Monthly Mentor

Annie Burbidge Ream (October)
Serving as Curator of Education at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Annie Burbidge Ream oversees the administration of school programs and statewide outreach that serves over 21,000 students and 1,700 teachers annually across the state of Utah. Annie joined the UMFA staff in 2008 as tour coordinator before moving into school outreach in 2010. After several years of traveling and teaching visual arts across the state, she began to re-envision UMFA school programs to emphasize the importance of museums as a community space for everyone. And if you can’t come to the museum, Annie will bring the museum to you! From urban to the most rural corners of Utah, Annie facilitates museum-in-residency programs to schools and communities providing access to underserved populations that frequently have limited visual arts experiences. Click "Go" to read her full bio.



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Friday 10.21.16

Planning Your Meet-Up: The Power of Climate and its Effects on a Landscape

From: Annie Burbidge Ream

How might experiencing Land art be different depending on the season?
If you could pick a time of year to visit these sites when would it be?

Works of art like Sun Tunnels and Spiral Jetty highlight the dynamism and rapid changes of Utah’s landscape. Clear skies quickly turn dark; water levels engulf a lakebed and then disappear. To me, one of the most exciting things about Land art is no matter how many times you visit these places each experience is completely different and new.

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Sun Tunnels can be severely hot in the summer or a muddy mess during spring showers. During this past April’s meet-up most of the cars were stuck in the mud after a series of heavy rainstorms, and as we were pushing cars, I looked up to notice my friend and colleague’s hair standing straight up in the air. After commenting how cool it looked, we both yelled, “LIGHTNING!!!” and ran and tripped through the mud as fast as we could to the safety of the car. Exploring Land art means embracing the idea that you never know exactly what nature is going to hand you.

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Robert Smithson completed Spiral Jetty in 1970 and shortly after it was submerged by flooding waters only to re-emerge in the early 2000s. Today, due to drought, the water is a fifteen-minute walk down the lakebed from the artwork, the rocks of Spiral Jetty covered not by water but salt and sand. In the spring and summer, thousands of pelicans fly over your head as you stand on the artwork; fall brings crystalized bugs stuck in the lakebed; and winter is silent as six-foot-tall mountains of foam roll, flop, and dance over the landscape.

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Both Sun Tunnels and Spiral Jetty highlight the power of our climate and its effects on a landscape. By experiencing these works we are able to witness nature at its most extreme. We like to remind visitors to these sites to always be prepared. Check the weather; bring lots of water, food, proper clothing and footwear. We also ask that you “leave no trace” when visiting by carrying out anything you bring and leave the natural environment exactly how you found it. Visit our website for more details. 

An important aspect of programming for Land art at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts is creating teacher resources and providing professional development for K-12 educators across the state. We know that when we work with teachers to develop classroom content that connects Core Standards with artworks our impact grows exponentially and our resources serve even more students across the state.

An educator professional development workshop model we have been testing recently brings teachers and their families together for a Land art workshop. Teachers and their families start in the morning together learning about Sun Tunnels and Spiral Jetty and creating art in response. Then the teachers and families split into breakout sessions. The teachers explore how to incorporate Land art and STEAM curricula into their classroom, while the families do a number of hands-on experiential workshops to learn and experience concepts connected to these important works.

Here are some examples of lesson plans presented at educator professional developments on Sun Tunnels and Spiral Jetty written by my colleague, Laura Decker. These lesson plans highlight arts integration of some of the content mentioned above –nature, climate-change, and site.  

Earthworks Ecosystems Lesson Plan

Tunnel Vision Diorama Lesson Plan

Last week is our final Land art post folks! We will end by talking a bit about artists Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson, and highlight the challenges and successes of getting students out to visit these sites in person!


Friday 10.14.16

Experiencing the Landscape in Landscape Art

From: Annie Burbidge Ream

How do both Spiral Jetty and Sun Tunnels help you experience the landscape around it?
Why do you think the artists picked these sites for their artwork?


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Land art is often site-specific. Robert Smithson used basalt rocks from Rozel Point in Great Salt Lake to create his spiral, while Nancy Holt placed human-made concrete tubes on the desert floor that line up with the sunrise and sunset of summer and winter solstice. Both artworks tell ever-changing stories about the landscapes they exist in.

What strikes me about the desolate places of the American West is its sublime vastness. Without human elements, the vistas are so large that it is hard to comprehend how close or far away landforms are. The scale of the desert shifts, salt mounds look like mountains, the sky never ends.

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Think about Sun Tunnels as a camera lens.
How does it focus the foreground, middleground, and background?

The circular tubes limit your view and draw attention to details in the landscape. Sun Tunnels not only allows you to look closely at the land, but also tracks time of day as the light changes and dances in and out of the concrete tubes.

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Notice the water levels in these two photographs.
What is different about them?

These photos were taken two-weeks apart in March of 2013.
What do you think is contributing to the difference in water levels?

Spiral Jetty frames our view and understanding of Great Salt Lake. We are able to use the artwork to see how the lake is affected by climate, weather, and season. (I will talk about this in more detail in next week’s post.)

Spiral Jetty
and Sun Tunnels frame and focus the landscape and bring big spaces to a human scale. At the UMFA we hope to frame and focus these sites for multi-generation and family learners through our educational programs.

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One of our most popular programs is the Spiral Jetty Backpack. This backpack can be checked out a week at a time to take out to Spiral Jetty and explore the art and science of the site. The backpack has participants consider the artwork through multiple lenses focusing on maps, drawing, materials, shape, science, and nature through hands-on activities and experiments. The backpack also includes looking prompts, discussion topics, and questions for families of all ages to talk about the artwork together. Backpack participants receive a take-home packet with the backpack including worksheets and activities that they can keep. After the adventure, the backpack is returned to the UMFA. This program was developed by my colleague, Virginia Catherall, and is so popular that it has a continuous waiting list of families wanting to participate!

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Please download a featured activity from the Spiral Jetty backpack about maps. If you would like more information about UMFA’s backpack program or to see the entirety of its curricula, please leave a comment below.

Soon we will begin developing the Sun Tunnels backpack. As a preview of that curricula and next week’s topic on educator programming, please download “Framing the Landscape.”

Download Lesson Plans:
- Spiral Jetty Map Activity by Virginia Catherall
- Framing the Landscape by Virginia Catherall


Tuesday 10.11.16

Goals of Community Meet-ups

From: Annie Burbidge Ream

As promised, this week we will post three examples of some of the activities we use to guide visitors through experiencing Spiral Jetty and Sun Tunnels at UMFA Community Meet-ups. These workshops, focusing on sketching and writing, are guided tours of the sites and begin with a discussion of the artwork and surrounding landscape followed by a demonstration of the project. Participants then are able to go off on their own to do the lesson and engage with the work of art.


Remember, as discussed in the last post, the goals of our community meet-ups are to provide access to these artworks; promote engagement and education to all ages and backgrounds; deliver experiential and exploratory experiences; and most importantly to have fun exploring Land art in Utah! Sketching and writing are just two of many workshop models we do on-site, but work with many ages from young to the young at heart! These three activities focus on Spiral Jetty, but the concepts can be directly applied to any artwork, landscape, environment, or even the classroom! Do you have other ideas or extensions on how to use these projects? Please share in the comments section below!

Spiral Jetty

Download Lesson Plans:
Blind Contouring: Sketching Spiral Jetty
by Amy Noorlander and Laura Decker
Exploring Color: Documenting Color through Place
by Amy Noorlander and Laura Decker
Stream-of-Consciousness: Writing Spiral Jetty by Iris Moulton

Stay tuned for more! The next post will focus on experiencing Land art through family and multi-generational learning!


Friday 10. 7.16

Exploring Land Art

From: Annie Burbidge Ream

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Imagine standing in these landscapes. What smells would be in the air? What noises would float around you? How would the air feel on your cheek?

As you look at both Spiral Jetty (Robert Smithson, 1970) and Sun Tunnels (Nancy Holt 1973-1976) what is the same and what is different about these works of art? How would you interact with them if you were at these sites?

As discussed in the previous post, Land art explores the landscape in a variety of ways and can be made on or into the land. Did you know that you are supposed to walk-on and interact with Land art?

Spiral Jetty is built out of basalt rocks gathered from its site, Rozel Point, in the north arm of Great Salt Lake. The 15-foot-wide jetty spirals 1500 feet into the lakebed. Sun Tunnels consists of four large concrete cylinders arranged in an X pattern on Utah’s west desert floor that aligns with the sunrise and sunset during the summer and winter solstices. Each of the cylinders is pierced with smaller holes representing the stars of four constellations: Draco, Perseus, Columba, and Capricorn.

People travel from around the world to experience Utah’s Land art. Once in Utah, the journey consists of long highways, twisting dirt roads, industrial spaces, historical sites, and the vast unknown. Both sites are hours away from Salt Lake City and the journey is crucial to experiencing them. It’s not just about clambering on top of Spiral Jetty, or peaking through Sun Tunnels. The real magic of experiencing this art form begins when you step into your car to embark on an adventure into the wilds of the West.

Each year the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) host Community Meet-ups at both Spiral Jetty and Sun Tunnels with the goals to provide access to these artworks; promote engagement and education to all ages and backgrounds; deliver experiential and exploratory experiences; and most importantly to have fun exploring Land art in Utah!

On April 30, 2016 we launched our first meet-up at Sun Tunnels. Although it was a stormy day, over 75 people had fun in the rain experiencing this amazing place through discussions, art-making, and performances.

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Last weekend on October 1 2016, the UMFA hosted over 250 people at Spiral Jetty. This is the third annual community meet-up at this site and the day included short lectures about the art and science of the site, art-making workshops (spirographs and salt-water landscape painting), writing and sketching tours of the landscape, science stations (exploring salt, minerals, and microbes of the lake), and musical performances.

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Over the past three years that we have been planning community meet-ups at these sites, we have seen the interest and attendance of Utah’s community continue to grow. There is nothing more thrilling to a museum educator like myself than to see people having conversations, making art, going on an adventure, and creating memories around such amazing works of art! Check back later this week when I will post some of the activities we developed for UMFA’s community meet-ups. Until then, happy adventuring!


Saturday 10. 1.16

Land art, Landscape, and the Environment

From: Annie Burbidge Ream

What do you think of when you hear the words: Land art, Landscape, and the Environment?
How many different “scapes” can you think of?
Imagine being in your favorite landscape right now. What do you see, feel, smell, and hear?

Utah is filled with incredible landscapes. From the red rocks of Southern Utah, the forests of the Wasatch Mountains, the wetlands and salty shores of Great Salt Lake, and our five national parks, Utah has some of the most amazing environments you will ever see! Living in Utah means that you have a strong connection to the land. Whether celebrating its beauty, exploring the outdoors, fighting for preservation of natural spaces, or recognizing the many natural resources that flow in and out of state, Utah highlights the complex relationship with the land around us. Utah is also home to some of the most iconic and important works of Land art in the world.

What is Land art?
Land art began in the late 1960s with a group of artists who were interested in exploring natural spaces and finding new ways of making art. Could the landscape be a giant canvas to draw and create on? Could you incorporate natural materials like dirt, rocks, and plants as materials for creating works of art? Could you bring human-made materials into the environment? These kinds of questions quickly grew into a process-based approach to art making in which the artist would travel into the environment to either collect objects or perform site-specific interventions. Land artists were attracted to the vast spaces and emptiness of the American West that were far away from the urban centers of the art world. In Utah, we are fortunate to have two important works of Land art in our own backyard, Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty (1970) and Nancy Holt's Sun Tunnels (1973–76).

Smithson%20Robert%20Spiral%20JettySpiral Jetty

Nancy%20Holt%2c%20Sunlight%20in%20Sun%20TunnelsSun Tunnels

In January 2012, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts was announced as one of two local organizations selected to collaborate with Dia Art Foundation in the ongoing stewardship of these art-works. An important part of this stewardship is to provide access and educational opportunities to Land art in Utah. Throughout the month of October, I will highlight some of UMFA’s programs, philosophies, and approaches for connecting Land art, landscape and the environment to people of all ages, as well as provide tips and curricula on how you can incorporate STEAM-based, interdisciplinary education in K-16 classrooms and beyond!


Friday 09.16.16

Artists and Educators Observe

From: Holly Bess Kincaid

As a young girl, my mother was delighted when I would make interesting observations about the world around us. I would notice the small insects, patterns of light and shadows, or the shapes within clouds. As artists we observe the world around us adding to the creative image bank within our minds.

Each year, I begin to get to know my new group of artists by focusing on the Studio Habit - Observe.


Students start the journey into art drawing from observation and using blind contour drawing, continuous line drawing, and contour line drawing challenges. The quick drawing challenges ask students to really look at the object they are drawing and try to notice details they may have never noticed before. Students love drawing the profile view of their shoe and usually find a high level of success with their results.


Students can use the quick observational drawing practice to learn how blend colored pencils while drawing a fall leaf. When I taught in Texas, my students loved drawing from fall leaves that were mailed from a friend in the Northeast Region while their leaves where in peak. The fragile quality of the leaves and subtle changes of colors inspired students as they explored ways to blend pencil hues to capture essence of the leaf.


Another great challenge in observation can come from drawing a crumbled magazine page. Students were introduced to colored pencil blending techniques first, and then chose a magazine image to crumble and draw. The folds of the page formed cubist like images making for an interesting result. 


As students draw, the art teacher can observe work habits and assess the skills students possess at the beginning of the year. Art teachers must continue to observe, assess, adapt and differentiate learning for our students while guiding them to their personal successes.  Being observant, teachers can assess the skills needed, plan to incorporate new strategies, and guide students to add techniques into their practice. 

How do you help your students to be more observant artists in your classroom?


Thursday 09. 1.16

Envisioning Studio Thinking

From: Holly Bess Kincaid

Teachers are constantly learning and growing throughout their careers. We love to learn! During the summer of 2014, I was fortunate to join fellow fine art educators from Virginia on the campus of George Mason University for the Virginia Center for Excellence in Education’s week long Leadership Seminar. Our time was filled with discussions about educational law, teacher leadership and I was introduced to concepts from the book Studio Thinking 2: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education.

One of our professors during the week was Kimberly M. Sheridan who is one of the authors of Studio Thinking 2. The week’s discussions helped me to add a framework to the way I teach my students to learn to think like artists. In my classroom, I encourage my students to improve their artistic skills, their studio habits and provide my students’ a choice in how they develop their visual voice.

As the new school year gets underway, I am investigating new ways to build on the Studio Habits taught in my classroom while reflecting on my own practice. Throughout September, I will be sharing strategies from my classroom that encourage students in the Eight Studio Habits of Mind: Observe, Reflect, Stretch and Explore, Understand Art Worlds, Develop Craft, Engage and Persist, Envision, and Express.

Studio%20Habits%20Studio Habits Bulletin Board

The Studio Habits can also guide art educators through self-reflection on our educational practice. During the summer, I took time to ENVISION and imagine the new school year. I reorganized my classroom for easier access for students to use materials of choice, creating studio centers and a 3D printer makers’ space, along with developing new curriculum units to support studio thinking. We set the tone for the artistic explorations our students will experience in the classroom studio environment. Each new school year begins with students and teachers imagining the potential in new lessons, strategies, and materials. What have you done over the summer that has helped you to reflect or envision a great year?

Diptic of images from the Capitol of Creativity


Wednesday 08.31.16

Questioning Strategies – Utilizing the Question Formulation Technique

From: Christine Miller

Learning about the Question Formulation Technique in my graduate studies at Texas Woman’s University has been one of the most valuable additions to my teaching toolkit. QFT is a simple process that provides students with a way to generate their own driving questions for their learning. There are lots of pertinent resources in this post, so please take a little time to check out the presentations and videos that are included! 

Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana developed this technique while using it in the classroom over 20 years. They refined and honed the process to its pure essence. Take a look at Dan Rothstein’s TED talk about the history behind QFT:


Their website, the Right Question Institute has additional background and support materials that make it easy to try it out in your own classroom. You might like to read the book they wrote, Make Just One Change by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana, for a broader overview of QFT in various content areas. 

When I found out about QFT, I knew I wanted to try it out right away. The video below was shot the second week of school with my Sculpture 1 class. I did not prepare them for the QFT before we taped the video. What you will see is a real time experience with students who are working through the process of creating questions to help drive their decision making for their monster project. 

Christine ChristineMiller-QuestionFormuationTechnique from APS Arts on Vimeo.

After my experience with my students and their questioning for their art project, I made a presentation that I gave at my Texas Woman’s University Creative Arts and Research Symposium and posted it to SlideShare so people in the audience could access it. You can find out how I have the students return to the essential questions they generated for themselves throughout their creative process, from initial design to their end of project reflection.  

SlideQft presentation w o embedded video from Christine Miller

QFT is a powerful, easy and meaningful way to help our students be more engaged and in charge of their learning. Try it out this year and discover the power of students learning how to ask their own questions!


Monday 08.22.16

Questioning Strategies in the Art Classroom – Student Exit Ticket!

Perhaps you have spent some time with a young child that is somewhere between 3 and 10. My experience with young children is that they ask LOTS of questions – about EVERYTHING! They can even ask questions that we are not quite ready for, like the proverbial “Where do babies come from?” question as you are standing in the grocery checkout line! It’s not uncommon for adults to get weary of so many questions that just keep coming and coming. But then something changes somewhere along the way – the number of questions they ask either slows way down, or worse, they stop all together. 

I’m beginning my 12th year as a high school art teacher, and every year I have taught freshmen in foundation art classes like Art 1: 2D Design and Drawing or Art 1: 3D Design and Sculpture. My observation about the majority of my freshmen students is that they do not ask many questions. Peer pressure, feeling uncomfortable in a classroom environment and thinking they will be judged on everything they do, locks them down tight. If they have had art before, the majority of 9th grade students seem to be totally disconnected to that experience, almost as if it never happened. My colleagues and I find that on our campus, there’s a significant percentage of freshmen art students that have a fixed mindset about their skills in art and are not easily budged out of that mindset.


I suggested to my team last year that we start a Question of the Day activity that lined up with the Artist of the Day Video we showed every day. Their answer to this question would serve as an “Exit Ticket” for each student from each class, every day. I prepared an area by my door with colored paper and the words “Exit Ticket”. The question of the day was posted on the white board and was discussed after the Artist of the Day video was over. It was in a prominent place so they could refer to it during the entire class. I had a stack of different colored Post-It Notes, and I would let each student choose the color of Post-It they wanted to record their answer on. It was fun to see what color they wanted to choose! Then, during their work time, they would respond to the question, being sure to put their name on their Exit Ticket so they would get credit for their answer. Before they left class that day, they would place their Exit Ticket on the area by the door as they left. I would scoop up the classes’ responses before the next class came in. I devised a simple hash mark grading system in my grade book to keep track of their responses, and made it a weekly grade according to how many they turned in that week. I LOVED reading their responses every day!

Fiza%202One student’s response to the question: What do you hope to learn in Sculpture class this year?

This continued day after day for the entire year. I would plan the questions for the week when I did my weekly planning on Sunday.  It was amazing addition to our daily routine. Since I have taught without the Exit Ticket, I experienced several years of working with my students, without really  knowing what they were taking away from a day’s lesson. You think you are resonating with them, but it’s not always evident. This activity has completely changed that dynamic. Some students might dash off a quick response, but MANY others give thoughtful responses. Some, like the student’s Exit Ticket above and below, even include a sketch, incorporating their visual thinking along with their written response!

This student’s response to the question: How can creating art be healing?

I loved finding out what my students were thinking as we journeyed through the year! The shy, quiet students now had a voice! And, I could see that many more students were digging into their thinking more deeply, connecting with higher level thinking. But, I wanted to hear what they thought about the Exit Ticket. So one day, I asked them if the Question of the Day was beneficial to them. 82% of them replied “Yes”, 13% were “So-so” about it, with only 5% responding negatively to the daily exercise. Here are just a few of their responses:

  • I like answering the question – it actually gives me something to think of when I watch the videos.
  • I think they’re cool because it gives me a chance to focus on something other than stress.
  • I think the questions are very think worthy. They make you think of stuff you generally don’t think about.
  • It helps us understand our thoughts.
  • I like the questions because I like how I can say my opinion.
  • They make me think more not only in art, but in other stuff too.
  • I think it is good for the brain.

A new school year is about to start, and the Question of the Day will be returning in all of our school’s art classes. I’m changing the physical format of them this year, because buying so many Post-It Notes is expensive, though they were really fun. You can use an app like Exit Ticket (that can be found for iPhones & androids), or an old fashioned, small piece of paper that could be put in a hanging file by the door with a divider for each class. I hope I have gotten you interested in having an Exit Ticket activity in your class!  Play with it and find out what your students are thinking about!


Monday 08. 8.16

Explore Fiber: Incorporating Fiber into a K-12 Art Education Curriculum

From: Christine Miller


I am a life long fiber artist who found myself (after a full blown mid-life crisis) becoming a high school art teacher. It was not my plan to teach (though I had been teaching lots of people along the way in my winding life journey). I wanted to teach high school, because I had had a long career as a professional fiber artist and thought I could share the knowledge of my experiences with them. 

Huipil%20&%20ShawlHand woven Clothing by Christine Miller – 1980s

My professional weaving career involved several reinventions of myself. First, I spent several years as a weaver that specialized in commission work of all kinds: clothing, functional household items, one 3’ X 5’ rug (ugh! NOT a rug weaver!), and art concept pieces. That quickly moved into exhibiting in juried art fairs and selling my work out of my tent. After 3 years of dealing with unpredictable weather ordeals, I stood out in the aisle of the show I was in and shook my fist at the heavens and vowed to never do another outdoor art show again. I felt just like Scarlett O’Hara and decided right then I would sell my tent so I would never be tempted to sell outdoors again! When I moved “off the street”, I organized and ran a fiber gallery cooperative that represented wearable art from regional and national artists. It was so nice to be inside where it was dry and warm. I loved having our gallery, until the owners of our building shooed us out because they wanted to tear the building down to build something that was more profitable. Then, I started a custom textile studio with 2 friends, and we produced hand woven fabrics, passementary and trims that were represented in showrooms across the U.S. That continued for a few years until one day I realized I was still not making a living wage and had no benefits for my family or myself. Life got real then. 

Sushi%20smallHand woven fabric and coordinating trims – 1990s

This led into reinventing myself once again – this time into an art teacher. I went back to school at 47 to finish my bachelor’s degree in Art Education. I am beginning my 12th year (I started teaching at 50), and it has been one of the most important decisions I ever made. What started out as a defensive move, turned into a soul-enriching career. It wasn’t too long into my teaching, that I started bringing my love of fibers into my art classroom. And, it wasn’t very long before I noticed that many art educators don’t use fibers as a fine art material in their art curriculum because they don’t have the experience or knowledge about how to bring fibers into their classroom. This was an important Aha! moment for me! I realized that I could widen my teaching to help art educators learn more about fiber, and Explore Fiber was born.

Cricket%20LoomsStudents weaving in my classroom on Schacht rigid heddle Cricket looms

Building the Explore Fiber website to help teachers was super fun for me (I LOVE technology), but it was also a thrill to start teaching my students about all kinds of fiber processes. One of the more successful early lessons we did was sculptural needle felting. They loved it and so many of them created unique, wonderful pieces!

10th grade student’s needle felted sculpture – “Fabio” - 2013

Now, in its second year of life, Explore Fiber is a beautiful, thriving toddler! I was thrilled that it won second place in the Wild Card category of The Art of Education’s Blog competition this last spring! Explore Fiber is a free resource for teachers, students and fiber artists to come to for information about working with fibers as a fine art material. I hope Explore Fiber can grow to be THE resource for all things fiber! New lessons are underway and will be posted throughout the upcoming months. The blog has a steady stream of inspiration about the fiber art being created today and the importance of fiber in the 21st century. Other fiber artists are contributors and collaborators on this site that is intended for broad fiber community involvement. Please check out the site, and contact me at if you have something to add or contribute to the website.

Art%20mascotMs. Miller’s Art Mascot

When we tap into our passion for art, whatever media, technique or process it may live in, and bring it into our classroom to share with our students, the energy that is created is enormous. As I get ready to start a new school year, I’m thinking about the new ways I want to share my passion for fibers with my students. Where does your passion lie, and how can you bring more of your authentic self into your art classroom/studio? I wish you all a powerful new school year!  Viva Fiber!!