Last week, the Indianapolis community celebrated National Arts in Education Week with numerous different events across the city. From a convening of professional arts educators at Edison School of the Arts and a meeting of the Any Given Child Indy Governing Council, to workshops at Clowes Memorial Hall and a jazz performance at IUPUI, community members celebrated the power of arts education in different ways throughout the week. Schools around the city celebrated the arts in education through arts enhanced and integrated lessons, and Any Given Child Indy released its 2017 Community Report. An inspiring event at the Indianapolis Art Center Thursday evening also featured seven short talks from community members highlighting the positive impacts of the arts, and Arts for Learning also hosted a professional development workshop for teaching artists. Needless to say, National Arts in Education Week 2017 was a success!
An Indianapolis tea shop has created a custom blend, loose-leaf tea to help support arts education. HoiTea ToiTea, located in Broad Ripple Village, offers tea blending classes, a cafe, and unique loose-leaf teas. The local business sells Nelson’s Teas, including our custom Any Given Child Indy blend: PB & Jams. A portion of each sale of this peanut-butter-and-jelly-flavored tea will directly support arts education in Indianapolis elementary schools through Any Given Child Indy. Click here to purchase your tea today to support arts education!
“What do you think, you are just going to be sitting there and a milkshake will fall in your lap? ……Or a mars bar?”, said Professor Bill Itter, with his eyes bulging out with the excitement of a mad scientist. He was teaching us color theory at IU in 1999 and imploring us to work at our craft; to take it as seriously as he does. This was a lesson that took a little longer for me to learn in the craft of art teaching. When I first started out, I was convinced I was going to be a high school teacher. I worked a couple maternity leaves in high school and middle school, but I ended up at an elementary school; which turned out to be the absolute best thing for me. When I first started I was clueless as to what the younger kids were capable of, having the first graders color in coloring sheets and making crafty cut and glue projects for the older grades. The longer I worked with the younger kids, the more I realized they could truly accomplish. I experimented and learned and practiced and documented, and my lessons evolved. I began to start every day with a 5 minute life drawing; I would collect things: one day it would be an old toy, the next day it would be a pinecone or a thistle or an old pair of sunglasses; and the students would draw from life, adding shading and details. I began to treat it with the same seriousness my IU drawing professors did.
In college (and in life) I had a love of art history. I began to teach the 6-year-olds how to analyze works of art. Every day after the life-drawing time, we discussed an “artist in the spotlight.” A famous work of art poster was presented, and the kids spotted clues in the paintings, made connections to what was happening in history at the time, and began to learn to see the elements in the art as metaphors and symbolism. A dark cloud in the sky became a metaphor for how the artist felt worried about the future; a blue mountain became a symbol for the artist’s sadness. I also began to group the students’ projects into in-depth units of study.
I always ask myself, “Why did I study art”? I should’ve followed my father’s advice and become a nutritionist…I’d be skinny and have money! However, life has brought me to where I am today, an intermediary position between learning, creativity and the individual. Wow! That’s definitely a handful!
I also won’t pose the question over what is Art, because Art is life itself, and it’s so hard as art educators to get other mortals to understand the magnitude of that word. For arts educators like ourselves, artistic education carries a tremendous amount of weight. It’s teaching our students that art is what perseveres over time, the indispensable parts of our culture, the patrimonies of humanity, the beautiful and the ugly, mediums of experimentation, the mess and the cleanup, balance and aesthetic…and so much more.
I began to teach 32 years ago in my island of Puerto Rico. I’m a mosaic artist and a painter, but I love seeing the look of curiosity on a child’s face when I give them the opportunity to experiment and reflect over what they are about to commence. I don’t have the words to describe that satisfaction. I settled down in Indiana in voluntary exile still loving and missing my homeland, my family, my friends, my fellow artists and my students. What convinced me to make this radical change from the heat of the tropics to the cold winters with a visible changing of the seasons, was a desire for cultural diversity assuming the concept that art is universal and that through art, barriers are dropped and people become closer.
The Indy Arts Educator Network, a group of local arts educators, met during National Arts in Education Week to share updates about their arts organizations’ education efforts. Representatives from Arts for Learning, Butler Arts Center, Indiana Historical Society, Nickel Plate Arts, Paige’s Music, Indianapolis Public Schools, and the Arts Council of Indianapolis were all in attendance. The meeting took place at Edison School of the Arts, one of the nine Any Given Child Indy schools. After a presentation about Edison School of the Arts by principal Nathan Tuttle and updates from each arts educator, the group went on a guided tour of the school. The tour featured the school’s professional dance room and black box theatre; vast visual arts, instrumental music, and vocal music rooms; and even the school’s chickens and learning farm. Seeing the work of the magnet arts school first-hand was a great experience for arts educators during National Arts in Education Week!