Posts Tagged ‘visual arts’


In Today’s News

April 12, 2013

Arts Alive!

Annually at Dirigo Elementary School students have the opportunity to exhibit and perform their learning from their art and music education classes. Art teacher Karen Thayer is responsible for the organization of the annual Arts Alive event. Music teacher Scott Dunbar said the aim was to bring cultural awareness to the students, visually and musically.

Students performed songs from several other countries and created artwork influenced by student learning of artists and history around the world. The artwork will be on display until May.

You can read about the event and see photos in the River Valley Sun Journal, April 11 by clicking here. Included are photos of 2nd grade sun flowers inspired by Van Gogh.


Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Susan Beaulier

March 5, 2013

This is the 21st in a series of blog posts telling arts teacher’s stories. The first 19 were told last year by the phase I Maine Arts Assessment Initiative teacher leaders. The  series continues with the stories from the phase II teacher leaders. These posts contain a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to read educators stories and to learn from others.

sue beaulier2Susan Beaulier is in her 23rd year of teaching and is presently teaching PreK-12 Visual Arts Teacher in MSAD #32 in Ashland. Additionally, she has been the Coordinator of G/T Education for that same amount of time. In addition to Visual Arts classes, Sue offers a Digital Photography elective, and an Independent Study Seminar for High School students. Ashland Schools are a small school district in Aroostook County. Our district serves 6 communities. She is responsible for providing services for the 338 students in the district. Susan is a phase 2 Teacher Leader with the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative!

What do you like best about being an art educator? 

I like the fact that the students (for the most part) want to be in my classroom.  I think that the arts provide a platform for teachers to be more than lecturers. I like the honest interactions that occur within the realm of an art classroom.  The kids are comfortable sharing their thoughts, and usually appreciate my input as well. I like walking into my room in the morning and finding it already full of kids who feel comfortable there and who are actively engaged without being reminded to get started. I like that kids who don’t have art class sometimes drop in during a study hall and ask if they can draw or paint or sculpt. I like that kids choose to stay after school to work on art projects or just be where they are comfortable. I like the energy of the art room and I like providing a place where kids feel happy and successful. I like working across all age levels.  My job is never boring.

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?

  1. Creating an environment where kids know that there’s no such thing as getting a “100” in art.  I think it’s important to let kids know that it is through mistakes that they learn. Taking risks is more valued in art class than “getting it right” They need to know that they always have the chance for improvement and growth…no grade is final.  Giving students the time and permission to plan, experiment, play, reflect and re-do is really important.
  2. Creating a place where learners feel productive and successful, and where they feel supported by their peers and instructor.  Allowing for flexibility in pace, practice, and product is also valuable.  Making learning fun doesn’t hurt either.
  3. Highlighting for the students, the problem-solving skills that they are learning and exhibiting, and how these skills can be applied to other areas of their lives. Sometimes they don’t recognize these qualities until we point them out. This connection adds validity to what they’re doing everywhere

 How have you found assessment to be helpful to you in your classroom?

 Refining my approach to assessment has influenced my instructional practices .I used to think that adherence to a set of pre-established criteria might lead to “cookie-cutter” art products. Now, I am working to include the students as much as possible in developing assessment tools for their work. Creating the rubric  together  is now part of our introduction to the process. Assessment has proven to be a very valuable conversation starter in our classroom.  When students are involved in the assessment process, they begin to “talk the talk” of art and art education. I think that kids inherently know what a “successful” project looks like, but sometimes they lack the descriptors to communicate that. When they have the criteria and vocabulary to express them selves, they are empowered to create, analyze, improve their own work, and justify their artistic choices. When students know what is expected of them, and they have the chance to define levels of achievement in language that means something to them, their work improves. Assessment opens up dialogue about art. 

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

 My involvement with the Arts Assessment Initiative has provided many benefits. It has invited me to step out from my isolated domain, and share my thoughts with other colleagues in the art education field. It has allowed me to gain feedback about things that I do well, as well as those areas that need revision and improvement. I have met an entirely new group of people who share the same passions, worries, tasks, as I, and it feels good to be part of a group. My involvement has reinforced me in what I am doing, but has also offered suggestions for improvement. I have made new friendships and bonds over a short period of time. I feel like we are a family.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am at the point in my career where I am teaching the children of my former students. Additionally, I am teaching the grandchildren of some of my former classmates. I am heartened by the positive response I have received from all involved. It delights me when high school students or even parents tell me that they still remember and/or have an art project that they made in one of my classes. That makes me feel like I made an impression on their lives. One of my former students recently joined our staff as an Ed. Tech. She is also a dance instructor in our town. She told me that the opportunity I gave her in high school to participate in dance class changed her life. I recently received  e-mail from a student who I had during one of my first years of teaching. She was very kind in her remembrances of art class. She made me feel proud that I had an impact on her life. The accomplishments of my kids make me proud.

What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher? 

TIME gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher.  I do relish time away from the responsibilities of school, but those responsibilities never really go away. I always feel like I’m behind the eight ball! We live in a fast-paced world. There are many demands upon every person today, and achieving a balance is difficult. I think that, despite our efforts, there is never enough time to accomplish what we want.

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

I’m not sure that I’ve made much of an impact  on many of my colleagues through my hard work and determination. My fellow teachers often comment on how “creative” I am, and that I “do things so easily.” I have even had teachers tell me that I am “wasting my creativity” here at school. I truly think that they are speaking from a naive view of what creativity truly is. I feel that they think I am accomplished at my job because I possess artistic skills, and can demonstrate those to the students. They often comment that I “make things look so easy…”  Though they recognize my artistic abilities, many of my colleagues fail to see me as an equal in terms of being an educator. I think that they still see the arts as a “special”  (A term I detest!). They don’t recognize that my artistic skills are really just an extension of who I am as an educator. What they fail to see is that I face all of the same difficulties with educating kids as they do. Visual Arts is a language.  So, when I am introducing the tenets of the visual arts, I am essentially teaching students a new language. That does not just happen because I can draw well. The skills that are developed and fostered in the art room may not be practiced anywhere else in the curriculum. I don’t think that regular ed. teachers know this or appreciate its impact on all other learning. Much of what I teach is really taught “through” art, not” because” of it. The critical/creative problem solving skills, life skills (working collaboratively, taking risks, working through a process, observation, reflection, revision, perseverance, etc.) aren’t really the by-products of an arts education. They are at the core of arts education. I often think that my students understand the benefits of a quality education in the arts better than my adult colleagues do.

Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers? 

Don’t let technology replace human interaction…kids crave it.  If all else fails, Play Power Ball!

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

I would add it to my Maine State Retirement Account because Teacher Retirement is abysmal.

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets?

Of Course!  I should have sung louder, danced more, and afforded myself more time for my own art.

Thank you Susan for telling your story!






Graduate Arts Courses Available

February 10, 2013

Art:Music Assessment Flyer


AP Studio Teachers Gathering

January 16, 2013

You’re Invited!

ALL AP Studio Art teachers or high school art teachers who are interested in teaching AP Studio Art should consider attending the upcoming meeting in Rockland. Meeting at the Gamble Center, Farnsworth Art Museum on Saturday, January 26 from 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM. The Gamble Center is right next to the Wyeth Center, at the corner of Grace and Union Streets. Park behind the Wyeth Center. The classroom space is heated, has wifi, and a screen. There are several restaurants nearby for ordering lunch. Snow date is on February 2.

Mark your calendars – dig out an interesting lesson plan or two to share, and get ready for another great opportunity to learn and share!

Bring computer, flash drive, resources to share, lesson plans to share (with examples), student work for critique, ideas, questions, and a few snacks to share.

Those who have attended in the past always benefit from the experience. And, as an added plus, if you have not been to the Farnsworth recently, it is really worth a visit! There will be time after our meeting to check out the current exhibits.

Please email Kal Elmore @ if you have any questions and/or plan on attending!


Another Student’s Story: Natasha Shacklett

December 11, 2012

Featuring one student’s journey

This is the first in a series of blog posts telling story’s of students who are passionate about the arts. This series contains a set of questions to provide the opportunity to about the importance of the arts through another voice. You might want to share them with others. If you have questions or comments please post them at the bottom. These student’s might be middle or high school students or perhaps adults. If you have a story to tell please be sure to request the questions by sending me an email at

Natasha Shacklett, Oceanside High School, grade 12

Natasha Shacklett, Oceanside High School, grade 12

“As a child, I grew up around art and I’ve always loved to draw. My design for the cover of our yearbook wasn’t very premeditated; I sat down during the class and just did it. For future plans I’m applying to both art and culinary schools and I hope to do something with both in my future.”

Natasha Shacklett is a grade 12 student at Oceanside High School in Rockland. She is presently enrolled in AP 2D Studio Art with veteran art educator Holly Smith.

What value do you see in taking a dance, music, theatre, and/or visual arts course?

I think that there is great value in taking any kind of arts class. Art allows people to express themselves through creativity. Dance, music, theatre, and visual arts classes provide a place for people to be themselves.

Name three skills, ideas, or life-long tools that you have learned in your art courses?

I’m not sure that I can put what I’ve learned into a list. Sure, I’ve learned techniques and how to matte photos and paintings, but my art classes have helped me grow as a person. Saying what you learned in an art class isn’t as simple as saying you learned 2 + 2 = 4 in a math class. I learned that art is something I can always come back to, and it’s place where I can express how I feel about a subject. I’ve realized art is a lot more than just putting paint onto canvas, art is personal.

What is your favorite part of the art course you are taking? What are you most proud of?

My favorite part of my art class I’m taking is the free reign I’m allowed to take. If I have an idea of how to do the assigned project, and it’s a little changed from the original project, I can do it.
I’m pretty sure that the question, “What are you most proud of?” is referring to a specific painting, or maybe a concentration of mine. Truthfully though, I’m most proud of the work that my classmates and I did to save our art teacher, Mrs. J. It was hard work and at times became very emotional at the school board meetings. All of us were under 18, so we couldn’t vote at the meetings, so being able to influence people’s decisions and ultimately save her position makes me very proud of what we did.

Did anyone encourage you to take an art course? Who provides the greatest support for the work you now do and how do they support you?

When I started high school taking an art class was all my choice. As I’ve continued taking art classes throughout high school my friends and most of my family have been behind me in my choice. I’m not sure who provides the greatest support, everyone has their own way of showing it. My mother, father, and my brother, Brian, all have shown it through buying me endless art supplies. That’s probably the best way of showing support since I rarely have the money to buy them myself and I can’t turn down a new sketchbook or pencils.

How does your work in the arts support and develop creativity for you?

I find that when I’m making art I become more creative and start making more art and come up with ideas for more art. So I guess my work in the arts makes me want to make more art and become more creative.

If you could change any part of your arts education, what would it be?

I’d really like the arts program at my school to get more recognition. Even though we did hold a contest for yearbook cover, I feel like we are still judged very hard. As a member of one of the AP Art classes at my school it seems like the administration is pushing very hard to have us score higher and higher. Of course, getting high scores on our portfolios is what we aim for, putting us under pressure isn’t going to produce creativity, and certainly not the high scores they are looking for.

What are you plans as far as continuing your study of the arts?

I’m applying to a few schools this year, my top choice is an art school. I’d really love to get in and be able to submerge myself with all the creativity there. If I don’t attend an art school I’m going to keep working on art either outside of school, or perhaps major in something related to it. I’m not really sure what I’d like to do after college, but I’ll probably figure that out as I go along. As far as I can see, I have no plans of stopping my study of the arts anytime soon.


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!


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.


Another Arts Teachers’ Story: Charlie Johnson

July 24, 2012

This is the 18th in a series of blog posts telling arts teachers’ stories. This series contains a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to read educators stories and to learn from others.

Charlie Johnson started teaching at Mount Desert Island High School in 2004. He started his career as the first visual art teacher at the Jay School Department in 1973. He is the National Honor Society advisor for 20 students. His courses include Photography, Video, and New Media Arts. Charlie is a teacher leader with the first phase of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative.

What do you like best about being a art educator?

I discovered my love for art at an early age, while my love for teaching did not develop until I was in college, so there is one interest overlapping another, and they make each day different and exciting for me. Teaching something I love and that I can “do” as well as teach makes my connections with students real and meaningful, not only to them, but to me as well. The “best” part is that I can learn from them and their solutions to problems in art every day, and it’s something I love to experience.

Tell me what you think are three keys to ANY successful arts ed program?

  1. Teachers with passion for teaching and the ability to transfer that passion to students.
  2. Teachers with a strong knowledge of pedagogy and the content they teach and who can share this effectively with students.
  3. Teachers who constantly make the value of ARTS education obvious to everyone in their school from students all the way down to administrators.

Express yourself in many forms and let others see you do that!

What specific way(s) do your assessment practices tie into the success of your program?

Students who are given the opportunities to be successful at many levels through understanding completely how they will be assessed and have had input into that assessment are usually on one hand very satisfied with their work and the processes involved in achievement or, on the other hand, understand why their work was not proficient and understand what they need to do to alter their processes to accomplish proficient work.

The vast majority of my students enjoy the task of making their work mean something and seeing purpose and content applied in their work as expression of their own ideals and thoughts and feelings. It is through the process of discussion, critique and revision that draws them into their work and lends to it an enhanced sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

The “Learning Results” are an excellent structure to have students work within, and as soon as they begin to understand what the structures of the ARTS discipline are, their work begins to improve.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

For me personally, it has been similar to earning my Master’s Degree; as intense, but a shorter period of time. Being involved in the ARTS assessment initiative has really helped me to open my mind around education in general and to understand the need for a shift in the way education works. I think ARTS teachers have had it all together as a package for a while, but need to be more reflective and accountable for the important work they do with young people. It has caused me to “read” more concerning the specifics of my profession in general and myself as a teaching artist through books, professional papers, literature and articles/online content concerning the “how to” of methods and software around what I teach. I have “grown” connections to a small, but dedicated group of teachers within my geographical area of Maine, and feel a closer collaboration to teachers from other schools.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Making a difference to my students and what they accomplish in their lives, by far.

What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?

Nothing, any other answer to that question would simply be an excuse for not being the best you can be. If we are to expect the best from our students, then we need to be able to overcome all kinds of obstacles in our classrooms, from money to obnoxious administrators.

Apple or PC?

There’s a difference? Really, I own an iPhone, iPad and several PCs. The important understanding is around software, not platform. Apple seems to still be a bit more user friendly overall, but more controlling as well.

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

I am fortunate to be working in one of the best ARTS supported schools in Maine, but the pathway to this school required a lot of dedication, hard work, love of craft, and yes, luck!

Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?

Stand up for yourselves, promote our profession as a profession by acting professionally and setting good examples for students at all times.

Do things for your students/school without expecting extra pay, it is much louder than words and will more often be appreciated rather than expected. This also ties into the concept of being professional and of teaching being respected as a profession. Encourage or help colleagues to step up every chance you get.

Technology is about to change the face of education, get on board or get ready for a long cold swim. Don’t succumb to technology, but embrace it, always leaving time for a walk in the woods or along a beach!

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

I would fund a subsidized living complex for people with mental illness, making it as comfortable and spacious as the money would allow.

Charlie invites you to visit his blog at

Thanks Charlie for telling your story!

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