I came into the profession of art education with a solid grounding in studio practice. The processes of making-art were transformative for me then and have continued to be part of my life in teaching and administration. I have benefited from close association with artists as I coordinated the visual arts program at Houston's School of Visual and Performing Arts, developed programs for artistically gifted and talented in Rhode Island, fostered relationships between arts teachers and the arts community in Providence, and as a member of the faculty here at MICA. Daily, I am engaged with students and colleagues for whom making art and responding to art – and importantly, teaching art- are integral parts of their lives. Along the way, I have maintained a studio practice based in photography that alternates, at times, with time devoted to research, writing, and program development.
In my photography, I am drawn to metaphor. I also use metaphor in my teaching and think metaphorically about my role as a teacher: I see myself variously as a guide, companion, witness, correspondent, observer, fellow learner, collaborator, and participant in the journeys student-artists undertake in the process of becoming artist-educators and community artists. I liken that journey to leaving home, opening oneself up to exploration and risk, conquering challenges, all to arrive renewed in a new place. Having been witness to the transformative power of art and the manner in which it can facilitate growth and development at deep levels – in individuals and learning communities, I see the journey towards professionalism as similarly holistic in the sense that the whole person is transformed in the process.
The profession of teaching has a long and rich history that continues to evolve. The field of community arts is at an important stage in its development as a profession. Both fields share the belief that artistic ways of knowing, thinking and making can facilitate discovery of self-knowledge, creation of meaning, deep learning, artful solutions to problems, and building of community. The role of the artist-educator and the community artist, as I see it, is one of mediator between the learner or participant and the world of art. On one hand, attention to the developmental and contextual needs and readiness of the whole person and the whole learning community guides choice making. On the other, personal experience with art and knowledge of contemporary as well as historical practices provides a vast repertoire of possible forms of engagement, modes of representation, processes of engagement, options for materials and forms, and models from which to draw. Making a good match here is an important as it is in art where finding the right match between materials and ideas, mode of representation and message, has all to do with the quality of engagement and value realized.
It is to this last notion of engagement that I want to comment on: I believe maturation involves becoming more deeply integrated beings. Engagement with challenging tasks, seductive materials, interesting problems, and compelling questions can lead to higher levels of complexity and integration. I hope that the processes of professional preparation and development are highly integrative in the sense that one feels whole: inwardly achieving a sense of integration among diverse roles of artist, teacher, leader and researcher; outwardly seeking integrative experiences with others and community through art. I envision our graduates as personally well-centered and professionally well-prepared, ready to attend to those who lives have been entrusted to them. I am in awe of the creative ways they find to integrate artistic behaviors and practice into the ebb and flow of creative and soulful lives that variously include significant others, family, children of their own, professional development, their own artmaking, leadership, scholarship, travel, and more.
My career path has taken me south from Buffalo and Pennsylvania to Texas, back north to Rhode Island, south again to Louisiana, north again to New York City, finally landing here in Maryland where a collective community of advocates and practitioners keep arts education alive and growing. I have taught at the high school level and in colleges and assumed leadership roles within a variety of contexts: an art department, a school district, a state arts agency, national organizations, and here at MICA. I have benefited greatly from my association with amazing students, inspirational teachers, supportive colleagues, and caring mentors. I have also learned a lot from fellow supervisors, district administrators, parents, school boards, state commissioners and legislators, and funding agencies, each showing me another aspect of the landscape in which arts education struggles to exist. All need help in understanding that engagement with art adds meaning, imagination, inspiration, integration, and great pleasure to education, community, and life in general. Helping artist-educators and community artists deliver on this promise is my mission.