Need a Fresh Idea for a Visiting Artist? Check out Tiny Circus!

A few months ago I attended the regional Art Education Conference in Iowa, where I had the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the best and brightest art educators this state has to offer (which happens to include several AOE staff members!).  This year it was circus themed.  To be honest, I am not a huge fan of clowns or people in costumes, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Okay, I was downright leery.  But, on the first day, I happened to wander into a classroom at the end of the hall and meet two collaborators from Tiny Circus.  Instantly, I was blown. away!


What is Tiny Circus, you ask?  In short, Tiny Circus is a collaboration of artists who travel and work with students of all ages to produce stop-animation films.  They bring all the supplies, cameras, experts, etc. and work with each group individually to storyboard an idea that works within the constructs of each program.  They can do small group films or involve an entire school.  This past summer, they created a film that incorporated thousands people during RAGBRAI (the annual, hugely popular, bike ride across Iowa.)

Over the course of the conference, art educators from across Iowa were able to work collaboratively with Tiny Circus to develop an art advocacy film.  We created props, participated in interviews and even helped storyboard and capture footage.  The final film was recently edited and shared with the world.  So, without any further ado, I would like to share The Art Classroom!

Please feel free to share this video and use it as an advocacy tool.  I found it short, poignant and fun to watch.  It could be a nice mini-presentation at a faculty meeting or a quick reminder of all the wonderful big ideas that are happening each and every day in the art room.  Also, make sure to check out the Tiny Circus link above to learn more about booking this group for your school, conference or event.

Have you ever supplemented your curriculum with a visiting artist? 

If so, what was the experience like?  If not, what’s holding you back?


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Heather Crockett

Heather is AOE’s Project Manager and an expert in differentiation, curriculum development, and assessment. She is a veteran teacher in the art room and at the graduate level.


  • Jenny

    Wow what a great video. I loved the clay slabs coming together and the drawn brain. What’s holding me back from a visiting artist? Money, being in a new school, working in a low economic community, and time to present/work with every grade level or just one. Any advice? How have others used this awesome experience?

    • Thanks for your honesty. Money is definitely hard to come by these days, especially for perceived extras like visiting artists. My suggestion would be to network. Talk to your PTO, parents, administration, colleagues, etc. Maybe this could be part of a larger event for your entire school? Tiny Circus focuses on creativity and collaboration (two of the 4C’s of 21st Century Skills) so this experience could work to supplement any subject area.

    • Melissa Hayes

      A suggestion I have, is try using the educational crow-funding site Donors Choose to fund a visiting artist. I initially used it to get myself a ladibug document camera, but have just used it to raise money for a visiting artist. The really great thing about Donors Choose is that if donors use a matching code the first 7 days, Donors Choose will match their donation up to $100. I needed to raised a little under $1000, and instead we just had to raise $450, because of the matching donation. Definiately something to check out! :)