Monday, August 21, 2017

Teaching Art Outside of the Art Room

Meet Mallory Hamby, my best friend. I don't use those words lightly, y'all. I firmly believe that there are just a handful of folks in the world who "get" you and when you find those folks, you cling to 'em. Not in a creepy "let's hope they don't file for a restraining order...again" kind of way but in a "I know we've not spoken in a while and yet it feels like yesterday" type of deal. 

I met Mallory several years ago when she was hired as an art teacher in my district. We became fast friends when we discovered our love for all things thrift, kitsch and Pee Wee Herman. You might recall, my friend Stephanie and I throwing her a Pee Wee Baby Shower just a handful of years ago. Since then, she's moved to Tupelo, Mississippi and spends most of her days loving on her sweet baby girl Lydia Dot. During the weekends, she runs Art Adventures with Mrs. Mallory, an art camp for kids! 
Knowing that many art teachers would love to learn more about running an art camp, I asked Mallory if she'd answer some questions for me. Big hugs and thanks, Mallory, for sharing your awesome. I know art teachers who have toyed with this idea will be thrilled to learn from you!

CS: Why did you decide to start teaching art outside of the classroom?

MH: Life happens and plans change. It all started when I took a year off from teaching to stay home with my baby. The plans were for my mom to watch her after that year and I would return to teaching, but life was turned upside down and my mom got very sick and wouldn't be able to take care of her granddaughter. I realized that in order to keep my daughter at home and still supplement our income I was going to have to be creative! It started out as a summer art camp a little over a year ago, just to put my toes in the water. I hated the idea of abandoning my art education roots, so I was determined to make it work. My mom had total faith in me and told me to go for it and not look back, so I did! My husband is a graphic designer and made a flyers, a banner, business cards and yard sign. My first venture into the community to get my name out there was having a free booth at a local kids music and art festival. I let the kids make bubble prints that they could take with them and handed out business cards.
CS: how did you find a space?

MH: The answer to this question has been a huge part of my success. I was extremely lucky in that I had an old friend and fellow artist that owns a local art shop/studio, William Heard. I took a shot in the dark and asked him if he thought it would be possible for me to use his shop for kid's art classes. He immediately said yes! I asked him if he was sure about it several times- having younger students in the shop scared me at first. William works doing art therapy with adults with disabilities in the shop once a week through grants. I was afraid of getting in the way of something so incredible. The fear of stepping on someone's toes was real, but it was such a perfect location and William is one of the nicest guys you could ever meet. I realize this was finding a golden needle in a giant haystack and I am super grateful.

CS: How did you let the community know? Did you have connections?

In the beginning, I tried hanging up fliers around town in popular restaurants and local shops, but I soon realized that advertising on Facebook honestly gave me the best turnout. I do have to pay to boost my posts or they are never seen, but it always pays off. My customers message me on Facebook to hold a spot for their child in my classes and pay when they arrive. Also, the owner of the shop/studio where we hold classes is pretty well-known around our small town. Where I live, if you've never heard of someone, you probably know at least one of their friends or went to school with them. Having moved from Nashville back to my hometown has been an adjustment, but I also think that being here has been what has made this work. Besides my Facebook and my Instagram, word of mouth has been powerful! I have had several children tell me that their friend or classmate told me about their experience and wanted to try it themselves.
CS: What has been the response?

MH: The response lately has been incredible! Our town really needs more options for kids to experience different activities- especially when it comes to visual arts. I am thanked often by parents for offering what I offer and they remind me how needed it is in our area. After my first round of summer camps were over, which averaged a dozen students per camp, I started teaching a couple Saturday classes per month that were 2.5 hours each. One class for younger students in the morning and an afternoon class for older students up to the age of 12. The first few months of classes on average only had about 5 students each. Halfway through the year, the word had spread and I was getting an average of 15 students in the morning and 7 or so in the afternoon classes. It has gotten to the point with my younger classes where I am only allowing as many students as the studio can handle, which is max 17 students. My afternoon classes are still smaller, but many of my students in the afternoons return regularly and we are able to sit down and go more in-depth with smaller groups and I always look forward to that.
 CS: What does a typical class look like?

MH: Saturday morning classes are usually busy with children ages 4 to 7. I usually spend weeks prepping ideas for a project, but as soon as they are done with it their favorite part is at the end where we do a looser activity that usually involves glitter, gemstones and glue. It never fails, that messy part at the end is always a favorite. I always take pictures while they work and pictures of finished projects at the end and some of my students really enjoy that part, they feel so proud to show off what they have made! The afternoon classes are calmer, but I still allow them to do something pretty messy at some point and they love exploring the studio and using elements that I hadn't planned on using and I enjoy letting them try new processes. The studio is filled with a large arrangement of donated and sometimes bought or found baubles, feathers, buttons, puzzle pieces, pipe cleaners, you name it. I do tend to see a larger population of girls, but its hardly ever entirely girls. The boy/girl ratio often tends to reflect what theme was chosen for that class. I like to choose themes that aren't super relevant or encouraged in a school environment that revolve around what kids are excited about. I have had classes on movies like Trolls, Minions, Beauty and the Beast, Harry Potter and Star Wars and also general themes like Unicorns and Rainbows and Yard Art.
 CS: How is it different than teaching in a class setting?

MH: Sometimes I see glimpses of my old, familiar class setting, but they don't last for long! When the students first arrive for class, I give them a rundown of what we will be creating and give them a demo- this is probably the most similar to a class setting as it gets. After that, it almost feels like an art party. We play music and the students are free to walk around the studio to use different supplies that have been placed on tables. Sometimes, sing-alongs to the music happen randomly. Classes are 2.5 hours long, which differs drastically from the half hour classes I had when I taught in my prior elementary setting. Students are encouraged to loosen up and have the ability to get messy if they want to. Feel the need to use your hands with the paint? Get it out of your system, kiddo! Just really need to let that glitter rain down on your art? Just do it. Need to do a little dance while you brainstorm? Why not. Want to make your art look completely different the route I had planned out for you? Its ok, I'm not grading this and you need to express yourself!  I think the only part that is something I've had to adjust to and figure out how to implement has been discipline. No matter how much some of my students love art and want to be there, sometimes someone has a hard time sharing or being nice about someone else's art. There is that old teacher mindset inside of me that wants to discipline, but the only serious consequence is telling their parent. With that being said, having these classes is still extremely worth it! I feel like I am still putting my passion and art education degree and experience to use, I am able to supplement our income and I am still able to stay home with my little girl during the week. I couldn't be more grateful for that! 
Big thanks to Mallory for taking the time to answer my questions...and, hopefully yours! If you have a question for her, you can leave it in the comments. Also, don't forget to follow her on Instagram and Facebook

Also, big thanks to photographer Lauren Wood for these beautiful images of Mallory and her sweet kiddos. Mallory was recently featured here (eep!) if you'd like to read more. 
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  1. That is fabulous! What a blessing to be able to give children such a great visual arts experience! Way to go, Mallory!!!

  2. Anonymous8/23/2017

    Hi, Mallory!
    Wow! This is so wonderful!Wishsing you lots of energy and inspiration for your project. Could you, please, share your approach to putting together a fun curriculum for the group of 4-5 year olds? My friend and I are working on opening a creative school for bilingual kids at the moment.

    1. Hey there, Helena! I'll ask Mallory to respond ASAP. Thank you for your comment!

  3. Wow, So glad you are having success!
    I am retiring this year, but don't want to give up teaching. How have you set pricing for your camps and classes? Linda

    1. Linda you will love doing it!

    2. I'll ask Mallory what she does. I used to teach after school art classes some 15 years ago...and I charged $8 for an hour, which is NOTHING. I'll find out what Mal does and get back to you!

  4. Thanks for sharing, love what you're doing! I retired in 2016 and opened an art studio, wish I had opened it sooner. We have been blessed to offer & share art in a military community in a small town setting. I am always looking for new things I should offer and make sure I am priced reasonably. Thank you for sharing your studio! Faye May

    1. How fun, Faye May! I know you are loving your new adventure. Your students are lucky to have you!

  5. I really enjoyed reading this post, big fan. Keep up the good work andplease tell me when can you publish more articles or where can I read more on the subject?
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  7. Thanks for posting about this Cassie. I Have an art studio in my backyard called "Ann's Land of Artistic Creations" that I am just getting started having art camps in. I teach in an elementary school also. I am wondering what her prices are also... Thanks a bunch:) Ann Land


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