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An Email from Dan!

September 19, 2012

I received the following email yesterday morning from Mount Desert Island High School Art Educator Dan Stillman. Dan and his two visual art colleagues, Charlie Johnson and Elizabeth Keenan all enjoyed the opportunity of attending the visual art education conference.

Dear Argy,

Once again our MAEA (Maine Art Education Association) Haystack weekend rejuvenated the student-artist in me and inspired the teacher within me too!

Please indulge an inspired rant:

During my reflective return trip home on Sunday, I mulled over a few stories from art teachers who had a challenging time convincing their administration of the importance of attending yearly Haystack workshops.

I lamented “Why can’t some administrators understand how important it is for an artist to expand his portfolio and broaden her range of media? Why would they even hesitate to support the feeding of our souls? Don’t they want happy, inspired art teachers?!

It later occurred to me that perhaps our MAEA Haystack weekend might be experiencing the same perception challenges that many of our art classes do in our schools back home…

My experience is that most art students, parents, guidance counselors, administrators, and teachers-of-the-three-R’s naively measure the merits of an art class by the tangible art works and the apparent “fun” students have making them. “Specials” are often perceived as a reward for the students– a pleasant break from the rigors of an academic day. Is Haystack just a resort? Just an artist’s retreat? A pleasant break from the rigors of teaching?

While those perceptions are appreciative in nature, we art educators KNOW there are valuable skills and practical benefits to practicing one’s art. Do our principals and superintendents understand the rigor and discipline of an exhausting right-brained workout? Do they understand the degree to which our Haystack workshops put the ARTS STANDARDS into practice?

They should…and it’s up to us to teach ‘em.

  • WE are the teachers and preachers of the CREATIVE PROCESS for crying out loud!
  • WE offer an entirely different vocabulary and language to communicate and demonstrate understanding in all the academic disciplines!
  • AND we work and play at the tippy top of Bloom’s Taxonomy!

For sooo long the arts have been peripheral enrichment to core-subject learning in public education…

Now we have representation at the State level, our own Essential Standards and evolving, technologically-advanced assessments that give us voice and a level of pedagogical understanding no other generation of art teachers (or Haystack participants) have had before…

We should write thank you letters to our learning communities, show them samples of our work and spell out the rigor and reflection we enjoyed… and endured.

Those rushed samples of our weekend art-making can’t capture the intensity of our humbling experience as a student of art and the learning process. We need to share teacher-artists statements too.

Haystack where is not just a break from school… it IS SCHOOL that humbles us right back into students!

Phew,
Dan:)

2012 Haystack – Maine Art Educators conference

Photos in this post were taken by Charlie Johnson. You can view other photos from the conference by clicking here.

5 comments

  1. This is an awesome statement outlining a critical need that Maine Alliance for Arts Education can help fill. Thank you, Dan! Arts educators of ALL stripes could use some help communicating to parents and school administrators (and to legislators) the incredible value of arts education programs. Under MAAE’s new strategic plan we are working to develop a statewide program with tools and resources to help arts educators highlight the benefits of their work (and the importance of conferences like Haystack) to the people that hold the purse strings.


  2. Welcome Peter and thanks for joining the conversation! I know that the field is looking forward to learning more about MAAE’s strategic plan.


  3. Also welcome Peter, we here in the Hancock County area are looking forward to continuing our “alliance” with MAAE, having had the opportunity in the past to work with Carol Trimble on a number of ARTS fronts.


  4. Well said, Dan! Arts teachers have been teaching those higher order thinking skills for decades, so we are in a good position to help others see the value of the arts in education. Doesn’t it make sense that we should step up and take leadership roles to help others understand the important work we do? We can’t assume people know what we know. And opportunities like Haystack are CRITICAL to visual art educators to stay fresh, to keep on learning and to work with each other.


  5. This will be provided to our curriculum coordinator – THANK YOU



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