for the art component.

For more updates on the Brooklyn Museum of Science and Art, check out their Facebook page! I'm looking forward to watching this project take shape right in my own neighborhood.