Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Elizabeth Unpingco's Improbable Beautiful

Fragile, Elizabeth Unpingco

1.     How long have you been a teaching artist?
In true form, I’ve been a teaching artist all my life.  Since early childhood, creation was the opening through which art encouraged discovery. I was born into family firmly planted in hand-crafted and hand-hewn, so artistic endeavor naturally allowed me to connect.  Professionally, I started working as a “teaching artist” in 2006 after I left a deceptively sexy and well-paid job at a non-profit. There I served in an administrative capacity developing and managing a countywide program that employed other teaching artists of various disciplines. I have been working as a teaching artist for nearly 10 years now – how time flies when one is fulfilling one’s true vocation in life!

2.     What discipline(s) do you teach?
My specialty is visual integrated with literary arts (dialogue, poetry, storytelling). I often ask my young students if they have ever heard the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”.  Most of them have NOT as this is a rather out dated utterance, however it prompts us to explore the world of words that dance with expressive symbols, metaphor, and visual techniques through open-ended processes. I am not only a visual manipulator, but a “word smith” as well. Mindfulness and metacognition are guides for our work.

3. Describe the setting(s) in which you teach.
(K-5, after school, university, community center, etc…)
Presently, I am an art museum educator serving the Santa Clara, CA preK – 9th grade community. I find working in a museum a magical setting in which to immerse kids in the world of art. It allows a freedom from convention that inspires deeper reflection and risk taking. Our classroom includes changing exhibitions that allow for exploration, dreaming, and even drawing in the galleries. There are many wonderful resources available in this kind of setting. Occasionally, the museum places me in local public school classrooms where I am honored to provide some much needed creative outlet.

4. Describe the relationship between your personal art practice and your art teaching?
When I create at home, I am dually evolving as a teaching artist. The more in touch and consistent I am with my own practice the more I have to authentically offer my students. Because I chose this profession to share my passion for living creatively, I must walk the talk. Of course there are periods of “ebb” that provide a contrast so that I deeply know and understand the difference between living the dream as opposed to going through the motions where teaching feels like just another J-O-B. I remind learners (and myself) that if we stick with it, remembering to breath, the joy of accomplishment returns and triumphs!    

5. How do you sustain your art while teaching?
Sustainability is a verb, an ongoing, dynamic process that changes, moves, and spirals in various directions.  As primarily a visual artist, I have learned to open my field of vision. I look, see, and interact with the world around me as fodder for inward alchemy, what we call “windows and mirrors” in the art education world.  Just about every thing I do in life is viewed through the lens of my relationship with ‘sense of place’ and how that place effects me.  I see and feel line, color, pattern, shape, relationship & juxtaposition, texture, rhythm & melody and on and on. I have struggled financially for most of my life, but my relationship to my art has remained primary and life-giving. Having a partner who values who I am and what I do; helping to support my growth and musings has become a necessity and a god-send. I gravitate toward and manifest diverse opportunities for creative/financial sustenance. Ideas come fast and furious so that it can sometimes become overwhelming. Sometimes these opportunities pan out and thankfully, oftentimes not. 

6. Who shaped your initial thinking about teaching art?
Being employed as an administrator for a newly developed, county-wide program where the organization placed teaching artists in classrooms initiated my desire to become part of this rich fabric. Instead of working around others’ successful residency placements, I realized I myself wanted to be “placed”– this emerging title “teaching artist” offered the best of both worlds in my mind.  The teaching artists I worked with showed me the possibilities of remaining true to oneself while simultaneously being valued (and employed) in the educational field.  I felt I had discovered my long, lost tribe.

7. What training in the arts and/or education have you had?
I earned my master’s degree in education (curriculum and instruction – integrated teaching through the arts) in 2013 from Lesley University as part of a San Francisco Bay Area cohort. It was the learning experience of a lifetime!  Prior to that, I earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design emphasizing illustration, 1990 from San Jose State University. In between those two formal degrees, I participated in many trainings, courses, and life-changing events including employment by the City of San Jose Department of Parks, Recreation & Community Services for 16 years. I worked with a diversity of undervalued and at-risk communities; life experience no educational institution could ever provide. I am a lifelong learner reinforcing a love affair with creativity and knowledge in my students.

8. How do you develop and deepen your teaching practice?
I glean the wisdom of others:  artists, friends and relations, spiritual teachers, education innovators, and others who care deeply about our children and youth both now and in the future. I try to keep my ear to the ground to take advantage of what’s brewing in the field on local, national, and global levels. Mostly, I try to hear and discern the voice within and thus heed its wisdom about what is right and good for me as a practitioner.

9. What are the biggest challenges you face as a teaching artist?
Isolation & disconnect, financial uncertainty, diversifying lessons, marketing & selling myself, advocating for appropriate creative/arts-based curriculum within society’s education-machine, and the relentless onslaught of time.

10. What are the unexpected rewards of being a teaching artist?
Seeing how the field is growing in leaps and bounds – that recognition of the importance of what we do and opportunities to do it are gaining ground.  It is very rewarding, although not unexpected, to see the education-machine slowly acknowledge the tremendous impact an arts-based/integrated curriculum is having on closing those gaps we ourselves have created. I feel proud that I no longer must live out the story  “those who can do, those who can’t teach” I do both!

11. What advice do you have for artists interested in teaching?
Teaching is a noble profession, however; you must be aware of the critical need for patience with your students, administrators, colleagues, and most importantly yourself.  When you find yourself ‘assuming’ on any level, check yourself (you will save yourself much grief).  Learn within community, stay open, cultivate and share the quality of having fun! Grow in your capacity for independence, flexibility, and confidence in setting your own core criteria.

Please share one anecdote of a memorable Teaching Artist experience.
Working with a small group of middle school girls of varying levels of skill, socialization, and self-acceptance brings me back to my own awkward adolescence. Some sessions are arduous, but my own inner-knowing keeps me afloat along the choppy journey.  Eventually occurs the inevitable; I am privy to witness total engagement in the blissful assimilation of personal image and paint. I am blinded by the brilliance of each student in her own right. I experience fulfillment of my mission yet one more time. I recommit to continuing the work.    

On June 20, 2015, I will participate in the Triton Musuem of Art’s annual Summer Solstice Art Festival. I will be co-teaching two summer camps there as well:  Explorations in Drawing (3rd-5th grade), session 1 and World Art for (K-2nd grade) with my collaborative partner, session 6.  The Triton MOA is admission free and extremely community-oriented, exhibiting works by primarily local and state artists.  http://www.tritonmuseum.org/

I am also applying to Recology’s artist 2016 residence program. As I create many of my pieces from recyclables, discards, and nature’s droppings, I feel this opportunity to be very good fit for me - wish me luck!
cube hands

Friday, January 2, 2015

Caren E. Andrews' Improbable Beautiful

Caren's studio walls
1. How long have you been a teaching artist?

25 years

2. What discipline(s) do you teach?

Visual Arts
Course B: Assessment and Ongoing Strategies for Alameda County Office of Education Integrated Learning Specialist Program (ACOE ILSP).

3. Describe the setting(s) in which you teach.

I teach Visual Art K-4 and a 7th/8th Visual Art Elective at an urban independent Quaker school. I also facilitate adult learners through ACOE ILSP.

4. Describe the relationship between your personal art practice and your art teaching

My personal art practice and art teaching are interwoven. They feed each other. I learn more from my students than they learn from me, hands down (240:1).

5. How do you sustain your art while teaching?

I make art. I read about art, or fiction, or news. I make art when I take notes, during meets or lectures and when I watch TV with my family.

I have art dates every 4-6 weeks with a fellow teaching artist where we talk about our teaching/making practice, share what we have made and make art together. This habit keeps me accountable. I am compelled to share NEW work with Violet every session we have. Deadlines are important.

I sketchbook all school year and make larger works all school vacations. (I make larger work during the school year as well; I see those as more of a “bonus”.)

I have an art making space in my classroom studio, an easel where I keep/display work in progress. I see it always and work on it when I get 10-15 minutes, sometimes more. There is a notepad next to the easel where student are encouraged to give me feedback. They respond to my artwork, I respond to their feedback. It is my desire for my students to see how much they influence what I do.
6. Who shaped your initial thinking about teaching art?

My first and most influential teachers are my parents. They ALWAYS supported my art, encouraging me to find my voice and stand behind it. Their support and exposure to the arts was foundational and lead me to every teacher I have been influenced by since.

My 4th and 5th grade after school artist/teacher, Betty Marchesani taught me how to craft observational drawings and to be limitless in material exploration. With her I learned how to batique, enamel, macramé, draw, paint and play.

My middle school after school/evening artist/teacher, San Francisco local, Sam Provenzano formed my ideas of studio and art conversation, while “destroying to build.”

7. What training in the arts and/or education have you had?

I took outside of school art classes since 2nd grade. I have a BFA from UCLA and a MA in Education specializing in Arts Integration from Lesley University.
8. How do you develop and deepen your teaching practice?

I do as much professional development as possibly can. I question teaching artists I respect, I ask for help from experts, I research best practices, I go to the NAEA convention every year or two, and I observe teachers in action. I talk out my curriculum with colleagues. I draw, I map, I doodle and redesign. I repeat units that are working, refining and changing them every time I reteach it. I drop tired curriculum. I draw from the students, following their excitement and bliss. I am a lifelong learner; I enact what I expect from my students.
9. What are the biggest challenges you face as a teaching artist?

I never have enough TIME.
Class size, and the VOLUME of sound my young students generate. It is affecting my hearing.
Being taken seriously as an educator.
Being taken seriously as an artist.

10. What are the unexpected rewards of being a teaching artist?

How much I receive, learn from and love my students. When I am teaching nothing else exists (it is the same when I am deeply engaged in my art making). I am completely present in the moment. I consider this an unexpected gift. And my students’ adoration makes me feel like a rock star.

11. What advice do you have for artists interested in teaching?

Do field research to learn what this REALLY means, not just intellectually, but FOR REAL. Observe classroom/studios in ACTION. Being a great artist does not ensure great teaching. Connect with great teachers and follow them. Read everything you can, integrate contemporary art into your teaching practice, and steal other’s best practices. Love what you do, love your students and that is what you will get back.

Please share one anecdote of a memorable Teaching Artist experience

I walk into school and a head-to-toe sports clad 4th grade boy asks, “Do I have art today?” I respond, “Yes.” He raises both hands above his head, and shouts out, “YEAH!” We both go on our way, smiling.
In the Studio with Caren Andrews: http://vimeo.com/57342015
1st grade: How Does Your Garden Grow? Envisioned Super Power Plants
4th grade: Dream Big/Clay Art Tools This is the display that greets you when you come into SFFS: An overview of visual arts: K-8

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Miriam Spilman's Improbable Beautiful

clay bowl by Miriam Spilman

1. How long have you been a teaching artist?

Formally, for five plus years.

2. What discipline(s) do you teach?

I teach visual arts to elementary school children and am particularly excited to be making the transition to choice-based art. I also have provided arts-integration professional development for staff at my school site.

3. Describe the setting(s) in which you teach

K-5 urban public school setting

4. Describe the relationship between your personal art practice and your art teaching?

In some ways they are very divided: hands in clay in my personal art practice and many kinds of visual arts (but unfortunately no clay) in my art teaching. In other ways they are so integrated: We (my students and myself as artisit) are heavily involved in the 8 Studio Habits of Mind: develop craft, engage and persist, envision, express, observe, reflect, stretch and explore, and understand art world.

5. How do you sustain your art while teaching?

It’s a challenge due to time constraints, energy, family commitments. I carve out time whenever I can. Currently I have been able to work consistently every week in a dedicated studio space.

6. Who shaped your initial thinking about teaching art?

In my childhood I had dual experiences, extremes really. One was in school where my art was judged harshly because it did not look exactly like the art teacher’s (which was the requirement). The other was in a much freer setting where I basically explored all kinds of materials without any guidelines or restrictions. I clearly felt more at home with the second and in my child’s mind explained it to myself that the first was school and the second was art. In my own teaching and for my students, I do not want this distinction to develop. Art making (exploration, expression) happens at school, at home, everywhere.

7. What training in the arts and/or education have you had?

I have a teaching credential/ M.A. in education and also an MFA in Creative Inquiry with the emphasis on clay.

I also have completed (and thoroughly enjoyed) the Integrated Learning Specialist program through Alameda County Office of Education.

8. How do you develop and deepen your teaching practice?

What comes to mind first is showing up, no matter what, putting in the time. A close second is learning from other artists and teachers, books, videos, nature, staying loose and experimenting, observation, day dreaming and particularly all types of artist demonstrations where process as well as product is examined.

9. What are the biggest challenges you face as a teaching artist?

Time! Sporadic (or non-existent) funding.

10. What are the unexpected rewards of being a teaching artist?
It may be a cliché, however I do learn so much from my students—especially since they say whatever is on their mind and make sense of what they are seeing in ways that stretch my own view. Teaching art is a second career for me, and very different than the first. Because of this I feel very fortunate to be involved in what interests and nourishes me every day---art making, the art world, arts oriented colleagues, working with my artist students and everything the 8 Studio Habits of Mind involve.

11. What advice do you have for artists interested in teaching?

Dig deep for hidden reservoirs of patience, humor, persistence, inspiration---you will need them all! Learn from and enjoy every opportunity to participate in professional development, collaboration and conversations with teacher colleagues, other artists, students’ families and community members.

*Please share one anecdote of a memorable Teaching Artist experience

Recently, one of my first grade boys was very engrossed in his art making, standing, talking, moving around all while drawing and gluing collage materials. I walked by and heard him suddenly say out loud, “Oh no, I have a problem. I have a problem. What am I going to do? I have a problem,” with great distress and with his eyes fixed on his work. I did not interrupt him, just quietly watched as he tried –while continuing his conversation with himself--to figure out how to fit his carefully cut out- but way too big-- collage materials onto his paper in a designated spot. Coming back five minutes later, my student was still very engrossed in his art making and still talking, moving, etc. This time he was saying, “I love art. I love my colors. I love my art,” while drawing on top of the carefully cut out collage materials that were hanging mostly off the edge of his paper. He seemed immensely satisfied with what was happening now.

This is a small, everyday type of experience, however it felt like being given a gift. We are all artists in a community art studio when in the school art room. To be fortunate enough to witness my student’s engagement, process, choices, problem solving, and joy and pride while working on his artwork, to encourage and nurture, verbally and non-verbally to students: please do everything you need to do (again the 8 Studio Habits of Mind), to create and express yourself through your artwork, this is what being a teaching artist is all about for me.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Sam Weinberg's Improbable Beautiful

Sam's work with recycled material

1. How long have you been a teaching artist?
I consider the beginning of my being an artist around 9 or 10 years old when I would take my dad's camera to document and explore any and all types of events. I started to teach art classes back in high school, but have been doing so professionally since 2011. All in all, approximately 10 years at this point? ... woah.

2. What discipline(s) do you teach?
Drawing, painting, sculpture, collage, paper-making, digital photography, graphic arts, comics, ceramics... just about anything that my students will enjoy and/or aligns with some of their core curriculum.

3. Describe the setting(s) in which you teach. (K-5, after school, university, community center, etc &)
I teach at a K-8 charter school in Oakland. CA. There is a very diverse student population both culturally and socio-economically.

4. Describe the relationship between your personal art practice and your art teaching?
The focus in my own practice involves 2 primary elements: utilizing materials and resources immediately or already available, and creating something useful or functional. This often means a focus on resourcefulness in the form of using recycled and found materials, which is very helpful as a teacher with a limited budget and about 275 students. The functionality element comes into my integration approach where I try to create art lessons that connect directly with what the students are learning about in their core classes. I use art-making as a tool to reveal the connections between our visual, social, historical, scientific and mathematical worlds!

5. How do you sustain your art while teaching?
It has been very difficult. I feel like I have very limited time with the demands of my job (I am also an after school instructor and the facilities coordinator) and very limited space in my tiny apartment that it's hard to make the kind of art I would like. But that's really all excuses, and I have been able to work on smaller things like collage when I make the time for it. I took a drawing class, and found that I was much more productive when given assignments and deadlines and such. Ultimately, it comes down to making the time and doing away with excuses... easier said than done!

6. Who shaped your initial thinking about teaching art?
I'd have to say all the teachers at Pittsburgh's Manchester Craftsmen's Guild. This is an amazing after-school arts program that is free to all Pittsburgh Public School students. The experience differed so much from the art classes I took at school that I was inspired to become an arts educator just to try to replicate their approach directly in schools. I appreciated the art teachers I had in high school, but most of the time it just felt like arts and crafts. MCG showed me how empowering an arts education could be and I hope to convey that to my own students.

7. What training in the arts and/or education have you had?
I earned my BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2010, and then my MAT from MICA in 2011. I most recently completed the Integrated Learning Specialist Program offered by the Alameda County Office of Education. I have also been taking art classes again at Berkley City College just to stay on my game and keep the art-making going. Fun and cheap, I recommend it to anyone looking for some inspiration and motivation!

8. How do you develop and deepen your teaching practice?
I try to engage in as much PD as possible... the ILSP courses have had a huge impact on my teaching practice and philosophy. I've also tried to reach out to other teaching professionals in the area to observe their classrooms and pick their brains on how they conduct a successful art program.  

9. What are the biggest challenges you face as a teaching artist?
MAKING MY OWN ART!!! I always try to do prototypes of the lessons I teach, which is fun and interesting, but definitely not always what I would make on my own.

10. What are the unexpected rewards of being a teaching artist?
Some of the appreciation that I receive from students who have had a fun or transformative time in my class. Seeing a student all of a sudden "get" something and apply it right away is always inspiring too. I think the best however is when a parent approaches me to tell me about how their child tells them all about art class and how much fun it is, even when the kid never says anything to me! Teaching is not always a thankful profession but it's really nice when it is!

11. What advice do you have for artists interested in teaching?
I think teaching your ideas is one of the best ways for you to really articulate your own thinking. If you are able to effectively communicate your own approach to art making it shows and can often generate a greater understanding of your own practice. You will be amazed at some of the directions your students will take some of your ideas. The process of teaching will enhance and possibly transform your own art practice.

Please share one anecdote of a memorable Teaching Artist experience.

All I'll say is this.... KIDS LOVE PAPER-MAKING! If you get them involved in the process from beginning (recycling and ripping up paper scraps) to end (arranging, pressing and drying the pulp) they will be engaged the entire time! They love getting messy, playing with the slop, and creating interesting patterns with different colored paper. Go for it!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

No Mountain High Enough...

Learning to teach is like climbing a mountain only to find there's an even higher mountain beyond it. I have a LOVE/HATE relationship with being a teaching artist. My love starts with my love of schools.

I LOVE school.

I love being in schools. I love hallways, bulletin board displays, the sounds of chairs scarping the floors, pencil taping, kids scurrying to and from the bathroom, the hush and then the clamor as kids fall out of class to the yard. The bright colors, the hodge podgeness, the order and the chaos.

I love kids. They're nuts. They're funny and surprising and amazing.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE teachers. Seriously? Who works harder for less? Teachers, they keep getting pummeled by our ignorant society. Still they show up at 7:15am to cut paper, grade tests, meet parents before they go to work, sweep the rugs  (it's not in the janitor's contract, or there is no janitor) fed the gecko, lizard, fish, tadpoles, feed the early kid, the homeless kid, do hair for the neglected girls, and wash the faces of the dirty children. And don't forget they actually teach tiny crazy people to read, write, add and subtract and more. AND they teach manners, caring, social, environmental and school yard justice. They sing, dance, drum and generally make fools of themselves so other people's  video addicted, attention limited, entitled, lost, lazy, rude, sad, sweet, spoiled, precious children can become engaged active citizens.

I love school.

I love the unsung heroes of every school. The front office ladies and men who hold down the fort, provide tissue (often paid for by them since, you know, tissue is a luxury and all), give band aids, advice, and tardy slips. They know who is fake crying to get out of class and who is really ill or sad. They are mean and strict in the best grandmother, great auntie or uncle kinda way. They know all the parents and who is in after care, who has a doctor or dentist appointment. They know who waits outside alone after school because mom is always late. They know which forms teachers have to fill out, they order your supplies and make sure they get to you on time, running the ins and outs of dry erase markers, No.#2 pencils and paper clips like a mafia syndicate (Oops, you didn't get that box of paper? Guess you shouldn't be so rude when you ask! Fuggeta 'boutit!)

I love school.

I love the crazy structure. Recess at 10:40 - 10:55. Whaaat?! Few other work environments run off the clock like that. I recently taught a group of teachers. When I said lunch at noon. There was a collective cry of Noooooo! That was too late. They wanted to eat at 11:35. We compromised with 11:45. bells ring at the oddest times  Nothing begins or stops on the hour or half hour. Always 55, 35, 25. Why? BECAUSE schools have to operate with illogical precision, no minute wasted.

There's sooo much more to love and yet and still I also hate schools, I hate teaching art, I'm over it! As I type that I'm already thinking about how I will rearrange my room, the systems I hope to put in place.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Art makes Creative, Happy, Brave Kids

Art makes creative, happy, brave kids!

Our centers experiment was a success.  Choice Based Art is here to stay! As a first attempt my students and I learned a lot. I look forward to fall and many improvements in the system. The kids did great work and more importantly they challenged themselves and they grew. When asked to give three words that describe the feeling of creating a treasured piece of art here are some of the words kids said:


 ACOE's Inventing Our Future Summer Institute.

More Teaching Artists needed! If you are out there in the "interwebs" reading this PLEASE fill out the Teaching Artist Questionnaire so we can continue to build a resource for each other. Read over past post to see what other Teaching Artists have to say about their art and teaching. get inspired, participate. The link is right u there on the right side...click it! Thanks!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

How can I discover the World of Art, within me and all around me?

This is my throughline for teaching art. How can I discover the World of Art, within me and all around me? I want my students to think about this question everyday and figure out their own answers. I have come to believe you can't "teach art". Especially not to little kids, they already know art. Their ideas are so much better than mine. That is why I love the choice based classroom. 

I used to believe teaching the whole class a project was the only way to teach skills. Instead as each center opens I teach the skills needed to use and care for the material in that center. What the students make using the materials is up to them. In choice class the students figure out what they need to know. They take initiative and they ask for the skills, materials and techniques to make their projects work.  Within each project are challenges and questions that must be answered through the act of making. I facilitate students understanding of their work. 

I also try to apply the throughline to myself.  How can I discover the World of Art, within me and all around me? Can I give myself the freedom I allow/expect my students to have? How can I use what happens in the class in my own practice? 

This post is from my other blog C. Moore Art http://cmooreartblog.blogspot.com proof that my teaching practice and my art practice are getting more blurred everyday. You can learn more about Choice Based Art here Teaching for Artistic Behavior TAB