My district’s art department just successfully completed its third annual faculty art show. This event is simultaneously the most stressful and most deeply rewarding commitment of my school year.
We don’t have to be told advocacy for our students is a core part of our job. We promote the arts and art education every day for our students. But, I would argue that today’s political climate sometimes feels a little hostile to teachers… and we need to advocate for ourselves as professionals, too.
On a local level, the public seems to value its educators. But, if you read the national news, it is difficult to find many articles that celebrate (rather than criticize) public education. A faculty art show literally says to the public, “Those who CAN, teach.” It shows your stakeholders you are a dedicated, passionate, hardworking professional who practices what you preach. It also demonstrates to your students that artmaking is a lifelong vocation, no matter what your career may be.
Surprisingly, the logistical aspects of this event are fairly easy to orchestrate. Well, maybe NOT surprisingly, because the people who are organizing it set up art shows for a living, right?! Here is a simple outline for getting your department organized.
1. Choose a date.
Consult your district calendar to choose a date that will work for the most art teachers. Be sure you aren’t competing with any other large district events and you don’t inadvertently create extra stress by planning it near another art teacher’s school show.
2. Choose a venue.
Select a place in the district that is centrally located and open to showing work for an evening or an entire week. A school library could be an ideal venue.
3. Call for entries
Email the intended participants with the logistic information for the show. Be sure to include details about when to drop off and pick up artwork. My district uses a Google form, allowing each person to self-report the title, media, and other information. This strategy makes label creation very easy.
If you have a small department, consider opening the show to all faculty, not just your art staff. We experimented with this idea two years ago and are now thrilled to host artwork from teachers, administrators, and even maintenance/custodial staff.
With three years of faculty art show experience under my belt, I can confidently tell you nerves and abject terror are just a part of this process. There is something soul bearing about opening your work up to such a large audience. But, remember, this is what we expect our students to do every year for our art shows. So, push through the anxiety and make something!
But how do you find the time? In our department, every art teacher uses a different strategy. I am a busy mother of two young daughters, so I create portions of my art collaboratively with my kids. One of our high school teachers, Levi McCulloch, occasionally works alongside his students during studio time, giving them the invaluable experience of watching his artistic process. Liz Pankau, a middle school art teacher, created her beautiful pieces seen below in the AOE Studio: Printmaking course this winter!
These courses are a great way to indulge your creative side while earning credits at the same time. If you’re wondering if you can fit something like that into your schedule, read more here.
After all of your hard work and planning, the best part of the experience is the show itself. It’s a rare, once-a-year opportunity to talk about your art with colleagues and students. At our district show, we serve light snacks and coffee and enjoy the gallery experience with our friends and families. I feel honored each year when our superintendent attends, and I know our vision for lifelong arts appreciation is being authentically demonstrated to him and the public.
Now that our annual show is over, I have time to reflect. There is something about committing to a faculty show that really increases the sense of artmaking accountability. It’s the ultimate professional kick in the butt. You no longer have a choice; people are coming to an event and YOU MUST MAKE WORK. So, decide to value personal practice and commit to it with a faculty show. Good luck!
Does your school district sponsor a faculty show?
What other venues do you use to show your personal artwork?