Monthly Mentor

Karen Keifer-Boyd (October)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. This month’s mentor is Karen Keifer-Boyd, PhD, Professor of Art Education and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at The Pennsylvania State University. She is a co-founder and editor of the journal Visual Culture & Gender. Her research on feminist pedagogy, visual culture, inclusion, disability justice, transdisciplinary creativity, cyberart activism, transcultural dialogue, and social justice arts-based research is published in 60+ publications and translated into several languages. She is a past president of the NAEA Women’s Caucus, a former Fulbright Scholar, and recipient of many awards and grants in the areas of social justice art education, gender barriers in technology, and more. She also serves on the NAEA Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Task Force. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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Sunday 10.14.18

Decentering Normal

From Dr. Karen Keifer-Boyd

A sense of belonging in the world is necessary to participate in co-creating the world. What have society, teachers, and students normalized as ideals of success, beauty, and behavior in 2018? What does the visual culture (e.g., advertisements, politics, films, games, news) present as normal and desirable? What would an art education in which young people learned to value difference and to decenter normative notions of misogyny, gender violence, White privilege, and ableism include? Whose lives are silenced and constantly live in fear of disenfranchisement of human rights? Deep divisions between hegemonic power and marginalized people are the social normative today.

As Michelle Kraft and I discuss in our book, Including Difference, a COMMUNITARIAN paradigm situates individuality in relation to others and reinforces interdependence as a sense of belonging (Kraft & Keifer-Boyd, 2013). Communitarian education teaches toward full participation of all within the community. From a communitarian lens, productivity, or efficiency, becomes contribution; liberty is exercised through opportunity for self-determination in choice-making; and equality extends, not from a compensatory approach, but from a position that values the contributions that all are able to make to the well-being of all. For example, to generate changes in perceptions of disability as abnormal, include viewing and discussing artworks that challenge and reclaim what disability means. Include discussion questions to identify if, and how, the art challenges pervasive disenabling narratives.

Curricula matters. What art works do you include in your curriculum? What questions do you ask? In regards to your curriculum, what is celebrated and what is ignored? Does it matter if the inclusion of the art normalizes misogyny, violence, White privilege, or ableism? Viewing the video Love the Art, Hate the Artist [2018, Sept. 6, 10:13 min. video] at can generate deep discussions among colleagues and students about questions raised in this blog entry.


Kraft, M., & Keifer-Boyd, K. (2013). Including difference: A communitarian approach to art education in the Least Restrictive Environment. Reston, VA: The National Art Education Association.


Monday 10. 8.18

Disability Justice

From Dr. Karen Keifer-Boyd

Disability justice is a socio-political activist framework that recognizes entangled forms of oppression – queer women of color with disabilities, trans and gender non-conforming people with disabilities, people with disabilities who are incarcerated, people with disabilities who have had their ancestral lands stolen or refugees with disabilities, amongst others. Disability justice activists employ civil disobedience when advocacy and other civil processes fail to protect access to community-based services.

Sins Invalid, founded in 2006 and based in San Francisco, has a website with an inclusive definition of disability of those “whose bodies do not conform to our culture(s)’ notions of ‘normal’ or ‘functional,’” as well as arts educational resources and performance videos at (Sins Invalid, n.d., para. 2). Littleglobe Disability Justice Collective, founded in 2013 and based in New Mexico, has a website that presents current and archived arts-based projects and bios of artists, as well as links to affiliate collectives (see The D.O.P.E. Collective, founded in 2015 and based in Buffalo, New York, presents inclusion principles with graphics and offers free and accessible art workshops with booking information at their website (see

Questions to explore in teaching and research:

  • How does media represent disability? How does this differ from ADA definitions?
  • How is exclusion and inclusion sustained or disrupted?
  • How is disability marked or signified?


My research regarding these questions is the focus of a chapter titled “Creativity, Disability, Diversity, and Inclusion” in an important 2018 Handbook of arts education and special education: Policy, research, and practices edited by Jean Crockett & Sharon Malley. My chapter begins with a discussion of disability identity and representation, followed by a section on strategies to creatively deconstruct disabling narratives. The third section examines diversity awareness education approaches: culturally responsive, critical multicultural, oppositional, and post-oppositional. The final section of the chapter calls for the inclusion of difference.


Monday 10. 1.18

Including Difference

From Dr. Karen Keifer-Boyd

NAEA invited those who received NAEA awards in 2018 to be a guest author for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog with weekly posts related to the award. I am honor to have receive the 2018 NAEA, CEC, VSA Beverly Levett Gerber Special Needs Lifetime Achievement Award. My lifetime work is based on my deep belief that visual art is integral to forming subjectivity, community, agency, and enacting social change.

Visual art is also a powerful way to interpret histories, concepts, and experiences. Socially engaged participatory art can develop human potentials for dialogue, empathy, personal and collective healing, and can create solutions to nuanced and complex eco-social justice issues, documenting, and exploring beliefs, theories, and histories. Eco-social justice art builds democracy while visual art empowers human potential through teaching, leadership, and continuous learning. Transdisciplinary creativity as a social process in visual art can develop response-abilities, translate-abilities, and sense-abilities—and other competencies and capabilities necessary for democracy to thrive.

The following roles that I have served convey my life-long deep commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. I am a professor of art education and women's, gender, and sexuality studies at Penn State, and past president of the National Art Education Association (NAEA) Women’s Caucus (2012-2014), NAEA Distinguished Fellow Class of 2013, the 2013 Ziegfeld Awardee, and 2012 Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Gender Studies at Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt, Austria. I have served as coordinator of the Caucus of Social Theory in Art Education (CSTAE) and as CSTAE’s journal editor.

I serve on the Have Art: Will Travel! Inc. For Gender Justice (HAWT) Advisory Council. In this role, I serve as consultant working with museum directors and educators, organizations, and programs interested in gender justice curricula for school groups. Social Justice Art Education (SJAE) curricular encounters with Linda Stein’s art series promote the critical consciousness necessary to challenge injustice. The SJAE encounters offer teaching strategies for participants to engage with artworks in ways that call for reflection upon their upstander behaviors that dismantle power differentials. These strategies model processes of critical reading across differences and create opportunities to destabilize assumptions of the unfamiliar and locate possible common grounds that encourage empathetic understandings of other perspectives. The encounters, resources, and artworks are at

Alice Wexler and I serve as the only two visual art educators on a Research and Evaluation writing team of the Education Division at the Kennedy Center. The team developed a five-year research plan published in August 2017 as a brochure for educators that maps research milestones. The link to the plan is

In serving on the Steering Committee for the Art Education Research Institute (AERI), I developed one of the AERI 2017 featured panels “Disability Justice: Ethics, Access, and Equity Arts Education Research.” This panel resulted in a Studies commentary. See Keifer-Boyd, K., Bastos, F., Richardson, S., & Wexler, A. (2018). Disability justice: Rethinking “inclusion” in arts education research. Studies in Art Education, 59(3), 267-271. In this commentary, we draw attention to the problematic language of inclusionism, a term used to reveal institutional terminology that purposely obscures the fundamental notions of disability justice. Ism, added to inclusion, refers to systemic forms of exclusion that appear to be acts of inclusion, but instead isolate difference through established norms.

With Michelle Kraft, I have co-authored Including Difference: A Communitarian Approach to Art Education in the Least Restrictive Environment (NAEA, 2013). Including Difference is dedicated to art educators who endeavor to create participatory, inclusive classroom communities for learners of all abilities. The communitarian paradigm emphasizes respect, mutual responsibility, and interdependence that all stakeholders share within a community.

Within a communitarian, inclusive art class, we see that educational efficiency, or productivity, is not measured in terms of cost-benefit analysis; instead it is assessed in terms of one’s opportunity to contribute through active and full participation within the class community. In an interdependent community, everyone has contributions to make. Communitarianism emerges from the concept of empowerment by difference. Consequently, equality is not an absolute but is relative to one’s needs. Communitarian liberty empowers one to actively participate in the educative process through choice-making in a safe and enabling environment.

Including Difference is the responsibility of all members of a learning community to find strengths and build capacities in each other.

Including Difference is moving away from ableist assumptions of impairment to disability as an ecological/political/societal barrier.

As civil rights legislation, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is rooted in the precepts set forth in the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka (1954), a case dealing with race and equal protection. Similarly, the Least Restrictive Environment mandate in IDEA (2004) states that students experiencing disabilities are to be educated alongside their “non-disabled” peers to the maximum extent appropriate (U.S.C. 20 § 1412 (a)(5)(A)). In educating all students toward full participation in a democratic society, the concept of empowerment through difference sits at the core of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004), as it does with all examples of civil rights legislation.

Consequently, an art education that fosters democratic values should empower students to act on their visual environments in ways that reflect their beliefs and values by examining critically the larger systems that encompass their lives—belief systems, patterns of thought, representations of self—that are directly related to the pervasive influx of visual imagery that tells them what to believe, how to think, how to be. [This idea is developed further in the book, Engaging Visual Culture, that I wrote with Jane Maitland-Gholson, published by Davis in 2007.]

Such empowerment and critical reflection, then, occurs through interaction and dialogue with others within the community, especially with those who are different from oneself. In this way, the inclusive art class community becomes more dynamic, more democratic, and its participants are more mutually invested as they are able to value the diversity of all of its members, regardless of (dis)ability.

Including Difference:

  • Challenges and reclaims what disability means
  • De-centers notions of normal
  • Employs art to explore difference, identity, experience, and capacities
  • Fosters diversity awareness of stereotypes and clichés of disability



Monday 09.24.18

Transitioning into Teaching Outside of the Traditional Classroom

From Chapin Schnick

When I was named the Indiana Art Educator of the Year late last fall by the Art Education Association of Indiana (AEAI), I had a “what now?” moment. I’d always known I didn’t have any interest in being a school administrator, and aside from incredible opportunities and recognition along my art teaching path, the one thing that kind of sat in the back of my mind was, “how cool would it be to be a “teacher of the year”?” And then it happened. I had met the one far-fetched, “bucket list” career goal I had considered for myself. That is when I decided it was time to pursue education outside of teaching in a public school.

Enter The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis (or “TCM”). I have volunteered for many Indianapolis-area nonprofits over the past several years, but some of my favorite experiences were serving TCM for special events and their Mid-North Promise Program. Now, as a part-time Gallery Facilitator in Special Exhibits, I have the privilege of facilitating educational programs related to our special exhibits, as well as fostering meaningful, engaging interactions with children and their families, as an emphasis on family learning is what brought me to TCM in the first place.

Chapin with Rex at The Children's Museum of IndianapolisChapin with Rex at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

In case you ever find yourself wondering about teaching gigs outside of the traditional classroom setting, whether full or part-time, I have compiled a list of resources I have encountered, over time.

  • Private Tutor
  • Corporate Trainer
  • Academic Advisor
  • Adult Literacy Teacher
  • Instructional Coordinator
  • Adjunct Professor/ Instructor
  • Barter School/ Trade School Organizations

Chapin Teaching Elementary Art Centers to Barter School IndyChapin Teaching "Elementary Art Centers" to Barter School Indy

  • Societies promoting education for Kids, like SWE (Society of Women Engineers) & Girls Inc.
  • Non-traditional settings like daycares, prisons, nursing homes, & treatment centers
  • After school programs - Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters
  • Fundraisers for friends & family (like a painting class, for example)
  • Education Director for nonprofits like museums, zoos, and parks
  • Hobbies via local clubs or stores - like knitting or dancing
  • Work from home options, like VIPKid Teachers
  • Fitness classes or coaching sports

Chapin Teaching Les Mills' Body PumpChapin Teaching Les Mills’ Body Pump


I love the checklist for “How to Make the Transition From Teaching to a Second Career” at, *which I have shortened for the sake of this blog post’s length.*

  1. Take stock of your professional traits and skills.Start by imagining what you would say to an interviewer who asked, "What do teachers do?" Visualize your role as a teacher and make a list of everything you've been responsible for, including tasks like: planning & preparing lessons, collaborating with colleagues, & assessing & developing curricula.

    With those tasks in mind, think about what it takes to pull them off. What kinds of skills or traits do you possess that have allowed you to perform as a teacher, and can serve as transferable skills? (i.e. adaptability, creativity, a passion for lifelong learning, and patience).

  2. Be open to all kinds of opportunities. Keeping an open mind is essential, especially during the initial phase of your job search. Be prepared to consider alternatives like teaching online or at a community college.

  3. Gain new experiences and start networking. Are you still teaching as you plan your exit from the profession? Try using some of your time off to get involved in volunteer work or other types of opportunities outside of teaching. The more you can use your professional abilities in a different context, the better you'll understand your true interests and capabilities. You'll also make new contacts who can act as references.

  4. Choose a path and get additional education (if necessary). At some point, you'll have to get specific about your goals. You'll need to pick a new career to pursue and find out how you measure up, which could mean needing additional certifications or accreditations.

  5. Gather references and refine your resume. Ask other teachers you've worked with to write letters of recommendation that highlight some of your best qualities or achievements. Do the same for any other close colleagues you've worked with inside or outside the education sector. Then do several drafts of your resume, refining it with each new iteration.

  6. Interview like a pro. Many former teachers worry that employers outside the education sector won't be interested in their abilities. While that may be true in some cases, most employers will be eager to learn how your skills will translate into a non-classroom position. Every interview is your opportunity to teach them.

  7. Stay persistent. Don't get too discouraged if things don't fall into place right away. Keep networking, applying for jobs, & promoting yourself. Experiment with slightly different tactics. Practice your interview skills. And always remember that you have a great deal to offer. By staying prepared and enthusiastic, you'll be ready to hit the ground running when the right opportunity finally comes along.

  8. Make the Change. You deserve a career that fulfills you. All kinds of jobs for former teachers are available, even beyond the ones listed above. So, don't limit yourself.


What are some outside-the-traditional-classroom teaching jobs you have considered or experienced?  Please share your resources in a comment, below.

- CS

Monday 09.17.18

Taking Advantage of Grants & Fellowships

From Chapin Schnick

The elusive grant. Free money that allows you to complete a passion project, often with the only stipulation of an update or two, and a final report. For most of us, though, it gets sticky with the daunting, time-consuming project proposal, and finding opportunities to apply for in the first place.  

Here are some of my tips and tricks from successful grant writing over the past ten+ years:

Know your passion project, inside and out. Proposals often require the grantee to express their plans in several different ways: a summary of the project, your goals and objectives, your proposed budget for the gifted funds, who the recipients of programs or services are, and how it will affect them, the project’s overall community impact, and indicators for success. I recommend developing a short summary from the get go to share aloud with friends, family, and colleagues. The more you talk about your project throughout your proposal writing process, the more chances you will have to workshop the wording of your proposal as you explain your goals.

Develop an outline that includes due dates, and stick to them. Nothing is worse than putting off a daunting grant application to the last minute and filling it out in the wee hours of the day it’s due. This lack of planning will not allow you to look at and revise it with fresh eyes in the coming days, or give you the time and opportunity to share with your trusted colleagues. The moment you have made the decision to apply for a grant, I suggest working backward from the due date to break the application into sections and having them “due” to yourself every few days. I start a couple of months out, with the plan of allowing the last two weeks for final edits and critique from friends, family, and colleagues.

Smith Fine Arts Academy colleagues with our 2016 CFMC Impact GrantSmith Fine Arts Academy colleagues with our 2016 CFMC Impact Grant

Copy and paste the application into a word processor. Please do not fall into the trap of completing an application in an online grant system. Completing it in Microsoft Word or Google Docs, or something similar, gives you the benefits of the software, like spell check and word counts, but it also makes it easier to save and attach when sending to your editors.

Ask for an edit/ critique from trusted colleagues. In the past, I have sent proposals to my fellow teachers and administrators, former cooperating teachers and collegiate mentors, my parents, and even friends in similar fields. The worst that could happen is your connection is too busy to give critical feedback, but will often at least read it and give a general response which gives valuable additional perspective.

Don’t be afraid to contact the granters. In the majority of my grant applications, a line about contacting so-and-so if you have questions was present, along with their email and phone number.  Reach out to them! These are the people that know this grant application inside and out, and possibly even wrote the criteria and questions, themselves. In my experience, these grant representatives were more than happy to answer my questions, and a couple even read, and gave me feedback, on my application draft! (So don’t forget to attach your in-process proposal when asking your question/s.)

Schnick being awarded the Inaugural Indiana Arts Commission InstaGrantSchnick being awarded the Inaugural Indiana Arts Commission InstaGrant

Read it aloud before submitting. It is always amazing to me how our brains can completely skip words when we are typing. Reading it aloud will help to fill in any of those missteps and provides you with yet another perspective in reviewing.

After submitting…

Follow up. Don’t forget to thank your editors/reviewers for their help, and be sure to follow up with them to give them an update on whether you received the grant, or not, and next steps. They want to know!

You got the grant?! Congratulations! This is an exciting time, that could easily become stressful… all of your planning and effort mean you actually get to complete your project! (“Oh my, so now I have to deliver?”) Take detailed notes of your processes along the way, including numbers, when possible. Sometimes the final report and accompanying budget following a grant’s implementation can be just as (if not more) overwhelming than the proposal/ application, itself. Reviewing the final report ahead of time, so you are aware of expectations and potential deliverables, will set you up for success as you take notes, and reflect on the process, along the way.

You didn’t get the grant?!  Don’t worry! The grants I didn’t get have actually made me a better proposal writer, as it has required me to be more discerning about how to describe my goals and objectives. Also, you don’t have to let all of that hard work and preparation go to waste! There are plenty of opportunities out there where you can take that same project idea and rework it to fit a new set of application questions. (If you do get the grant, though, be really careful about using a similar plan for a different grant proposal, as it is unethical. You will want to change your goals and objectives, accordingly, to match the new project.)

Schnick's 2013 Franklin Community Schools Education Foundation grantSchnick's 2013 Franklin Community Schools Education Foundation grant

Resources for finding grant opportunities:

  • Your district or county education foundation
  • City arts councils or other arts-invested organizations
  • The Community Foundation representing your county
  • Local businesses supporting education initiatives
  • State Art Education Associations
  • Your state’s Arts Commission/ government
  • Ask your colleagues!

- CS

Monday 09.10.18

How to Maintain a Positive Attitude and Outlook

From Chapin Schnick

When I “crowd-sourced” for post content my friends, family, and colleagues might wish to see during my time as monthly mentor, one suggested, “how to maintain that incredibly positive attitude and outlook you have”. I think a lot of my cheerful, we-can-make-anything-work attitude is genetic, but I am happy to share my favorite methods for remaining positive, no matter the hand you are dealt: personally or professionally.

Keep a gratitude journal. It definitely sounds hokey, but reflecting during times when you feel stuck, or sad, or listless, can truly remind you of what good there is in your world and the positive events that led you to today. As someone who can be completely consumed by anxiety to the point of being immobile, I am especially understanding of how difficult this can be… but sometimes, being reminded of what makes me happy, is the only thing that gets me moving, again!

Get outside.  As a lifetime athlete, I have always appreciated the outdoors and sun (in moderation & with sunscreen, as I tend to burn within minutes!). More recently, though, I have fallen in love with hammock camping and backpacking, thanks to an Indianapolis-based women’s adventure company, called DNK Presents. What are your favorite outdoor activities?

Chapin Hammock CampingChapin Hammock Camping

Call a family member or close friend (especially if it’s been a while since you last talked). When I talk to my mom or dad, I can feel my blood pressure fall, my breathing slow, and a general wave of relaxation hits me. I love to be reminded that, no matter what is happening or has gone wrong, my people are there for me with a compassionate, listening ear, and love me wholeheartedly.

Find a form of movement that you enjoy. I was a multi-sport athlete, growing up, so I am conditioned to enjoy competition and sweaty pursuits. As I have gotten older, though, lifting weights several times a week isn’t as exciting to me, nor is the idea of running long distances as I did in my marathon-running days. Plus, commuting an hour and thirty minutes, round-trip, to work each day means that evening recreational leagues aren’t always a practical addition to my schedule. Yoga has helped to keep me physically-fit in recent years, as well as served as a form of meditation and stress relief. I hope you can find your happy movement, too!

Yoga at Gorgo Fitness Magazine’s Camp GorgoYoga at Gorgo Fitness Magazine’s Camp Gorgo

Place your attention on someone else’s happiness. When I seek ways to add joy to the days of my friends, family, and colleagues, I can feel my own stress lessen and those “happiness endorphins” kick in. What can you do to make someone in your life smile, this week?

Look for the positive in every situation. I have experienced a great deal of personal tragedy in the past few years, but in every instance I did my best to find something positive that came as a result of the offending, less-than-ideal situation. More often than not, there is a light that is gleaned from a situation, like perhaps taking advantage of an opportunity you might otherwise have ignored, freeing up some time in your busy schedule (or maybe your bank account), or simply serving as a reminder of what is truly important to you.

Chapin's Main Source of Happy - Her Husband and ParentsChapin's Main Source of Happy - Her Husband and Parents

And finally (and perhaps most important in our field)...

Give yourself permission to create!
As educators whose main focus is to encourage the creativity and self-expression of others, we often are guilty of not creating for ourselves. Not only can the occasional creating session keep you fresh in your preferred forms of expression, but it exercises your strengths as a problem solver and can provide a sense of accomplishment when feeling overwhelmed by the stresses of our ongoing to-do lists. What are your favorite ways to create?

- CS


Saturday 09. 1.18

Professional Development + Travel = Planning Vacations That Also Benefit You Professionally

From Chapin Schnick

One of the things colleagues say about me the most is that I’m always traveling. What they may not always realize is that most of the time that I spend traveling, I have built a vacation around my true destination of professional development workshops & conferences. Below I will share some of my favorite PD trips over the past several years, along with some of my tried and true resources for finding your perfect PD getaway*. 

Summer 2012 - Summer 2013 MA in Art Education at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, MD - My Masters program in Baltimore is when I caught the professional development travel bug (which has become even more pronounced in recent years). I loved taking day or weekend trips, when classes weren’t in session, down to the Inner Harbour, Federal Hill, Fells Point, Hampden, or enjoying what Bolton Hill (where MICA’s campus is located) had to offer.

2013 NAEA Convention, Dallas, Texas - This was my first opportunity to present at a national conference, following encouragement from my peers and professors in the Masters of Art in Art Education program at MICA to submit a proposal. I was able to present on the findings of my qualitative research study for which I had posed the question, “In what ways do highly engaged students and non-engaged students’ values and beliefs about art and art making differ in an eighth-grade art class?”

Schnick - 2013 NAEA MICA MAAE Representatives2013 NAEA MICA MAAE Representatives

2016 Biennial Kappa Delta Pi Convention, Orlando, Florida - I was fortunate enough to work as a Regional Chapter Coordinator for KDP during a year that the staff was planning their biennial conference.  In addition to presenting to chapter leaders and attending sessions, I as able to extend my time to enjoy the beautiful Florida weather and a family-owned condo with my husband who flew down to meet me.

Summer 2016 SCAD Educator Forum, Savannah, Georgia - One of the few road trips I’ve completed with a companion: a fellow art teacher who now lives in Portland, Oregon. This is truly a one-of-a-kind PD, as it is all-inclusive, if you choose to pay the additional residential fee.  One low cost covered many meals and receptions, two ongoing classes during the week, and lodging in comfortable on-campus dorms.

Summer 2016 NAEA National Leadership Conference, Arlington, Virginia - I was fortunate enough to be welcomed to this leadership conference, despite not being a current state association leader. I learned a lot about my personality and leadership style, and especially appreciated the chance to visit the NAEA Headquarters for the first time. I saved a TON of money by staying at an AirBnB vs. the conference hotel.


Schnick - 2017 NAEA NYC Time Square Twirling2017 NAEA NYC Time Square Twirling

2017 NAEA Convention, New York City, New York - This was only my second trip ever to New York City, which meant I had a lot of the “touristy” type things out of my system the first time around. I was able to visit several amazing locally-recommended restaurants as well as visit local museums and see Broadway shows, including my favorite, and most-relevant-to-an-art-trip, show: “Sundays in the Park with George” starring Jake Gyllenhaal, who happens to be one of my favorite actors.

Summer 2017 NAEA SummerStudio Design Thinking for Social Equity, Dallas, Texas - It was a lot of fun to visit Dallas for a second time, but this time was far more intimate an experience, since there were fewer than fifty NAEA members in the SummerStudio Design Thinking group. This was an intense few days of workshops, my favorite being the focus on using game design & theory in curriculum planning.

2018 NAEA Convention, Seattle, Washington - This trip was especially amazing because I built in additional trips to notable cities along the way, despite it not being a road trip. I initially flew to Seattle for the full conference so that I could present and attend other sessions. On the Sunday following the conference, I took a train to Portland to enjoy local experiences and restaurants, including getting to visit with the aforementioned SCAD Educator Forum road trip friend, and planned a layover in Denver to spend a couple of days to round out my Spring Break.

Schnick - 2018 NAEA Presentation2018 NAEA Presentation

My favorite resources for seeking out PD and planning vacations:

  • Word of mouth from colleagues: whether it be your local Professional Learning Community (PLC), or through art education-themed pages and groups on social media, your best resource for beneficial PD are others that have experienced or sought it out, as well: your fellow art education colleagues.
  • State Art Education Association: If traveling out of state isn’t in your immediate plans, checking in with your state art education association can provide you with suggestions for local opportunities.
  • Trip Advisor & Yelp: I especially love these sites/ apps as they are user-submitted. People just like you and me give their honest opinion about experiences, restaurants, and lodging, while traveling.
  • AirBnB: When possible, I do prefer to support local business owners by seeking out true Bed & Breakfasts, but I often end up in an AirBnB because 1) many are highly affordable, and 2) there are far more options to find sleeping arrangements local to my conference or workshops.
  • Hostels:  Contrary to many opinions on hostels, there are truly remarkable ones available, especially in larger cities. Imagine the accommodations of a luxury hotel, but with comfortable bunks “cold-air” style and at a fraction of the cost. (For example, the hostels I stayed at in Seattle, Portland, Denver, New York City, and Baltimore were all $40 or less per night but better than most 3-5 star hotels in which I have stayed.) I typically find these via a search on Google Maps (search for “hostel” in your travel destination).


*I am personally not big into “tourist traps” when traveling as I would prefer not to experience places and events surrounded by a ton of selfie-taking strangers, but also because I can see those things in pictures. I like to do a little more research on blogs (that I find via an internet search on my desired topic) and by checking out Yelp & Trip Advisor reviews to see what locals really find to be of value and worth my time.


Thursday 08.16.18

Mural Making: Pride of Place

From Don Masse

Which wall provides more visual impact and joy for your students?

Screen Shot 2018-08-16 at 10.51.20 AM

Screen Shot 2018-08-16 at 10.51.27 AM

Hopefully, you chose the second image!

Across the world, it seems that there is a much deserved rise in recognition of murals in public places, bringing art and inspiration to the masses. Murals create conversations and bring a renewed sense of purpose and pride to the communities that they are created in and with. Murals on school grounds can reinvigorate a sense of school pride and provide students opportunities to leave a lasting, positive mark on their campus.

At Zamorano, we have had an active mural program for the past 10 years. Every year, all of our 5th graders participate in an end of the year legacy mural project. Since it’s inception, this program has been something that students look forward to participating in. In recent years, we have also worked with local artists to add additional murals to our school campus as well.

If your school does not have an active mural program, I highly encourage you to get one off the ground. This post outlines a few of the steps involved to add color and community to your school campus.

1- Create interest. Gather examples of murals at other schools and/or places to share with your  administration and school staff to activate support for the project.

2- Find a suitable location on campus. It should be visible and accessible for people to work on and then view. Be careful about making it too accessible, though. At Zamorano, we did one on a wall that is around the corner from a bathroom where young students line up after recess and the mural has not aged well due to feet and bodies coming in contact with the wall on a daily basis. As part of this step, take note of the nature of the wall surface- interior/exterior, smooth/textured, concrete/wood, etc.

3- Develop a plan for the design of the mural. This could take different forms. It could be a lead artist/teacher on site developing a concept and design. It could be put together by a small team of creatives on site that seeks out staff and community input in the ideation stage. It could be a student designed concept that focuses on attributes of the school. It could be designed by a local artist who specializes in murals and this artist works with the school community in the development of the concept. Really, this process comes down to being aware of the school community’s strengths and capabilities in terms of collaboration and visual design. No matter what approach your school takes, there should be some level of collaboration, so that members of the school community feel included and respected.

4- Secure funding for paint supplies and materials. This could come from an art department budget, ptf support, donations from companies whose products you will use, writing a grant, or creating a fundraising campaign through the likes of gofundme or donorschoose.

5- Based on the size and surface of the wall, secure enough paint to make it happen. When planning our annual mural budget, I estimate $300 to cover walls approximately 9’x25’. We use stiff bristle brushes that range from 1/4” to 1” primarily for painting. Purchasing a bundle of those was about $100 years ago. Since all of our murals are outside in the SoCal sun, we have learned to use exterior semigloss latex house paint. Depending on your schools location and climate, you may use different types of paint, but we have found house paint works quite well and lasts quite a while.

6- Managing the drawing of the design on the wall. Depending on your approach to design development, the drawing may be done by an individual mural leader or with a small team. How you go about drawing, is again, dependent on school capacity. It could be drawn freehand, done with a grid method, or with the assistance of a projector. After drawing the mural out, I have found it extremely helpful to trace the lines with a sharpie marker, so that they are more visible to the painters and they hold up to unexpected weather conditions.

7- Painting the mural. Again, this may be approached in a variety of ways, depending on your individual school site. At Zamorano, I am fortunate enough to work with the 5th graders for a week at the end of the year- working with small groups for 20-30 minutes at a time. You or another school community art leader may be able to do something similar. It could be created on a school beautification day or days. It could be done in stages throughout the school year with different groups contributing at different times.

8- Celebrate! When the mural is finished, celebrate the experience somehow. You could do a community unveiling, a gallery walk with your art classes, invite school district officials to your site, and promote the experience through social media.

9- Reflect and plan to do it again!

- DM

Image above is our completed 2016 mural that used the 3 elements of our “Zamorano Way” as inspiration

September article in Arts & Activities on mural that local artist Monty Montgomery led at Zamorano last spring:

Gofundme page for the Monty Montgomery project:

Blog post documenting our 2016 mural, including a time lapse video:

Monday 08. 6.18

Contemporary Art in the Classroom

From Don Masse

“Mr. Masse, are they still alive?”

Inevitably, this was (and still is) one of the first questions I would get from students when introducing them to the work of an artist in class. The answer, when I started teaching years ago was usually “yes”. This was followed by a sigh, and the class energy level would drop- for real. So, 10 years ago I made the move to include more living artists into my elementary art curriculum. I am so glad that I did and I believe my students are too. Instead of focusing on the dead white guys from art history, my students and I are learning about artists from many different creative fields that are working and creating all around the world. In this blog post I’d like to share a few of the benefits to including more current artists into your art ed curriculum.

First of all, with careful consideration of the living artists that you bring in, there will be a spike in student engagement. Our students want/need to see themselves held up and honored as vital parts of their immediate community and the larger world. Know your student demographic, introduce them to living artists from cultures and countries that are representative of them. This will take work on our part, but all good teaching does. When you make the commitment to a curriculum of living artists representative of your students, you’ve got a hook to engage them in the power of the language of art. Then, just make sure you keep them engaged with thoughtful, well designed creative challenges for your students to experiment with.

 A recent shift in my teaching has been to introduce my students to more artists working in our community and our city. Frankly, I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner! Be aware of the artists making and creating locally and look for opportunities to include them in your curriculum. One of the beauties of this, is that your students may be familiar with the artists’ work or after being exposed to it in class, when they encounter it in your community, the visual art experience becomes even more real and concrete for them. It brings our art content alive for our students. Incorporating local artists into your curriculum can also set the stage for artist visits, artist talks, artist led projects at your school site. Over the past few years, we have had a variety of local artists come to our campus and share their processes and products with our students and these experiences have proven to lift everyone up. It’s a winning experience for both the artists and our students

To piggyback on local artist visits is the importance of reaching out to your non local living focus artists to share the creative processes that were inspired by their work in your classroom.  After a grade level creates work inspired by a living artist, I share the process on social media- my main platforms are Instagram and Facebook and I also email the artists directly. Most often, artists working today have email, a website, and/or some sort of presence on social media, so it is quite easy to share with them- you certainly can’t do this with a dead person from art history. The large majority of artists that I contact respond enthusiastically to the visual experiences students have completed that were inspired by their work. They write letters of encouragement and ask questions of the students. You can then share these interactions with your students, and believe me, it lifts them up! My students can never get over the fact the artists we study dig their work. Some artists even share the work students have created with their own social media followers. Again, an empowering experience for your students, and for the work that you, yourself, are doing within your classroom and art program. These online interactions serve as publishing opportunities for your students and promotional opportunities for your art program and school and you really can never get enough of each!

 But isn’t art history important? No doubt it is, and these experiments with the work of living artists can make movements and styles created in the past more relevant for our students. You can absolutely connect work being made now with work that made it possible from art history. In your classroom, this could be done by looking backwards from a contemporary focus, or you can approach it by introducing a focus piece from history and looking forward to the work of living artists. Either way, your students will start making connections that they otherwise wouldn’t have made and it will strengthen their understanding of how the past informs the present and how the present borrows from the past.

So, if you are not currently doing so, I highly encourage you to bring the work of living artists into your curriculum. It doesn’t have to be a wholesale reinvention of your existing curriculum. Find a balance that works for your students and yourself. Find a balance that will resonate with your students the most and maintain a high level engagement throughout the experiences they explore within your curriculum.

1- An example of what can happen when you bring the work of a local artist into your curriculum can be found here-

2- An example of an art lesson that can connect effectively with a movement and/or artist from art history-

3- My blog documents many of the living artist inspired experiences that I have done with students-


Wednesday 08. 1.18

Reflection, Play, and Growth

From Don Masse

My first blog post for the month of August stems from two recent personal experiences that have strongly resonated with me. First, was the week I spent teaching at the Tennessee Arts Academy at Belmont University. I facilitated contemporary art inspired sessions that provided participants opportunities to explore and play with various mediums in figurative and abstract styles. The structure was quite similar to the way I format my elementary lessons at Zamorano Fine Arts Academy. I believe play, experimentation, and response to design constraints is important not only for our students, but artists and art educators as well.

This week-long academy provides such a rich atmosphere for creativity- it’s full of inspiring speakers and performers, it brings together visual art, music, and theater, and it left me wanting to plant seeds for something similar out here in San Diego. Which brings me to my first point- it is imperative for us as art educators to seek out opportunities to grow. We must bring ourselves to experiences like this- whether a day or weeklong in duration, whether in person or online,  whether monthly or annually, so that we can reflect on our practice, collaborate with other educators, and process the experiences so that we bring improved learning opportunities back to our students. Since I attended my first national convention in San Diego, I feel like I have grown so much as an educator and my students have benefitted immensely.

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 3.51.10 PM(From my Contemporary Focus sessions at TAA)

The other recent experience that rang my bell was participating in a local call for artists to redesign work for a public art project in San Diego. This project got me reflecting on my experiences in the community and creating work unlike I ever have before. It afforded me the opportunity to creatively challenge myself and sparked ideas for new student experiments, too.

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 3.51.21 PM(Mock-up for North Park Garage Art project panel that will be completed in September)

The life of an art educator can be exhausting and leave us with little energy to pursue our own creative work and we need to work to find a balance between our teacher selves and our artist selves. I believe that giving ourselves time to create throughout the year can fill us up, it can give us more energy when we think we’ve been depleted, and can also positively inform the creative challenges we provide our students. It doesn’t have to be creating a body of work for a public art project or gallery show, it can be as low key as visual journaling,  making quick drawings from observation,  drawing in the sand at the beach, or drawing with sidewalk chalk in front of your home. Find what works for you and give yourself time to play!

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 3.51.28 PM
My future blog posts for August will share tips on establishing a mural program at your school, bringing digital art experiments into your art curriculum, and the benefits of introducing your students to the work of artists working in today’s world. Stay tuned!