Monthly Mentor

Leslie Gates (May)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Leslie Gates, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Art Education at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, where she coordinates the undergraduate and graduate art education programs. She has taught visual art at the high school and elementary levels in both urban and rural contexts. Leslie's research interests are art educator's professional learning, assessment in the arts, and feminist and choice-based pedagogies. Her research, using participatory and feminist approaches, often means she is working alongside art educators to identify problems and work towards possible solutions. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



Join the largest creative community established exclusively for visual arts educators, college professors, researchers, administrators, and museum educators.

Join NAEA Renew Membership

« Creating Connections, Part II, for You! | Main | GROWING YAMS in NEW JERSEY »

March 03, 2009

Art on a Cart!

Susan BivonaI have six years experience teaching “Art on a Cart”, now I am quite sure that most of you reading this understand the term but just in-case, “Art on a Cart” is when an art teacher does not have a dedicated art room and must move the materials from classroom to classroom on a cart.  My story is similar to many other art teachers who have been asked to move out…..the population at my school was growing and they needed more classroom space.  I should say that every special area teacher at my school was affected, the ONLY teachers who did have a dedicated room where the classroom teachers.  Everyone from Spanish to Music to the Resource Room teachers were on carts and it was not just at my school it was across the district in all four elementary schools. 

So, two years ago a referendum was approved and 12 classrooms were added to my school, the long wait was over ~ I finally got my room back for the 2007 – 2008 school year!

So, two years ago a referendum was approved and 12 classrooms were added to my school, the long wait was over ~ I finally got my room back for the 2007 – 2008 school year!

With all of that experience I believe I have some insight that could help other who are in this situation!  To begin, you must know how important it is to have your administrators support! They need to know that just because you do not have an art room that does not mean that you do not need any space at all. You do! You need a desk, space to store and prep materials and you need space to prepare artwork for exhibits! They can also assist you by scheduling 5 minutes travel time between classes and arranging the same grades back to back.

Of course you need a quality cart, big enough to hold all your supplies. If you are in a school with many floors and no elevator you will need more than one cart. On your cart you should have your own supply of office supplies (stapler, staples, paper clips, tape, etc.). On my cart I also had a map of the school for each day of the week, I numbered the classrooms that I went to, each day, in order (great for a sub). You will also need a drying rack on wheels!  The drying rack is a lifesaver, it allows you to keep control of the artwork while it is drying and the teachers do not have to keep it in their rooms.  I organized all my materials in cardboard boxes, I had them in every shape and size, and I could always find just the right one!  I have to admit, even now ~ I have not been able to throw my box collection away!

Ideally the space you are provided will have the ability to be locked so that other teachers and/or PTO cannot get into your STUFF! Label your storage, so if you do have to have students go to get something they have a chance of finding it! Below you see a photo of the office that I called home for 6 years, it was 1/4 of the original art room that was being used as a 5th grade classroom.  The 5th grade class went on with its business of the day as I would come and go and work in my shared space in their room.  It was a good set-up because I had access to the art storage closet (you can see the open door in the photo).


The Art Office at Mount Prospect School

When you get to the classrooms, it’s a whole a new adventure! How are the desks arranged -- groups (the best) rows (the worst)???  Does the classroom have a sink? If yes, you are in good shape. If no, you will need buckets & water bottles if you are going to paint (or a favorite of mine, a cleaned out detergent bottles). Decide before hand where you will store student work, do you have space in your "office" or will you keep it in the classrooms and where will you store it there?  It seems to work best if there one system for the entire school.  I was fortunate I had storage space in my office but for other situations that may not be the case.  Keeping the artwork in the classrooms might be your only option.  Make sure the classroom teachers know that you will be in-charge of sending the work home.  It didn’t happen too often, but a few times the classroom teachers would send the work home before it was complete!  Oh no! 

I do not condone putting art on a cart, but it is the reality of life -- hopefully it is just a temporary situation. With this is mind; it was my intention to make the BEST out of the situation!!! So, I tried to establish the support of my classroom teachers as well. Always leave the classroom as you found it, clean up as much as you can!  I would make sure to leave the children quite and ready for the teacher. I would even say. "OK boys and girls please give Mrs. Smith your attention and show her that you are ready to go on to the next activity". The teachers really appreciated that!

Actually, I would say one of the BEST things about being on the cart is that you really get to know the classroom teachers and see what they are doing in the other subject with their students.  It also allows the classroom teacher see you in action – some of them cannot believe how much work goes into teaching art, they might even have a new appreciation for ALL you do! 

Have your ART RULES, written somewhere and attached to the cart or even better - print them on an apron and wear them!

If you are teaching “Art on a Cart”, I wish you all the best – it is NOT easy, but it can be done.  I hope that like me, someday you get to move back into an art room!

Do you have some suggestions to make teaching “Art on a Cart” easier?  Add them below in the comment section!


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Art on a Cart!:



Keeping certain construction paper on the cart is a must too. I have a four tier cart and on shelf is the must haves such as: glue, scissors, oak tag, scrap box, markers, and of course sharpies.

Terri Picard

Your story had some great examples and suggestions! As a Product Manager for a furniture manufacturer, I have been extensively researching the "mobile" teacher and am excited to say that we have recently developed a cart solution designed specifically for the teacher-on-the-go called the "TeacherTAXI"! Anyone interested can stop by the Wenger Booth #842 during the NAEA Convention to "test drive" the cart and give me your comments. Or you can contact Wenger directly at 1-800-493-6437 or visit our website at

Kari Wilson

I am so impressed with your positive attitude. I hear so many teachers complain about art on a cart and I know it has it's challenges, but you've highlighted some of the positives as well! Keep rolling!

Karen Pearson

Dear Susan,
I too teach art on a cart! I am fortunate enough to have a sink in every classroom but I have substituted in schools that did not and I often wondered how they could paint. I loved you suggestion for the laundry detergent bottle -- thank you.

David J. Winsch

Another must have on a ART CART especially if you go between buildings on the same campus are containers with lids. I learned this the hard way when the wonderful Wyoming wind blew my student's artwork and other supplies all the way to Nebraska.

Tadalafil Discount

nice reading... thanks!


I am spec. ed. Resource turning art on the cart this year and I'm nervous about orgainization and working with all the K-6 teachers. How do you keep track of all these students and when they are absent, how do you know what to bring? so much to keep track of!!! How many art pieces per quarter should I be producing? Thanks,

Mrs. W

I am beginning my 3rd year teaching art on a cart, and last year I decided to keep a binder with a class list for every student. It helped me keep track of helpers and other things. That may help with keeping track of absences as well.

Emma Mierta

How do you handle passing out paints. I am trying to find a fast way to give out materials. It seems that is the hardest part of the cart time.


Thank you so much for this information. This will be my first year teaching out of the cafeteria and I am nervous! This makes me feel much better!

Post a comment

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In.