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Harlow Gallery: Hallowell

March 19, 2012

Harlow Gallery working with visual art educators

Nancy Barron, Program Director at the Harlow Gallery in Hallowell has helped to create a connection with local visual art educators to form a group called Art Educators’ Initiative. Recently Nancy answered questions for meartsed readers. Since this is a great model for other communities please share this post with your local galleries so they can think of possibilities for communities throughout Maine.

Mission Statement: “The Harlow Education Committee mission is to promote the arts through educational partnerships with the community.”

Vision Statement: “The goal of the Harlow Education Committee is to foster creativity by supporting programs and activities that encourage public awareness of, participation in, and appreciation of the arts.”

Tell me about the purpose of the Art Educators’ Initiative group.

The purpose of the Art Educators’ Initiative group is to give art educators a network of peers to problem solve, generate ideas, share professional development opportunities-in short, a support system.

Sounds like a PLC (Professional Learning Community) to me. How and when did this idea form?

Website for classroom workshop, Shalimar Poulin instructing

The idea was an “ah-ha” moment at the Harlow. We have hosted Higher Forms of Art for several years; a show celebrating some of the area’s high school students art work. It is unique because the students not only display their work, but select the work for the show (curate), hang and promote the show. A hands on experience in a real gallery. We always want to engage this high school demographic and brain stormed about how to do just that. We decided to have a young artists celebratory pizza party. We had a sponsor who provided the pizza and requested that the teachers invite up to 6 students and to attend themselves. (60 students were invited). Disappointedly only 3 students came to the party, however; nearly all of their instructors came. With art from these various schools on the walls, introductions were made and the event instantly morphed into a very upbeat networking session for the instructors. The teachers were inspired by their colleague’s lessons and curious about their techniques. Needless to say, the event, though not for reasons intended, was a complete success. I floated the idea to host an “Art Teachers Retreat” to our relatively new, but very eager Art Education committee. They, (some of whom are retired art educators) loved the idea. In May of 2011 we held a focus group compiled of about 15 area art educators, Art Ed committee members and the Harlow staff. We asked the group:

  • Is there interest in having such a group
  • If so, what they would like to explore
  • How often they would like to meet
  • Would they be interested in a blog to communicate between meetings

They liked the idea, were realistic about what kind of commitment they could make (4 times per year), and they came up with a list of focus items which included: website development, clay workshops, behavior in the classroom, and more.

What does your work include?

So far, nearly a year later, the group has met for a website for classroom workshop taught by Art teacher Shalimar Poulin-10 educators signed up for this workshop in August of 2011. We have had two meetings since in which a good chunk of time was spent talking about assessments. This piece was a real eye opener for me. This one topic is clearly something nearly every teacher seems to struggle with. Teachers were also encouraged to bring examples of “tried and true” lessons.

Tell me about the teachers who are participating. 

Website for classroom workshop

The group varies from meeting to meeting with between 9 and 12 teachers attending. Our list has grown from 20 to over 30 teachers now.  Many of the teachers on our list have participated in our yearly Young at Art month in March. But we are not limiting the group to school aged children. We have an adult ed instructor and two instructors of adults with mental illness. Instructors are finding us through email blasts to statewide groups. The areas represented are:  Bath (adult ed instructor),Wiscassett, Richmond, Gardiner (and all the schools they serve-Randolf, Pittston, Chelsea), Chelsea, Hallowell, Augusta, Manchester, Readfield, Winthrop, Monmouth, Wayne (Kent’s Hill), and Waterville.

What activities, forums, and/or gatherings have you provided for the teachers?

So far, we have done one off site workshop at Capitol Area Computers and three meetings at the Harlow. We provide snacks… a small gesture with a large impact.

What is your philosophy around the idea of connecting the Harlow Gallery with art teachers? Value to the community, teachers, students, and others?

Chantel Wellman, "Blue Rock' Gouche on Paper Cony High School, from this years Higher Forms of Art show at the Harlow Gallery

The philosophy behind the group is: Art teachers are a somewhat under supported group. Every year facing budget cuts-one of our instructors jobs was cut in half last year!  They are very often the only art teacher in their schools-there are not “teams” for them to bounce ideas off from. The Art Educators’ Initiative Group was meant to provide support-for teachers from teachers.

The value to the community will be teachers that, even with the unique challenges they face, will continue to provide the best arts education to students.

The value to teachers will be a support network, for example someone to call during the struggles of trying to understand how to assess a student that doesn’t fit the criteria for a passing grade in art. Professional development: something so important, to keep current with new trends in art education. The importance of this group for students will be art teachers that are fresh and focused.

What do your future plans include for the Art Educators’ Initiative group?

We are currently writing a grant to help support this group both by providing funds for a laptop and LCD for educators to present to one another, and for a series of clay summer workshops. This was one of the original requests from the focus group.

A great big THANK YOU to Nancy for taking the time to answer these questions. If you have others please post them below in the comment section of the blog post or email Nancy Barron directly at kvaa@harlowgallery.org.

2 comments

  1. I recently attended my first meeting and was greeted with warmth, collegiality and generosity.

    Thank you Nancy for sharing your “salon”…… : )


  2. What a wonderful offering to the community, so glad you’re part of it Suzanne!



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