Thursday, October 27, 2016

NH Art Educator's Fall Conference 2016!!

The New Hampshire Art Educators Association's (NHAEA) Fall Conference is one that I look forward to every year--"Clear the calendar! My Conference is coming up!!!" I love to connect with old friends, meet new friends, enjoy a lunch that is made for me and that I don't have to clean up after (hey, I do have four kids!), and get my artsy-ness on!! I purposely sign up for hands-on art making workshop choices. While I love me some lecture on art education theory, I don't get to make art as much as I would like, and art school was a-ways back in time, so any chance I have to create and learn new things I can take back to my classroom, I am game!

Interacting with the art at the Currier Museum...

This year's conference was fabulous and inspiring! It was held at the New Hampshire Institute of Art (NHIA) in Manchester, NH. Keynote speaker NH Artist/Illustrator/Author Marty Kelly spoke about his artistic process and how his multiple "failures" have been useful to his creative process. He urged us as educators to create a "culture of failure" in our classrooms where it is OK to make mistakes and take chances (leading students to further growth, risk-taking, exploration). He suggests that failure is part of the learning process and is essential to learning and growth. He encouraged us to change our attitude about failure as well as our students' attitudes about it as well. He explained that if we are afraid to fail we will be afraid to imagine, innovate, explore, and try. Having a classroom culture where failure is accepted and seen as an opportunity for discussion and growth also allows students to begin to accept advice and criticism and use what is right for them. He says that failure is a "pit stop along the road to success." 
Keynote Speaker: Author and Illustrator Marty Kelly
Photo courtesy: NHAEA website (
This is particularly useful to me as much of what we do in the middle school art room is moving away from product-focused, cookie cutter art to process-focused, student-centered work where the students are encouraged to problem-solve, explore and make the piece their own. This is a tough transition for some and some students struggle when they do not have a teacher-model to "copy" and are asked to try and explore and adapt. I've often have students come up and ask, "Is this an A? Am I done?" The first couple of times this happened I was floored, now I counter with: "I don't know, are you done? Take a look at the project objectives and talk to one of the other students in class to see if they have suggestions for further improvement (or to see if your piece is "saying" what you want it to say)." To me, this part of the creative process is a gradual release as the students' confidence and skill-level increases, ultimately preparing them for the independence and self motivation that high school will require. 

Session 1: Reinterpreting With Recylables. I went on a mini field trip to the Currier Museum of Art and saw the Mount Washington show that just opened. Mount Washington is the highest mountain in New Hampshire and is known throughout the world for its crazy weather. We went downstairs to classroom and Linn Krikorian taught us how we can use the art and artifacts within the Currier's collection as well as from life and other disciplines and have students reimagine them using recycled materials. Resources were shared for places to get interesting recyclables and for using this idea across the curriculum. Then Megan McIntyre discussed how art can be used to facilitate other ideas across the curriculum such as Science, Math, etc. This is particularly pertinent to me in my art room as I strive to develop lessons that are individualized and cross-curricular in nature. This lesson idea (and its spin-off ideas) will be helpful to me as I encourage the students to observe and reinterpret art and artifacts in class but make them their own. 

My take on a Robert Indiana from the Currier's collection.

Session 2: Structures to Sculpture (Bookmaking) This was a wonderful hands-on session led by Erin Sweeney, professor at NHIA (and her student helper Karen) taught us about a number of book-making techniques and led an open discussion amongst the creative educators present as to how we are currently using these structures within our classrooms and how we could potentially use them even more. Connections to other courses were discussed as well as connections to STEM/STEAM. While the pieces we made weren't complete (just the "bones" of the books and not fully developed within), the examples took the 2D linear idea of "book" and transformed it into 3D sculptural forms (easily!!) that could be used in our teaching in a number of ways (assessment, reflection, student mini portfolios, the documentation of a unit or the transformation of an idea, etc.). This was a VERY relevant workshop in that it allows a student to move from 2D to 3D in a seamless and accessible way while allowing them to reflect on a process or subject matter and use the 3D model-making techniques that we strive to teach them in class. This will definitely be applied to my future 7th and 8th grade classes next trimester! 

Busily working at the Structures To Sculpture Session led by Erin Sweeney.
Photo courtesy: NHAEA website (
After our sessions, we met back in the mail hall for closing remarks, a raffle (nope, didn't win anything this year), and a wine a cheese reception sponsored by NHIA. I went away physically tired, but rejuvenated and with so many great ideas that I can bring back to my students!

And here are some other images from the Currier workshop--the art of my classmates. ENJOY!

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