Monthly Mentor

Carrie A. Jeruzal (June)
Carrie Jeruzal has been teaching art for 15 years and has taught every grade level including higher ed, both in public and private schools. Currently and for the past 10 years Carrie teaches a wide spanning K-12 Visual Arts curriculum at Pentwater Public School in rural Pentwater, MI. She attended Hope College, (Double Major of Art and French - Teaching Certificate), earned a B.A. in 2001 and then graduated from Western Michigan University with a M.A. in Art Education in 2010. Click to read full bio.

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June 12, 2017

6 Reasons to have a Stress-free Summer Student Art Show!

From: Carrie Jeruzal

Remember that art show that you put together in (insert month), at the same time you were teaching (insert number), different classes each day, coaching or advising (insert after school activity), as well as dealing with that one personal drama (insert any problem of humanity), all at the same time? Remember selecting artwork, organizing, matting, mounting it on the walls and hoping it doesn’t fall down, labeling, typing up artist statements and filling out other paperwork still spelling that one student’s name incorrectly, sending home letters and invitations to parents, notifying and typing up a press release for the local newspaper, posting it all over social media, coordinating judges, handing out awards, making cookies and punch for the reception, and finally hoping that your students, parents, staff and administrators have time to take notice in between all of their usual duties and disasters in order to marvel at the art and appreciate it all? That’s a lot of work, right? Even though many of us don’t get paid for coordinating art exhibits, and the endeavor of putting together a student art show is completely stressful, I think many of us can agree it is also completely worthwhile. What if you could downsize, regroup and make this process a bit more stress-free by doing it in the summer? Whether you move your one “big show” to the summer season or are looking to add in a “supplementary art show” to reach a wider audience and promote your program, this blog post asks you to consider just that and offers 6 reasons why you might want to give it a try!

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1. You have the time.

To say teachers don’t work in the summer is really a farce. In the summer teachers may take Masters level courses, attend or instruct Professional Development sessions, work on organizing their classrooms, plan and write curriculum, get a summer job and/or become full time caretakers of their own families. But the school work done in the summer is typically well balanced, reflective, mindful, and re-energising. It’s not as fast paced or taxing. You can actually choose to focus in on a single task instead of feeling the strain of being pulled in multiple directions. A Summer Student Art Show provides you with the option of putting together an exhibit at a time when you are typically not bogged down with a million other school related duties. You aren’t in a rush. As long as you remember to hold back from sending all the artwork home in June, you actually have time to be mindful of the curation and installation processes. Getting the work done at a slower summer pace means you may even enjoy it!   

Flyer: Social Justice Issues: Art Objects and Installations
Flyer: Traveling Art Exhibit: Character Creature Features!

2. It can be small, flexible, manageable and non-competitive.

The summer art show does not have to feature one piece from each student, keep it small. I recommend that you perhaps discern by featuring a single class, a single assignment or narrow your number of artworks under a unifying theme. Perhaps your selected pieces need to simply fit in the venue space provided or be strictly 2D or 3D. Either way you decide to structure your show, set it for a time that works for you. Set it up when you can and take it down when you can. With three months to choose from, coordinating with a venue in the summer can be much more relaxed than during the school year when other teachers are also trying to “fit it all in”. Consider making the show unjuried; non-competitive. This removes a whole layer of pressure for both you and the students. It’s less work for you and allows for more freedom in selecting conceptual pieces that might not be your typical “judge-pleasers.”

3. The venue needs you.

Get the art out of the school. Select a venue that gets some summer traffic. Contact your local arts council, public library, theater, or bank. The venue can be non-traditional. If it doesn’t work out that you have access to a typical gallery space, settle for alternative display spaces such as lobbies, waiting rooms, and vestibules. You may find that your little art show is just what the venue needed to fill a void while professional artists are busy claiming summer residencies or caravaning through art fairs. Whatever the arrangement, the venue can only benefit from the summer flair of student artwork.  

4. It gives your students’ art a wider audience and advocates for your program.

I first started doing small summer student art shows three years ago when I felt the overwhelming need to offer my students’ work to a wider audience. At first it was 7th grade/3rd grade technology based collaborations that triggered student-made videos through Augmented Reality. And then it was powerful visual metaphors for Social Justice Issues created by my high school students. Their art was so good and so powerful I was compelled to get it out of the school and share it with the world. Also it was a solution to timing and space. Artwork that is created in the Spring was too late to fit into my annual Spring art shows and much of it didn’t actually physically fit into the art display cases. The summer show gave this work and these students the opportunity to share with the greater community which in turn advocates the quality and necessity of my art program.   

5. Reception optional.

Don’t have a reception. Or do. Consider this element of a student art show as a nicety that isn’t always necessary. Try a set it and forget it approach. People are busy in the summer, especially high school students with summer jobs, so allow them and the community to view the artwork at their convenience whenever the venue is open to accommodate its usual summer clientele. If you can arrange the artwork to be on display for a month or more it’s likely that more people will see it over a longer period of time rather than all in the same night or week anyway. This way you can avoid giving a speech, baking all those cookies, cookie fingerprints on the art and all the inevitable awkward conversations with parents (I’m terrible at small talk!). However, if you do chose to hold an official show opening or reception try to couple it with another event at the venue instead of a stand-alone soirée. This way you can share a budget for food and advertisement, accommodate the venue’s schedule and once again attract a wider audience.   

6. It elevates collaborative art.

In education today, we as educators, are facing tremendous pressure to embed collaborative learning in our classrooms. Yet there are very few opportunities for collaborative art to be displayed in traditional art shows. Collaborative artwork is inconvenient to judge and makes awarding prizes, scholarships, and traveling opportunities expensive or impossible. There may only be one ribbon to hand out, one scholarship to award or one opportunity for a free master class. I am happy to report that the Vans Custom Culture Contest and the Meijer Great Choices Film Festival are two exceptions to this rule against collaborative projects, but still, these platforms are very specific in media and process. Plus, they are highly competitive. Collaborative learning is research based, inclusive and offers insight into the “team process” that is practiced by most renowned art contemporaries. Consider that artist Ai Weiwei didn’t make all those ceramic sunflower seeds by himself, so why should we as art teachers only honor student artwork made by a single person? The summer art show offers the perfect solution to promote, highlight and elevate the amazing collaborative work created by my students.    

-CJ

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