The Methods in My Madness

At last!  I have survived my research methods class and have a proposal to present for review.  From now until December, this document will get tweaked and poked and prodded to record my research on…


Here’s the PDF for all you deep readers:

Research Proposal, updated April 24th, 2014

The powerpoint for you visual folks:

Research Proposal Presentation

And an excerpt about the significance of the study…the only part where we could wax a little idealistic…;)

“It is our responsibility as art educators to draw attention to the silence of our students’ artistic voices as a cultural void.  If we will expose ourselves and our students to this vacuum, it may very well suction out of our hearts, minds, and hands that which our world needs from us. When students are only exposed to and taught to create artwork that replicates pedestaled artists and styles foreign to the time and place in which they live, the subject of art-making gets hidden in a dusty corner of their minds.  This study will investigate what art educators can do to promote student engagement and contributions in art-making, and it will provide art educators with a list of strategies for doing so.”




The Madness in my Methods

Lately my personal and family life has required more of my heart and my brain than usual.  As such, grad school got shoved onto a back burner where (I hoped) thoughts would magically bubble and brew into a delicious research proposal.  That’s not exactly what happened…

My mother, a seasoned educator, believes that it is extremely important for students to be emotionally ready to learn.  I’ve recently experienced this in full force, and I agree with her theory.  I’m just now getting my heart and my head back in the game, and I want to share with you where I’m headed with my research.  There’s going to be plenty of madness in my methods, but I’m looking forward to it. 🙂  I’ve honed down my broad, ambiguous, and elusive subject of “play” into a more concrete research goal:

  • My research goal is to develop strategies that encourage student contributions in the art classroom.  My end goal is NOT a curriculum.  It is a set of practices/activities/prompts/questions designed to invite students to bring more from their own worlds and lives into their art making.
  • My study will take place in a unique setting, a summer art camp at the Renee Foosaner Education Center in Eau Gallie, Florida from June 3rd to August 1st.
  • This research is of interest to me and to the field of art education because it is capable of addressing a wide range of issues in the art classroom such as play, collaboration, motivation, agency, and personal voice…yet it will provide specific strategies for encouraging student contribution.
  • This research is relevant to art educators who wish to provide more opportunities for their students to “bring something to the table” in the creative process.  It is relevant to the lives of students who will have an outlet to share and creatively build upon their collections/ideas/creations/findings and the contributions of their peers that come from outside of the classroom.  It is also relevant to parents who might see their children looking at the world with wider eyes and developing their own methods for recording the world around them so that they share what they experience with their art teacher and their peers during the creative process…and, ultimately, they may share these experiences with viewers who see their artistic products.
  • My research lies tangent to (but does not include) collaboration in the art classroom, found art, non-traditional art making materials, and the Reggio Emilia approach.

Surprise, Surprise

I love to surprise people with my art.  Sometimes by making surprising art, sometimes by putting art in surprising places.  The other night I left this little guy for my dad to discover on his computer monitor.

10154294_664553096936558_1195079847_nI like being sneaky.  There’s a tension and a buzz in the air when you are trying to keep a secret or plan a surprise.  Kids get to have fun at being sneaky all the time.  Adults should seek out opportunities for good-natured sneakiness more often.

I love to surprise people, but I also love being surprised.  Tonight on my drive home, my owl prank came full circle as one of these gorgeous birds of prey swooped in front of my car and took my breath away.  Well played, you wise, sneaky old bird.


Just Say NO!


Creative Infrastructure

Doughnut A first year graduate student in my arts management class presented a paper this week on arts labor economics.  Her undergrad degree was in acting so she had never delved into the topic formally. She certainly understood through anecdotal observation that there is an imbalance between artist labor supply and artist opportunity and that artists are often paid less than their peers in other fields (to put it mildly).  Among the factors she considered was that artists are often willing to work for low or even no pay because the joy of doing the work is payment enough.   In concluding her presentation, she posed a rhetorical question that I paraphrase here: How can we make this vicious cycle of artist oversupply and underpayment stop?

Following this presentation, I returned to my office and this email:


I want to reach out and see if you have any film students that…

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Was Blind (But Now I See) Contour Drawings

We all do lots of things. One of my roles among my “lots of things” is as director of student ministry in a small-town Methodist church. Yesterday and today I attended the Real Ideas conference, a gathering of pastors, church staff, and volunteers who are looking for a little inspiration in their ministry. I took in many presentations and looked at the backs of many of heads. (Which, oh joy of joys, I will share with you!)

When I am a part time church staff member I do not cease to be an artist. Throughout the conference I collected people mostly via blind contour drawings (drawings where you DO NOT look at your paper). Here are some of my fellow conference attendees:













A Round About Challenge

Artists, children, and other humans, I have a challenge for you! How can you create a circle without tracing an already existing circle?

Send in photographs and maybe an explanation of how you did it to, and I will post your brilliant efforts here. 🙂

Here’s mine:
I dyed dish soap and water with food coloring and blew bubbles. As the bubbles sat on my paper, the edges created these rings!



Late night wonderings about play, memory, and spontaneity

Why do we remember tiny details about the games we play, but can rarely recall details about worksheets we’ve completed?

Is it just a matter of how invested we are in the present activity?

Is it because our bodies are more engaged when we play?

Is it because no one wants to hear stories about the worksheets we’ve filled out, but will gladly swap stories about games? Is that why we remember them…so that we can retell them?

Play has a kind of order and structure to it, one that lends itself to good stories. There is sequence. There is cause and effect. But there is also chaos, which make things very interesting.

Do we remember the things we learn when we play because there is an element of surprise, there is excitement in not knowing what comes next?

How can we create an environment in our schools that feels more like real life?

Completing a series of worksheets, readings, and tests feels so contrived. Like a sad little shadow of life. But how can play and surprise take on a role in our learning process without introducing complete chaos?

How do we as educators create the balance between spontaneity and structure?

Ah, the things that keep me up at night.

thoughts on art education and art making