MICA Faculty Win Prestigious Art Educator Awards

From left to right: Annet Couwenberg, Vanessa López, and Nan Park

Three MICA faculty members have been recognized by national and state organizations for their outstanding work as art educators. They include Annet Couwenberg, honored with the Distinguished Teaching of Art Award by the College Art Association (CAA); Nan Park ’16 (Art Education MA), named Eastern Region Higher Education Art Educator of the Year by the National Art Education Association (NAEA); and Vanessa López ’07 (Art Education MA), named Maryland Higher Education Art Educator of the Year by the Maryland Art Education Association (MAEA). In addition, current Master of Arts in Teaching candidate April Steele was named Maryland PreService Art Educator of the Year by the MAEA.
MICA Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost David Bogen said, “MICA has a long and well-known history as a center of excellence and innovation in art and design education. These awards not only recognize the individual achievements of some of our most outstanding faculty, they testify to their commitment to their students, their fields, and to value they place on art and design as both context and process for teaching and learning.”

Distinguished Teaching of Art Award – Annet Couwenberg
 The CAA bestows the Distinguished Teaching of Art Award to an artist of distinction who has developed a philosophy or technique of instruction based on their experience as an artist and who encourages their students to develop their own individual abilities.

Born in The Netherlands (NL), Couwenberg’s work explores connections between traditional craft production and contemporary digital technology, and she spearheads the Fiber Department’s Wearable Technology and Smart Textiles courses. She has taught a diverse curriculum in the department and regularly collaborates with Willem de Kooning Academie in Rotterdam, NL. As an artist, Couwenberg exhibits nationally and internationally, with solo shows at the Textiel Museum in Tilburg, NL, and the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, MA, and group exhibitions at the Museum of Art and Design in New York and Gyeonggi MoMa in Seoul, among others. Her work has also been featured in The New York Times, Le Monde, and the National Academy of Science Magazine.

Regarding the honor bestowed by the CAA, Couwenberg said, "This award has my name on it but in truth it belongs to everybody in the Fiber Department and the leadership at MICA—everybody who has worked to make the department relevant, vital, and thriving. My gratitude goes out to my peers at MICA and Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, NL, to be nominated and recognized, and MICA's leadership team whose vision steered me from day one. Thanks to all students, those who have touched my life and work in numerous ways, and for what they have taught me.”

Eastern Region Higher Education National Art Educator of the Year – Nan Park
The NAEA honors educators in higher education from four geographic areas annually,  recognizing exemplary service and achievement of regional significance. Upon naming Park Eastern Region Higher Education National Art Educator of the Year, the NAEA stated, “There is no greater testament of exemplary contributions to the field of visual arts education than being chosen for this prestigious award … recognizing leadership, commitment, and service to the profession.”

At MICA, Park works closely with both pre-service art educators in the MA in Teaching (MAT) program as well as in-service teachers conducting research in their classrooms in the MA in Art Education (MAAE) program. She is the recipient of the 2014 MICA Trustee Fellowship for Excellence in Teaching, and was named the 2017 NAEA Art Educator of the Year Award for Maryland. She regularly presents at state and national conferences, and has served the MAEA as treasurer, as conference coordinator, and as a member of the association’s Executive Council. In the classroom, she is interested in how contemplative artmaking practice can be used to deepen understanding of course content and cultivate mindfulness, while nurturing community and safe spaces for dialogue and transformative growth. Her studio practice revolves around capturing moments of everyday living, using ritual and contemplation as frameworks for making.

Park, who will accept the award at the NAEA’s national convention in March, 2020, said, “As an art educator, my role is to help students embark on a journey of seeking, wondering, wandering, and creating, beginning first with contemplative making processes to coalesce and solidify one’s own convictions. This deeply felt knowing, made powerfully clear through artistic means, sets a foundation upon which to expand one’s influence outward. As art teachers—through ever-evolving, creative, and multi-layered ways to reach students through art education—we teach others that art has the power to enliven, awaken, and connect us, expanding everyone’s capacity to shape the world.”

Maryland Higher Education Art Educator of the Year – Vanessa López
The Maryland Higher Education Art Educator of the Year award recognizes the exemplary contributions, service, and achievements of outstanding art educators at the state level.

López is a locally and nationally recognized art educator due to her service on the writing team for the National Core Arts Standards in Visual Arts, her work as the coordinator for the 2010 NAEA Convention held in Baltimore, and her role on the Fine Arts Education Advisory Panel for the Maryland State Department of Education. Her research interests focus on cultural identities in school settings and urban education. She has been published in the Art Education Journal, Art and Social Justice Education: Culture as Commons (2011), the New York State Art Teachers Association (NYSATA) newsletter and the NAEA blog.

“I teach because education, for a long time, failed me. I did not see versions of myself in front of the classroom and more often than not, education was used as a form of dominance and control. Yet within that structure, there remained a place where stories were encouraged, where experimentation was rewarded, where I felt seen. That was the art room,” López said, adding, “I am an artist and educator today because the visual arts offered agency. I make and teach, because the canvas and the classroom are always political spaces, and making and teaching are my acts of resistance.  
Across the country, the state of Maryland is known for its strong art education pedagogy, programs, research and educators. Receiving the Maryland Art Education Association's Higher Education Art Educator of the Year award is an honor. "

Maryland PreService Art Educator of the Year – April Steele

The MAEA recognizes excellence in student achievement in art education at the college/university level through it’s PreService Art Educator of the Year Award.

Steele earned a BFA from Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, studied Environmental Sustainability at Stanford, and received a MAFA from Norwich University of the Arts in Norwich, Norfolk, UK before coming to MICA to pursue a MAT. As an artist, her work encapsulates a personal perspective of politics and poverty through a representational exploration in the psychological and anthropological human behaviors with impoverished communities in the U.S. Her work has shown most recently at WPA Annex in Washington, D.C., Varsi, in Rome, and Swinton & Grant, in Madrid.