Monthly Mentor

Robin Schnur (January)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Robin Schnur is the Director of Youth and Family Programs at the Art Institute of Chicago, where she works with an amazing group of leaders and educators to design and produce programs, resources, learning spaces, and leadership opportunities for (and with) young people and multigenerational families. A deeply held belief in the value of art and of museums to contemporary life drives her teaching and the work she does to create spaces for people to author their own museum experiences.Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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Monday 01. 8.18

Happy New Year!

From: Robin Schnur

This is the time of year that many people make personal resolutions for the year ahead. Perhaps more pressingly, this is also the time of year that many of us in museums and non-profits lay plans and craft budgets for the next fiscal year. That’s where my head is on this January morning: when I get back to the office on Monday, January 8th, I and my team need to finish up the process of outlining our fiscal year 2019 plan and determining how much everything will cost.

As we near the end of our planning period, I thought I’d share a few of the big questions we’ve asked ourselves as part of the process, which began back in September and will be all tied up in early February when I have to submit our official budget. In this blog post and subsequent ones, I’ll write about those questions and how we endeavored to answer them.

Question #1: What’s the ultimate goal for our work?

That’s a big one. I’ve worked at the same museum for 16 years and for most of those years I have been involved in leading efforts to create programs, resources, spaces, and leadership opportunities for K-12 students, teens, and families. Annual planning has always involved shaping a strategy, priorities, and actions for the year ahead.

This year we looked further out, asking ourselves what the ultimate outcome of our work should be. This entailed getting two divisions of our department together—School Programs and Youth and Family Programs—to craft an impact statement for our shared efforts to reach and engage young people. An impact statement is a one-sentence articulation of what an organization (or group within an organization, as in our case) intends to deliver at the highest level.

Crafting an impact statement can be tricky. We often propose our work in future-facing language about what the museum will do for/with a group of people (e.g. This new digital initiative will empower families to…). An impact statement centers the community, group of people, or system and the intended effect it expresses is much deeper and broader than any one program, resource, initiative, or group can achieve on its own.

A good example of a succinct statement of intended impact comes from the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History: “Our Community Grows Stronger and More Connected.” Nina Simon writes about the process of defining the museum’s impact and theory of change in a series of blog posts from 2015.

In our process, we found it was sometimes challenging to not have our impact statement include an indication of the changes our museum needs to make in order to be a more welcoming, inclusive, and equitable place for young people. Ultimately, though, an impact statement is not an articulation of organizational transformation. It is an expression of the positive change that will happen for people if your organization makes the right plans and executes them well. So, it sits out there at the very end of your theory of change or logic model; it’s the beacon on the horizon toward which you point all of your efforts, including those aimed at internal change.

This a basic theory of change model:

If we do these things (strategy, actions) >>> then these immediate outcomes will be achieved (e.g. teens will be involved in enriching arts-centered activities after school) >>> and then these intermediate outcomes will be achieved (e.g. teens will develop their creative voice in an inclusive environment) >>> and then ultimately this impact will be achieved (this is where the impact statement lives).

The distance between outcomes and impact is somewhat indeterminate. Generally, immediate outcomes are things we can observe in the space of a program or learning opportunity. But we know that transformation doesn’t happen right before our eyes. It can take years for an idea, an inclination, a way of seeing one’s self to take shape. The long horizon and aspirational focus of impact makes it very difficult to evaluate. I’ll try to come back to this in a subsequent post.

Back to our process. We began our exercise by using a series of sentence stems to keep us focused on the people rather than the programs or the museum. These were the ones we used:

I wish for every child and teen to feel…

Through an encounter in the museum every child and teen should be able to…

Every child and teen should walk away with…

To be honest, these are flawed sentence stems, and these flaws were well debated during the process. The second two were particularly problematic. Many people bristled at the word “should.” Rightly so, it does feel a bit like we intend to impose our will upon young people in these sentences. Once we wrestled with and moved beyond the imperfectness of language, we generated dozens of sentences that surfaced our aspirations for the affective, cognitive, social, and other dimensions of our work with youth. I should note that we did this first within our divisions—School Programs and Youth and Family Programs—separately, in two sessions each.

Then, we got this big group together to winnow pages of aspirational language down to one statement, using this protocol:

- first, people worked in pairs (one person from each division) to synthesize and craft a provisional statement
- then, pairs grouped together into 4s to share and synthesize their respective ideas
- then, we moved into two large groups of 8 to further synthesize ideas

At the end of the hour, we had a small handful of working ideas that were fairly close together. Subsequently, the head of School Programs, Sarah Alvarez, and I got together to merge and prune our language into one draft impact statement, which I’ll share in my next post after it has been reviewed and accepted by our teams.

At times, I and others have questioned the merit of spending much time on this effort of defining impact in one sentence. Can you really sum up one’s aspirations in 20 words or less? Have we approached this as thoughtfully as possible? What haven’t we considered yet? With all these questions, I remain optimistic that this process has positioned us to better align the efforts of a talented staff to the needs of youth and with the resources at hand and will enable us to communicate the value of the museum for and to young people in Chicago.

If you’re interested, here’s another good story in Medium about a museum seeking to define its social impact, by Kelly McKinley, Deputy Director of the Oakland Museum of California.


Thursday 12.21.17

Feed Your Soul – Finding Balance

From: Heidi O’Donnell
My last three blog posts have one word in common: Giving. It’s one of my favorite things… Arts Educator, Girl Scout Leader, Boy Scout Leader, Swim Team Parent Leader, Department Chair, NAHS Advisor, Workshop Presenter, Accreditation Writer, Webmaster, Mom… are a few of the giving (aka leadership) roles I’ve played in the last year. I’m going to share a personal struggle of mine that I know many may feel empathy toward: finding balance. I addressed balance in my last blog referring to giving and the balance of receiving. But today, I refer to the mindful balance of all that you give and it’s effect on your well-being. 
Not only has being a recent graduate of the NAEA School for Art Leaders provided me with numerous tools to assist in redefining and strengthening my leadership roles, but it has also helped me in creating balance. (I know I’ve put in a plug for this already – but seriously – it’s an amazing and transformative experience. I urge you to consider submitting an application for the program. One of the leadership exercises in the program required that we create circles to represent percentages in four categories of our lives: work, home, community, and self. What I remembered most from the exercise was the serious disproportion between the different categories. Work consuming the largest circle and self the smallest. While looking at these circles, we were then tasked to consider overlap. For example, part of the community circle included work with my National Art Honor Society that connects to my work circle. And so I began making more and more connections. 
Making these connections has lead to some changes and some better understandings. I’ve recognized that my self circle has grown some. However, I’ve also recognized that two of the most impactful parts of my life have fallen off my to-do list in the last several years: exercise and art making. I do both, but not enough. In checking out my overlapping circles, I’ve created more time to fit these into my life. I’ve saved and invested in a treadmill… Oh, the joy! Instead of sitting at my desk, I now run in the mornings (my self circle) while I watch videos or read articles to help in my professional development (work circle) or strategize plans for my Girl Scout or Boy Scout Troops (my community circle). In order to make more room for art making (self circle), I’ve decided to apply for an educator program I’ve wanted to participate in for a while now (work circle.)  The Maine College of Art offers a Feed Your Soul program to arts educators in June as an opportunity to refresh after the school year ends. I’ve already started the application process. Wish me luck!
How will you feed your soul this year? 
Heidi O'Donnell
Past President, Maine Art Education Association

Friday 12.15.17

Giving is a Virtue

Giving is recognized as a virtue in every major religion and in every civilized society, and it clearly benefits both the giver and the receiver. – Dalai Lama

From: Heidi O'Donnell

While I would be happy as a clam at high tide working comfortably in my classroom teaching art, I know I wouldn’t be the teacher I am today if there wasn’t a good balance of give and take. 


This is how I like my life – clean, organized, predictable, safe, etc. (I know, why teaching?)


However, chaining myself to this sense of comfort does not necessarily make for an excellent educator. Wrapped around the same anchor (be it lessons, curriculum, assessment, etc.) makes one the weakest link. It is only in breaking free of said boundaries, that growth as an educator and strength in programs are created. I have found that it is through giving, that I have received the greatest gifts. I believe the most powerful gift is one’s development as an arts educator.


So here are a few items to add to your list of gifts.

  • Mentor a student teacher.

If you light a lamp for someone it will also brighten your own path.” – Buddhist Proverb

(If you don’t work in the classroom, provide opportunities to job shadow, intern, mock interview, etc.) I took on this challenge and garnered numerous benefits. In working with my student teacher, I not only became more purposeful in the programming I provide, but I also learned and practiced a few more formative assessment strategies as a result. View a list of ideas here. Although I already use several, a few ‘new to me’ strategies I really liked include: 1, 3, 31, 41, and 50.

  • Start a blog or get active on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far go together.” – African Proverb

Recognize that you have a lot to offer. There are a lot of possibilities out there for arts educators that focus on specific teaching philosophies, age groups, and media. I find it particularly interesting to join groups outside of my current teaching situation or outside my current practice. I’ve gleaned so much over the years by reading and commenting on a variety of topics.

  • Start an Art Teacher Book Club.

A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.” – Chinese Proverb

I mentioned this in my last blog post, but feel it’s worth another plug. Facilitate a discussion and reap the benefits it has to offer.

  • Present at a conference, workshop, school board meeting, etc.

When one teaches, two learn.” – Robert Heinlein

Share what you are working on. You never know where this will lead – more conversations, considerations, resources, etc.

  • Take a class.

Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.” – Chinese Proverb

Take a leadership class (NAEA School for Art Leaders is excellent – I encourage you all to apply!), learn how to use a new media (even if you don’t think it you will use it in the classroom), learn about new ways to connect with other content areas (STEAM), the list is endless.

  • Other… What would you add to this list? 

It’s really all about collaborating and sharing opportunities. Go forth and give!


Tuesday 12. 5.17

Giving, Icelandic Style

From: Heidi O'Donnell

I recently read a treehugger article that shed light on an Icelandic holiday tradition I was not familiar with: giving books. On Christmas Eve, books are traditionally given and then the evening is spent reading. Second only to art supplies, I love books! This is a tradition I feel could apply to every holiday, in every culture, year-round.... Winter Solstice, Groundhog’s Day, Teacher’s Day (September 28th – Celebrated in Taiwan, honoring teacher’s contributions to their students and to society in general. The date commemorates Confucius, master educator in ancient China)… I also love celebrations and traditions.

Here in the state of Maine, we have an excellent Visual and Performing Arts Specialist at the Department of Education, Beth Lambert. Among numerous professional development opportunities she organizes and provides, such as bringing in national experts (including Robert Sabol) to run an Assessment in the Visual and Performing Arts Summer Institute as well as a Full STEAM Ahead! cohort (where educators cross disciplines to learn about Visual & Performing Arts and Science standards as well as explore co-teaching strategies), Beth facilitates a Book Club for Arts Educators. Let me just say, Art Teacher Book Club Rocks! Over the last two years we have read:



Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education
Ken Robinson, Ph.D.

Artscience: Creativity in the Post-Google Generation
David Edwards



The Artistic : 7 Skills Children Need to Succeed in an Increasingly Right Brian World
Lisa Phillips

The Arts and the Creation of Mind
Elliot W. Eisner

Other books I’ve recently read include two that were required reading for the NAEA School for Art Leaders program:



Finding the Space to Lead: A Practical Guide to Mindful Leadership
Janice Marturano

Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life
Steward D. Friedman

Suzanne Goulet, the NAEA October Monthly Mentor, gifted me one of my favorite books when I was elected President of the Maine Art Education Association position:

MaedaRedesigning Leadership
John Maeda

Presenters at NAEA National Conventions introduced additional favorites:



Color: A Natural History of the Palette
Victoria Finlay

Studio Thinking 2: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education
Lois Hetland, Ellen Winner, Shirley Veenema, and Kimberly M Sheridan

My holiday break reading list includes:



A Brilliant History of Color in Art
Victoria Finlay

(A gift from a student. <3)

The Forger’s Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century
Edward Dolnick

In the spirit of giving, my gift to you is the modest book list above. My challenge to you is two-fold:

1. I call on you to share your favorite teacher books/art books in the comment section. Spread the wealth!

2. Consider Art Teacher Book Club. Either join one you know of or start one. It’s an excellent way to build connections, share your wisdom, and flex your leadership muscles…


Martinko, Katherine. “The Beautiful Icelandic Tradition of Giving Books on Christmas Eve.”TreeHugger, Treehugger, 12 Sept. 2017,

Friday 12. 1.17

Season of Giving

From: Heidi O'Donnell

I have so many thoughts and directions for my contribution to this blog buzzing around in my head; I sought out a colleague for advice. I was told, “Simply, start with today.”

You won’t be reading this for a few days, but today as I write, it’s ‘Giving Tuesday.’ Giving Tuesday started in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation as a response to post-Thanksgiving consumerism – Black Friday and Cyber Monday…. Fueled by social media, Giving Tuesday has grown significantly and the benefits have reached many.

In the spirit of giving, I am thankful for how fortunate I am to have committed my life to arts education. By engaging in my passion, I have been blessed to give (and receive) so much over the years. As many of you recognize, giving in the teacher realm often extends beyond monetary means. [Blogger’s note: Yes, I acknowledge that many of us dole out a lot of cash to supplement our classroom and student needs – but let’s set that aside for the moment.] Teachers, by their very nature, are givers. We give to our students, to our peers, to our administrators, to our communities (whether they are local, state, or national), and even to ourselves. Our giving doesn’t happen once a year on a designated date as a reaction to societal trends, our giving happens daily through encouragement, support, listening, guiding, sharing… The list goes on.

As the year comes to a close and in the midst of the Season of Giving, I give to you over the course of this month, my time, my thoughts, my questions, my concerns, and my musings.

My first gift to you is a resource that some have found useful:

Monday 11.27.17

New Materialism in Art Education

From: Heather Kaplan

In previous installments we explored DBAE, VCAE, and Big Ideas. Art educators have utilized each curriculum approach to varying degrees. While the other installments took on a more historical view or sense of the present field, this time we will look forward, towards future possibilities for art education and talk about a newer, burgeoning approach to curriculum and instruction: new materialism. While new materialism is in the more nascent stages of research and theorization, there are a few examples of how it can be implemented in the classroom. Because new materialism is currently in its early stages educators who take up the theory may be able to steer and impact the success of this approach.

Looking more closely at the theory behind it, new materialism is a theoretical reordering of humanist and human-centered positioning of subjects and objects. Faced with and in response to 21st century dilemmas, that are quite literally human-made, but are beyond the scope and scale of the individual (e.g. global warming), new materialism looks beyond the traditional humanist concept of the subject/object divide in which the human and non-human are dualistically or oppositionally conceived. Instead, new materialism proffers a relational understanding of humans and objects, one which considers the ways that objects, not just subjects (read humans), have agency or possess the ability to act on and impact others. Hood and Kraehe (2017) relay a sense of how art education curriculums have failed to consider this position in the past, stating:

“Each object,” according to art historian James Elkins (1996), “has a presence – a being” (p. 12). For many of us, this is the attraction of being with art objects and creating things with material form. And yet, ironically, the art education frameworks that are often used to investigate materials and things – including discipline-based art education, visual culture art education, material culture studies, object-based learning, and choice-based art education – overlook the thingliness of things. That is, they do not satisfactorily capture the energetic contributions that material objects make in the creation of art. (p. 33)

Ultimately, Hood and Kraehe (2017) are calling for an art education curriculum that not only assumes that materials have meaning but that begins to account for the ways that “human and non-human, people and things – have material vibrancy and agency”. (p. 33) Likewise, a new materialist art education curriculum might look to the ways that humans and non-humans co-create each other as well as agentic, playful, and explorative learning opportunities (Kaplan, 2016). It might consider how clay works the subject, learner, and artist as much as it considers how the child works the clay.

To learn more about New Materialism see:

Carnal Knowledge: Towards a ‘New Materialism’ through the Arts

Artistry and Agency in a World of Vibrant Matter/ The New School

Three Minute Theory: What is Intra-Action?

Posthuman Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter


Hood, E. & Kraehe, A. (2017). Creative matter: New materialism in art education research, teaching, and learning. Art Education, 70(2), 32-38.

Kaplan, H.G. (2016). Young children’s playful artmaking: An ontological direction for art education (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). The Ohio State University, Columbus , OH.

Wednesday 11.15.17

Using Big Ideas in Art Education

From: Heather Kaplan

In our previous installment, we discussed the relationship and differences between VCAE and DBAE in order to think about and expand curricular possibilities for art educators. In this installment I will discuss another curricular approach, Big Ideas. Walker (2001) has written extensively about the possibility of using Big Ideas within art education but Big Ideas are not limited to the visual arts. In fact, one of the advantages of Big Ideas is their ability to reach 21st century learners, who are themselves arguably more connected than previous generations, and to create curriculum that is both interconnected and interdisciplinary.

In fact one the real advantages to studying Big Ideas is that it presumes a disposition of interconnectedness and connection making. Big Ideas are by definition, ideas are that BIG, in that they are large and overarching. This means that Big Ideas are bigger than one discipline (like math or art), and that the study of Big Ideas can be done either within a discipline or interdisciplinary and in a more holistic fashion-meaning that an entire grade or school could explore a big idea through its many curricular incarnations.

Walker (2001) claims, “Big ideas – broad, important human issues- are characterized by complexity, ambiguity, contradiction, and multiplicity… big ideas do not completely explicate an idea, but represent a host of concepts that form the idea.” (p. 1) Because Big Ideas are able to entertain ambiguity, contradiction, and multiplicity, curricula that use Big Ideas should aim to and will be able to entertain varied understandings and perspectives. Students engaged in this way will be able to, to some degree, direct their own learning, compare and contrast their perspectives against that of others, entertain multiple perspectives, and manage contradiction and ambiguity – skills that are preeminently needed today.

While Big Ideas can be adopted on a large scale (grade level or school-wide), Big Ideas can be effective at the classroom level as well. Walker champions the effectiveness of Big Ideas in art classroom curricula by making clear the professional (or discipline based) connection between ideas and artmaking. She claims that artists are not strangers to Big Ideas, stating  “Big ideas drive an artist’s artmaking over time.” (p. 2) Likewise, the educational resource and public television series Art 21 (Art in the 21st Century) claims that contemporary artists often do not work in a single medium in the ways they might have in previous generations, contemporary artists often work with and through ideas.

Walker helps elucidate how Big Ideas manifest in an artist’s work over time. She points out the difference between a Big Idea and a more pointed, discrete understanding of content. I like to share her example of Andy Warhol to help illustrate the difference. Let’s look closer: According to Walker the content or subject matter of Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Can prints is the Campbell soup can; however, if we look at the artist’s larger oeuvre, or the entire body of his work, Big Ideas like “the denouncement of the sacred values and ideals of high art” (p. 3) and concepts such as reproduction and multiples, consumerism, and the consumption of fame emerge. While it may require a deeper understanding of art, artists, and meaning-making, studying Big Ideas creates students who are not only able to think deeply about the works they are creating, but it also creates dynamic thinkers who are able to wrestle with complexity, ambiguity, and contradiction in their thoughts and the thoughts of others.

For more curricular information about Big Ideas please check out the following links:

What's the Big Idea? - Missouri Alliance for Arts Education


Walker, S. (2001). Teaching meaning in artmaking. Worchester, MA: Davis Publishing, Inc.

Tuesday 11. 7.17

VCAE: Opening Curricular Connections and Possibilities

From: Heather Kaplan

In our last installment I discussed the difference between the commonly taught elements and principles of design and a more generalized DBAE curriculum. In this post I will focus on the difference between DBAE and Visual Culture Art Education, in the hopes that this will open up ideas and possibilities for your art curricula. 

While DBAE is still the backbone of many formalized state art standards, VCAE is a more recent curricular theory that responds to historical and cultural changes of the postmodern era (Duncum 2015) and of contemporary art (i.e. after 1990). Although, it is arguable that VCAE is still quite similar to DBAE in that it does not displace the four professionalized domains of DBAE, in fact its adherence to this generalized structure is quite remarkable. I submit that, rather than displacing this professional system, VCAE merely shifts the emphasis from art making to criticism, while questioning what is considered within the realm of study and criticism in art education, and it ultimately asks for a broader definition of  who can be considered artistic or visual producers.

One of the biggest differences between DBAE and VCAE is that VCAE seeks to expand the field of study by pushing beyond traditional notions of the “fine” (“fine art” or “fine craft”) to include a larger realm of cultural production. Freedman and Stuhr (2004) define visual culture as “the totality of humanly designed images and artifacts that shape our existence.” (p. 816) Thus, in a comprehensive VCAE curriculum a masterpiece by Rembrandt might be studied side by side with a McDonald’s french fry container. In VCAE, notions of “high” and “low” culture are deliberately being rethought along with how these distinctions convey cultural capital and disseminate power. Ideally, the notion of an expanded field of art maintains that all human cultural production could and should be studied and that (good) design, whether consumed by the elite or the masses, contains not only the elements and principles of design, but also, cultural content worthy of study. What the study of VCAE provides is a criticality regarding the systems of production and how the visual creates meaning and covers or uncovers systems of power. Thus, the study of VCAE is often credited with increased emphasis on aesthetics and criticism.

Some criticize VCAE for this displacement of artmaking in an already discursive (verbal) school day (Duncum 2002). However, proponents of VCAE claim that an expanded study of cultural production better prepares students to deal with an expanded notion of knowledge one that Duncum (2015) refers to as “having no center”. While others state that VCAE prepares students to explore social justice issues pertinent to 21st learning, (Ballengee Morris, 2002a; 2002b; Ballenge-Morris & Stuhr, 2001; Delacruz, 2003; & Freedman, 1994 ) Duncum also asserts that VCAE mimics postmodern thinking and processes in which hundreds of connections are made and remade. He says, “This… enables us to associate one idea with another, one image with another, an idea with an image, an image with a song, a song with a memory, a memory with a movie, a movie with a poem, and so on and on.” (p. 53) Students who engage with learning in this way are not only artists, but they are capable of thinking, rethinking, and creating new connections and making meaning.

For ideas and examples on how to adopt VCAE into your art classroom curriculum the following sites provide curricular examples or describe curricular possibilities, many of which prominently feature artmaking as well as criticism:

For a short overview of VCAE see the following site, Visual Culture Art Education.



Ballengee-Morris, C. (2002a). Cultures for Sale: Perspectives on colonialism and self-determination and the relationship of authenticity and tourism. Studies in Art Education, 43(3), 232-245.

Ballengee-Morris, C. (2002b). Tourist souvenirs. Visual Arts Research, 28(2), 102-108.

Ballengee-Morris, C. & Stuhr, P. (2001). Multicultural art and visual cultural education

Duncum, P. (2002). Clarifying visual culture art education. Art Education 55(3), 6-11. in a changing world. Art Education, 54(4), 6-13.

Duncum, P. (2015). Transforming art education into visual culture education through rhizomatic structures.  Anadolu Journal of Educational Sciences International 5 (3).

Delacruz, E. (2003). Racism American style and resistance to change: Art education’s role in the Indian mascot issue. Art Education, 56(3), 13-20.

Freedman, K. (1994). Interpreting gender and visual culture in art classrooms. Studies in Art Education, 35(3), 157-170.

Freedman, K. & Stuhr, P. (2004). Curriculum changes for the 21st century: Visual culture in art education. In E. Eisner & M. Day (Eds.), Handbook of research and policy in art education (pp. 815-828). Reston, VA: The National Art Education Association.


Wednesday 11. 1.17

Elements and Principles and their Relationship to DBAE

From: Heather Kaplan

Last year after completing my dissertation, I swiftly packed up my life in Columbus, Ohio to begin a job as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Education at the University of Texas El Paso. Upon surveying the art educational landscape in El Paso I noticed a considerable curricular difference between the content taught in the art teacher preparation program (and inside the districts of El Paso) and what was being studied and theorized in the art education programs that I had attended in both the Midwest and the East coast. Specifically, art teacher preparation and student projects at the district level leaned heavily on curriculum that was driven by the study of artmaking as it pertained to the elements and principles of design. Listening to other new hires in states such as South Carolina, Virginia, and Michigan, I learned that my experience was not unique - that indeed, much of the curriculum being designed and taught, both at the university and district level, centered on the elements and principles of design.

While there is nothing wrong with teaching children the elements and principles of design per se, the elements and principles of design are only a small part of the world of art and art education (and the Texas Art Content Standards). More importantly a curriculum that focuses entirely on the elements and principles of design risks the larger picture of Art, Art education, and even of Discipline-Based Art Education. To be sure, Art, and well-designed communicative composition for that matter, is more than the sum of its parts. That said, it is my intention to use this blog to address other curricular models and to delineate how curricular theory has changed since the inception of DBAE. This post will address the elements and principles and their relationship to DBAE.

DBAE can trace its roots the 1960’s, when all subjects began to examine the basic structure of their disciplines. Even so DBAE didn’t really gain a foothold on art classroom curriculum until the Getty Center for Education in the Arts provided its endorsement and financial support (Eisner, 1990, p. 425).  While the elements and principles often go hand-in-hand with the study of Discipline Based Art Education, they are in fact not one and the same. Rather, Discipline-Based Art Education might better be described as the professionalization of the field of art education through an examination of what practitioners in the arts actually do. According to Eisner, “the four things that people do with art: they make it, they appreciate it, they understand it, they make judgments about it…are parallel to the disciplines of art production, art criticism, art history, and aesthetics.” (Brandt, 1987, p. 7). Thus we have the structure of professional activity mimicked in the four domains of discipline based art education: art making, art history, aesthetics, and criticism. These are the larger structures that constitute the study of a DBAE curriculum, not the mere study of the elements and principles of design. 

While the elements and principles of design can lend us a language with which to practice these four domains they themselves do not constitute a hearty study of discipline based art education (and for all those Texans out there they are only a small portion of the art content knowledge described in the art TEKS Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills). In fact the elements and principles of design are only one of many possible approaches to establishing a functional language with which to view, describe, understand, situate, and make art. For other possible languages see: Teaching the Elements of Realistic-Style Pictures by Paul Duncum, Postmodern Principles: In Search of a 21st Century Art Education by Olivia Gude, and Principles of Possibility: Considerations for a 21st Century Art and Culture Curriculum by Olivia Gude.


Eisner, E. (1990) Discipline-Based Art Education: Conceptions and misconceptions. Educational Theory, 40 (4), 423-430.

Gude, O. (2004). Postmodern principles: In search of a 21st century art education. Art Education, 57(1), 6-14.

Gude. O. (2007). Principles of possibility: Considerations for a 21st century art and culture curriculum. Art Education, 60(1), 6-17.

Duncum, P. (2013). Teaching the elements of realistic-style pictures. Art Education, 66(1) 46-51.

Brandt, R. (1987) On Discipline-Based Art Education: A conversation with Elliot Eisner. Educational Leadership 45(4), 6-9. 

Thursday 10.19.17

Ready for a Challenge? – How we find (make) our Pearls

From: Suzanne Goulet


Draw, write, go to that magical place in your imagination (day dream), are but some of the options if presented with a less-than-inspirational environment.

It is my belief that if you are bored, then you have missed an opportunity.

Maybe it is time to... ?


Connect with an Artist Educator – Open Your Studio Classroom

Loco Parentis.

Yes, your school law radar just went off. Working with an artist educator is like inviting the world adventuring aunt or uncle of your family. They are relations, but there is freshness and authenticity that enforces the purpose of our mission.

Tim Christensen is a Maine artist and ceramicist with experience with studio classrooms. Tim has facilitated individual and collaborative student creations. His most recent personal adventures involve illustrating a working trans-Pacific voyage on a cargo ship to Australia, and embracing the chaos of wood firing.


Who is the “voyageur” artist educator that comes to mind when you think of courage, and embraces the journey? What are the ways you foster perseverance?

Make a Commitment every week to Contemporary Art or Design

Share with students the art and design works of “today.” Authentic and real, these are great vehicles for students to get a bearing of where and what Art and Design is in the world.

Ai Weiwei’s NYC installations, new advertising campaigns (L.L. Bean’s, “Be an Outsider”), the illustration (and content) of the Ken Burn’s Vietnam documentary, and cosplay are avenues that can provide launching points for media literacy, introduction, and process.

This requires a component in your curriculum (and fluency) that accommodates the power of dynamics. Look for the connections. See the supporting pathways.

Engage with the NAEA National Convention in Seattle – An Oyster Shell

Nick Cave is our featured guest at the National Convention. An opportunity for connections to contemporary art and design, and an adventure in learning and sharing best practices with others.


Challenge yourself to attend the National Convention – to make pearls with the wisdom of your peers.


Learn more about the 2018 NAEA National Convention here.