Sunday, April 20, 2014

What the Art Teacher Wore #96 and Artist/Teachers

Monday with a Side of Cat: We have a lot of wee wildlife activity that happens on our deck. There's the usual squirrels, chipmunks and birds...but lately we've had plenty of visits from the wild turkey in our neighborhood as well as some unwelcome opossums and skunks. It's enough to keep our indoor cat entertained for dayz. dress: vintage, thrifted; belt and boots: Anthropologie; tights: Target; necklaces: DIY made by me, here.
 Hiya, kids! I hope you all had just the best weekend ever. I spent the grand majority of mine hiking with the hubs, watching entirely too many episodes of any and every survivalist show we can manage to find and felting. Oh, yes, looooots of needle felting. I can't wait to share with ya'll the finished mess-terpiece later this week!

Earlier this week, I caught an interesting conversation on the Art Teachers page on Facebook. It was a long-winded convo where, sadly, things got lost in translation and it got a pinch ugly.  Essentially, what it boiled down to was this: a comment was made that drew a line in the sand between "Career Artists" (not my words) and "Art Teachers".  Wait, there's a difference?! It was like you coulda heard all the art teachers suck air in through their tightly clinched teeth.

Maybe Ima speaking for myself when I say this but...I discovered art (and my love for it) first, then art education (and my love for it.) Since finding my love for creating way back in elementary school, I considered myself an artist. I never dreamed of becoming an art teacher until college when my parents (who thankfully footed the bill) suggested an art ed degree. At the time, I was attending Indiana University and currently enrolled in the painting program there. And, boy, talk about a line drawn in the sand! The moment my painting professors found out I was on the path to becoming a teacher, it was like I was no longer a serious artist. The mentality and snobbery strongly reminded me of that Career Artists vs. Art Teachers convo.

Now, in defense of the term "Career Artist", it does mean one that makes a career of creating and selling their own art. And that is not something I do. So, I understand the difference, I get it. However, what I do instead of selling my own art is enjoy creating art for myself and teaching others to do the same. I guess you could call me a Crazy Career Art Teacher. And I'm cool with that.

Do you know of any famous artists that were also great educators? Aside from finding out that Gene Simmons used to be a teacher (wait, whut?!), I discovered that portrait painter Robert Henri was also a Career Art Teacher. 
 Robert Henri, 1907 Wikipedia says that Robert Henri (1865-1929) was an "artist and a teacher," forming the famous Ashcan group (one of my college faves). Robert Henri was a popular and influential teacher at the Art Students League of New York. It's said that he gave his students, not a style (although you can tell some were strongly influenced by his style), but an attitude, an approach to art.
Mary Agnes, 1924 It seems that Henri was always a teacher, a leader, even in his group of artist friends. He urged his friends and students to create a new, more realistic art that was more about their life and surroundings and less about creating Impressionist-influenced works. The paintings by Henri, John Sloan, George Luks, and others that were inspired by this idea became the Ashcan School of American art.

If My Keys Were Always this Easy to Find, Tuesday: This here is the first ever dress I made...with the help of a good art teacher buddy of mine. dress and belt: me!; tights: Target; shoes: Dolls by Nina
 Tam Gan, 1914 In keeping with that notion that artists should be influenced by their surroundings, Henri said: "Art cannot be separated from life. It is the expression of the greatest need of which life is capable, and we value art not because of the skilled product, but because of its revelation of life's experience." I love that. Don't you?

Yes, I Wore this to Work Wednesday: Recently, someone asked me if I actually wear the outfits I post to school. Well...not to sound like an a-hole but the blog post is called "What the Art Teacher Wore". I don't snap too many photos at school because 1.) I find I look less like pooh on a stick first thing in the morning before I leave the house 2.) I take these photos myself with my camera timer. When someone walks in on me snapping away it is Awk.Ward. to say the least 3.) My art room is always a disaster! I mean, look at those mounds of zip-locked clay projects behind me on the floor. And that's the "clean" area! sweater, purple top, tights: Target; skirt and shoes: thrifted; necklace:   The Paper Source
Oh! I interrupt all this Robert Henri-ness say, look who I got to meet up with on Wednesday...none other than Erica, aka Art Project Girl! I met Erica through the wide world of art teacher blogging and was so thrilled to visit with her (and her super sweet sis-in-law) while she was in town. It was so fun meeting up with her -- even though we'd never met, it was like we'd known each other forever. So glad to see/meet you, Erica!

Sparkly Thursday: Oh, gotta love a four day week...I thought the occasion called for wearing excessive amounts of sparkles. As should everyday, really. top and tights: Target; sweater: ebay; vintage painted skirt: Buffalo Exchange

The Green Sacque, 1927 One of the things that really strikes me about Henri is that he wasn't just a teacher to his students but to other artists. I felt weird reading that conversation on Facebook because of that line in the sand. Why is there a divide between Career Artists and Art Teacher? Shouldn't we be learning from and influencing each other? I could learn so much from a working artist that could be shared with my students...and vice versa. I did find that there are actually a couple of online communities that work toward just that. One is called Artists Who Teach and another is the Association of Teaching Artists
Good, er, Happy Friday!: On Thursday, one of my students said, "Tomorrow is called 'Happy Friday'...right?" After that was straightened out, we all agreed that a day off is pretty stinkin' happy. dress: Anthropologie found at Buffalo Exchange; scarf: Orly Kiely; belt: gift; dotted boots: DIY, go here.
 What are your thoughts on this, ya'll? As an art teacher, do you also consider yourself an artist? Or, because you don't sell your work as a main source of income, does that make you less of one? Do you create artwork with the intent to sell or show? Or simply for your own pleasure?

Could I possibly ask you any more questions?!

Oh! Yes, I've actually got one more! Have you read this book by Henri? I've been meaning to since those aforementioned college when I found out the dude was an artist/teacher. Looks like a summer read to me.

Be back with ya soonish!


  1. You've inspired me to try my hand at dress making this summer!! I adore your fashion posts so much. And, I agree. . . My mentor uses the term, artist-scholar. I like that term a lot.

  2. I'm an artist first (even if I only create during the summer months) and an educator second. My students are my world to me and they come first during the school year. But I couldn't imagine trying to teach something that I don't participate in.

  3. Anonymous4/20/2014

    Another teacher and artist, Thomas Eakins... with a rather colorful history in regards to teaching.

  4. Hi Cassie and all of you artists educators! George O'Keefe was also an art teacher. Many classic traditional artists had apprentices which means that they were also teaching artists.

  5. I love this! Yes I do consider myself an artist/teacher. It's kind of important to be creative in every aspect of your life when you are an artist/teacher. I think it's so cool that art teachers are really one of the only teachers who have to practice what they teach. . . you don't have to be a mathematician to teach math, or a scientist to teach a science class, but still we aren't always treated as the core subjects are. . . I digress. I think this mostly has to do with the fact that people truly are a little confused by artists and art teachers but they know enough to appreciate it.

    Also I never knew about this Henri artist. . .duh. Will have to reread and look into him more.

    PS. So fun to meet up! Thanks for taking the time when you were in the middle of clay week!!! I really enjoyed meeting you and so did Kelly. You are such an easy and fun person to be around (as I knew you would be!) Sure to be the first of many fun hang outs. Maybe next year I can take off for the conference.

  6. I have to admit it's boggling my mind that this was even a point of contention among anyone in the art world ! My goodness.....I don't even know where to start. We are all teachers ...each and every person we meet has something to teach us - and vice versa...I even read a book once called "Every STONE is a teacher" - and I picked up the book in the first place because it spoke to me about something I already knew was true. Of course an art teacher can be an artist and any who calls themselves an artist and thinks they could put their artwork out for the masses to view and buy and not influence anyone ever in any way - must have a VERY high opinion of their work and must believe it's so outstanding and remarkable that nobody COULD learn from it !!! Wowee shazam - whoever these people are - they have made me a little bit annoyed tonight ! I actually think it is HARDER to teach others about the way I work ! Because I get into a flow when I am really into what I am doing and I don't think about it ! Having to teach what I do to someone else requires me to step out of the flow and remember there are others around me. Or else I have to get into a frame of mind where I talk out loud and make myself forget others are in the room. I suspect some who think that art teachers are "less than" a "real artist" (whatever the hell THAT might be ???) - has a mistaken idea of how hard it can be to teach others with varying personalities and skill levels. I think there are two different types of art teachers though...those that think their way is the only way - and those that live and breathe art and want to share and encourage others to create. The second type is you dear Cassie - the first type -well - they are not true teachers in my book.

  7. Oh yes, I didn't expect such a big divide in college between those who were art majors and art education majors. I wasn't sure that I really wanted to teach art while in college, either, so it seemed strange to me. (Then, I interned in an elementary school and LOVED it.) It seemed strangest coming from professors, because, seriously, they are ART EDUCATORS. They should be even more supportive!

  8. It sure takes commitment and time to be both teacher and artist. For a long, long time I completely neglected myself as an artist. I was so busy teaching and parenting there was no time left for anything but making samples and testing new projects. I often found myself feeling like a fake. Anyone else experience the guilty feelings about that? Fortunately, our local cultural arts center began an annual show celebrating artist/educators and the director talked me into entering work. I was forced into producing something and it felt great! The gallery hosted an opening and awarded cash prizes. This year was our third "Bite of the Apple" show and the quality of work goes up each year. Being valued as artists, teachers and members of the community just makes such a difference!

    1. You know, I think as we begin our art teachin' career, we all find ourselves spending more time lesson planning and sample making than anything else. And I think that's necessary, don't you? But a couple oft years into that, I started to become bitter...when was it MY turn to make MY art?! So I slowed down...and shifted my focus a bit. I loooooove the idea of an art teacher show! That is fantastic! I've suddenly got the notion that my district needs something like this. Thank you for sharing!

  9. I don't know how you do it, Cassie. I have barely enough energy to pull on a t-shirt in the morning and you do your thing on a daily basis:) I love it!
    As far as the artist/teacher thing, I think the process is the most important part for me and I stress this to my students as well. The creative act is what drives me as an artist. I NEED to make stuff, it balances me. Whether it be creating art or guiding kids through the language of visual art, I want to leave a positive mark. My artmaking is an inward path towards this and teaching is an outward path.
    I love Erica's comment above about how visual and performing arts teachers walk the walk, so to speak. So true, and vital to our profession.

  10. HI Cassie!
    I love your blog and your style! When I was graduating from art school, I overheard my ceramics teacher say to someone, "She used to be one of us." He also said to me when I made my decision to go to Art ED, the old saying... "Those who do, do. Those who don't, teach." He is a teacher and is still working as a teacher to this day! Why can he be an artist and a teacher, but I couldn't? Double standard! I graduated in 1978, so that is a long time for him to be a teacher. My college was founded to start "art teacher training" so we would be more self-sufficient in the arts.

    Ralph Goings, Wayne Thiebaud, Frank Benson, and Edmund Tarbell also were art teachers. Some of us may make the big time too! A co-worker in my district has even sold art work to the Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston, MA. Not too shabby for an elementary art teacher!

  11. Hellos Cassie!
    You live your art! Good discussion seeds...and thus, my story. I, like most of us, am many things that create the whole of me. Dividing that essence of 'me' by which part earns the most money (career vs. teaching) is not an acceptable definition of who I am art-wise. You see, long ago and far away I was a working professional artist. I worked *all the time*, sold art, did shows, belonged to galleries, all that stuff. I supported us doing so- not in style, but we ate. It was stressful, miserable and slowly sucked the joy out of creating....and then I got pregnant. I swiftly realized that the life others thought I led (envision: studio in the mountains, creating and selling with baby in tow, waltzing through life on my own schedule) was not matching the reality (constant stressing about money, canceling shows to care for sick baby, trying to meet inflexible deadlines). I made the decision, returned to school and got my degree in art ed. At first, I thought this was merely a practical-sensible decision to last us through the first few years of childhood. Then I feel head-over-heels in love with teaching, with my unruly teenagers, with not having to bleed my creativity constantly in order to please a client's vision. I am thus *more* of an artist now than I was when *career*- because I am freed of the commercial considerations. I do still make, sell, show and have clients- but now it is on my own terms- I know that I can say *no*. 18 years later, the baby is grown, I'm still teaching, still an artist, and still more than the sum of my parts.

    And, dear Cassie, you rock! Thank-you!

  12. So Cassie--do you a recommend Buffalo Exchange? They have one here

    1. I LOOOOOVE Buffalo Exchange! They don't have 'em in Tennessee (the closest for me would be Atlanta and I've not been to that one). The ones in So Cal (why do I feel like a jerk saying "so cal"?!) are AMAZINGLY awesome. Seriously. Especially for vintage, they're prices are unbeatable. Never sold clothing there, so don't know about that but I've dropped some serious coin at that place!


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