The AOE Conference Challenge

Ok you guys, now that we know each other a little bit better, I feel like I can tell you my deepest, darkest art ed secret. Eek! I’m nervous. Ok, here it goes…I haven’t been to an art education conference since I was in college. What’s worse is that I don’t even have a good excuse. I haven’t been living abroad or working two jobs or taking care of a big family. I don’t even have a pet. The biggest reason I haven’t attended a conference is that I am full of lame excuses. These range from the semi-reasonable, “Three hours is a long way to drive,” to the extremely childish, “What if I don’t know anybody?”


I’m guessing that some of you have had similar thoughts, which is why I’d like to share the three things that made me want to attend my conference this year.

1. I actually opened the conference brochure when it came in the mail.

Because of the excuses running through my head, I was used to throwing my conference brochure in the recycle bin. But this year, I decided to open it. Oh my goodness. It was AWESOME. I had forgotten how many cool sessions there were to attend. I’m happy to say that I am signed up for sessions about blogging for art educators, using art therapy in the classroom, and exploring new book making techniques. Yeah!

2. I was lured by the promise of free stuff.

Let’s be honest, a great part of going conferences is coming home with a bag full of free swag. Did you know that if you attend an art ed conference you can pick up free samples of just about any art material? It’s true and oh so fun. For someone that loves a good bargain, free can’t be beat.

3. I decided that I would no longer be scared of attending an awesome event with like-minded people.

I mean really, what am I so afraid of? Learning new things about my profession? Being inspired by others? Meeting awesome art teachers from my own state? I can definitely handle these situations and will, in all likelihood, very much enjoy them. I even invited one of my art teacher friends from another district so I’ll have a buddy to eat lunch with.

So AOE readers, let’s step out of our comfort zones together.  Here is the challenge: Attend a local art conference this fall or shoot for the National Conference this spring in Fort Worth!  As Cassidy mentioned yesterday, there are so many reasons to attend. If I can do it, so can you!

P.S. If you’re a Wisconsin Art Educator attending the WAEA, make sure to say hello! Also, stop by the awesome AOE booth in the vendor section to meet Jessica!

Will you be attending your local conference this year?

If you’re a seasoned veteran, what advice do you have for first-time attendees?







Amanda Heyn

Amanda is the Senior Editor at AOE. She has a background in teaching elementary art and enjoys working to bring the best ideas from the world of art ed to the magazine each day. 


  • n cahill

    I didn’t attend my first state conference until years into my teaching career. Busy raising 3 boys was the main excuse. When I transferred to a new school with a close acquaintance as the new principal, I screwed up my courage to ask for funding. It was a go! Who knew that every principal has professional development funding for their staff?? Of course, tens of THOUSANDS are spent every year on math & literacy training and resources so my asking for less than $200 was a drop in the bucket. Fortunately, a strong fine arts dept. in the district along with numerous opportunities to show off the marvelous artworks produced by our kiddos work in our favor when getting approval from the school board for registration fees.
    My first state conference was an Art Camp – bunkhouses in the tall pines of Northern Az. There were campfires at night, picnic tables for meals served cafeteria-style, and the camaraderie achieved when having to share a primitive bathroom with 12 other people you just met. Conversations started early in the morning and ended late at night. I strengthened my relationships with co-workers (there were 12 from our district attending but we didn’t all share the same cabins) and forged new friendships that will last the rest of my career. While the many hands-on workshops provided new ideas for lessons, the conversations outside the scheduled events provided classroom management tips as well as media advice, tricks of the trade and email addresses so we could stay in touch!
    The many benefits I received from the past state and national conferences made me the art teacher that I am today and I wonder how much better I could be if I had discovered this advantage years earlier…

    • So glad I’m not alone in waiting to go. I really am so excited. Too bad I’m not going to Art Camp. That sounds absolutely wonderful! 

      • Vivian

         Amanda, I too have not attended in many years. I feel like this year I’d like to go. I’ve sent my principal a couple of emails but haven’t heard back yet. I am not sure they’ll be able to fund the $200 cost for the weekend, plus I will have hotel payments out of my pocket to consider. $350 for a weekend conference is expensive (and may cost more with gas and food), if it will not be afforded by my school. I would love to go to be with and meet other art educators, to be inspired and learn new things, get new materials…etc…. but not sure that I want to spend that much out of my own pocket…  What would you do? Does your school pay for it partially, fully? Curious! thanks

        • In the past, our school has paid for the conference registration, but we had to apply to use PD funds in order to dip into that pot. It was nice that some of the costs were covered. Where there is a will, there is a way!

        • Hi Vivian,

          At my school, if any teacher wants to attend a conference, he or she must fill out a form and submit it to the principal for approval. On the form I had to say why I wanted to go and how I would share what I learned with others. Teachers at my school usually need to budget for any conferences they want to attend, so my conference costs come out of my art room budget for the year. 

          If I were you I would try one of the following two things…

          1. If you feel comfortable, try and schedule a meeting with your principal to discuss the conference. Prepare a short statement about why you want to go, what you want to learn and how you might share what you learn with other art teachers. If your principal sees that you are really passionate about attending you might have a better chance. Plus, I would suspect it’s more difficult to turn someone down in person! If they can’t pay the full cost, ask for at least half. 

          2. If there are absolutely no funds for you, see how you can cut corners with costs. Now might be a great time to get to know another teacher in your district. That way, you can split gas and lodging costs. Or you could see if you know anyone that lives closer to the conference site. You may be able to cut hotel costs even if you have a bit of a drive to the conference each day. 

          Let us know if you get to go. I’ve got my fingers crossed! :)

  • Just found out today that I have been approved to go to the Ohio Art Conference. I have been fortunate enough to go for the past several years. One tip I have is to take along address labels so that when you go see the vendors, you won’t have to write your name a zillion times when entering giveaways. Have fun!

  • Sunnymowery

    My school does not have enough funds to send me to the state conference, but thanks to the extraordinary Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia, I am headed to a fantastic one day symposium on Art and Special Education. The school is hosting the event for Pennsylvania art teachers FOR FREE. I am so thankful things like this still exist. :)

    • Thanks for bringing up a great point…the state conferences aren’t the only opportunities out there. If your school can’t afford to send you, look elsewhere! Love that the symposium is free for art teachers. 

  • Kristyn

    I love, love going to my annual MI conference. It is always one of my favorite weekends of the year. I just had a baby over the summer and have convinced my husband and in-laws to come along. It does help that it is in Traverse City. Thanks to a loving husband I will enjoy the conference and still be able to see and feed my baby. It goes to show how important even he knows it is for me. Plus, he won’t be painting /decorating any rooms while I am gone ( he has done those twice and it never ends well, even though he has great intentions, lol)

    • Wow! What an awesome husband. Doesn’t it feel great when our significant others value what we do? 

  • Ashleigh

    I will be attending the Maryland Art Education conference on October 19th! I’m a grad student working on my MAT, so this will be my first one and I’m really excited about it!

  • I’ll be in Sheboygan too! I will probably have my MTI shirt on or my Arts Solidarity tee. Say hi if you see me! Great job representing Bucky on AOE. : )

    • Great, Kati! Be sure to stop by the AOE booth and visit with Amanda or I when you can!

    • Great, Kati! Be sure to stop by the AOE booth and visit with Amanda or I when you can!