6 Art Teacher Stereotypes That Actually Aren’t So Bad

“Can you paint a mural for my new baby’s nursery? Like, this Saturday?”

“Oh, you’re an art teacher, that must be so fun!”

“Good morning! I brought in this bag of 35 toilet paper tubes. I thought you’d want them.”

Good or bad, there are some stereotypes about art teachers that persist. And, let’s face it, which one of us hasn’t been the disheveled person digging through the recycling bin to save bottle caps and egg cartons, the one with the large turquoise jewelry, or even the one who can never fit groceries into the car due to our curbside “treasures”?

Although some stereotypes might have a grain of truth to them, they’re not always seen as positive. Yet, they remain. Maybe it’s time to embrace them and live up to these art teacher stereotypes!

author dressed in tie-dye coveralls with umbrella on head

1. Art Teachers are Weird

“You’re an art teacher, you must be a little weird, right?”

It’s time to embrace it; art teachers are weird! But, so is everyone else. Alain de Botton once said, “There’s a whole category of people who miss out by not allowing themselves to be weird enough.” Art teachers have a magical ability to create a safe space for students where weirdness doesn’t exist. Students feel safe to be completely themselves, quirks and all. It’s an amazing gift – something that couldn’t be achieved without a little weirdness.

2. Art Teachers Play All Day

Oh, you’re an art teacher, do you just finger paint all day?”

This is one of the most common stereotypical remarks we hear, and it’s true, an art room looks tremendously different from other classrooms. Students are not always in their seats, the room is usually a little bit noisier, and 100s of different activities can be occurring at once. To an outsider, this might look like chaos, recess, or play. But, as art teachers, we know this is student engagement and creativity at work. Learning should be fun. If it looks like play from an outsider’s view, we must be doing something right!

3. Art Teachers Can Fix Anything

“I just broke my shoe, can you fix it?”

“I got this stain in my shirt three weeks ago, can you get it out?”

Some days the art room can feel like a revolving door of the local hardware store. Students are seeking hot glue to fix a broken sandal or duct tape to reattach a backpack strap. Often these students end up in our doorway because they are sent by another staff member. It can be irritating to feel like a “fix-it” person, especially if we don’t have a solution to the problem.

Instead, we should see these situations positively. Students and teachers come to us because they know we can find answers to impossible problems. Using our creativity, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills we show our students how to be innovative.

finger painting

4. Art Teachers Are Pretty Much the Same as Interior Decorators

Have you ever asked a science teacher to help choose plants for your garden? How about a math teacher about your finances? The answer is probably no. So why is it that art teachers are always asked about the best colors to paint a house and sometimes even asked to help!?

Naturally, many art teachers have an eye for design, and most people feel out of their league with even the smallest of artistic endeavors. After you politely decline these ridiculous requests, try to remember it’s a compliment to be asked. You really are viewed as an expert in their minds!

5. Art Teachers Have an Unusual Fashion Sense

Most of us are willing to embrace this stereotype. A wacky sense of fashion makes our job so much more fun. We can wear bright colors and mismatched patterns and no one will bat an eye. What we wear says a lot to our students. This type of style emits a sense of approachability that allows students to feel comfortable around us!

6. Art Teachers are Eccentric

“You’re an art teacher? Are you a hippie?”

“Do you sew your own tie-dye clothing and walk around with crystals in your pockets?”

It’s true. Art teachers can be eccentric, but with good reason! Being tuned into the art world exposes us to TONS of amazingly creative ideas every single day. This, in turn, allows us to react to our everyday lives in ways that can be viewed as unusual by others. But isn’t it cool that we have the ability to perceive situations and relate to others in new exciting ways because of our profession?

Being an art teacher is one of the greatest jobs in the world. We make impossible things seem possible to our students. With the job often comes stereotypes some good, some bad. How we choose to deal with these stereotypes can either weigh us down or lift us up. If you’ve felt one of these stereotypes bring you down, try embracing the positivity of what it means to be an amazing art teacher!

What art teacher stereotype do you embrace?

How do you respond to stereotypes?

Abby Schukei

Abby is a middle school art teacher in Omaha, NE. She focuses on creating meaningful experiences for her students through technology integration, innovation, and creativity.

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  • Hannah June

    But wait is that a tie-dye jumpsuit??!?

    • Abby Schukei

      It is! I think EVERY art teacher needs one of those!

      • Baker K3-7th

        Please share where you found it!!!

        • Abby Schukei

          I made it!

  • Beth

    Love this!! It is wonderful to hear someone else has the same questions and stereotypes!! I’m the only Visual Arts teacher in my Jr/Sr High building so I have no one in the building who “gets it!!” Thank you Abby for understanding!!

    • Abby Schukei

      Don’t worry we understand you! Thanks for reading!

  • Kathy Stansell

    I loved this article! It made me laugh outloud. I am the only art teacher in our entire system (K-12) and I have had every one of these things happen. I am more than happy to embrace every one of these stereotypes because I have been all of them. Begin an art teacher really is the best job in the world. Thanks for reminding me of that right here at the end of the year. It really is true: “There is no tired like end of the year tired!” Thanks for the pick-me-up!

    • Abby Schukei

      Thanks for reading!

  • Keith Bowen

    I embrace it. I wear the same shirt and pants until someone calls me out on it…then wear them 2 more days for good measure. Also mastered the 1000 yard stare instead of fixing shoes, phones, bracelets, etc.

    • Abby Schukei

      Hahah “the 1000 yard stare” I think I probably do this more often than I should!

  • Mr. Post

    Mural painting is a good gig. I purchased my first potter’s wheel from the proceeds of painting a mural for a school. I charged them $1000 + supply costs. The secret to painting murals quickly is to use house paint, not acrylics. I chose a palette of colors and had Home Depot mix them up in quarts. House paint goes on much more quickly than acrylics. The school couldn’t believe I finished the mural in two evenings when it was taking their PTO weeks to complete a different mural. I think one of the keys to being respected as an artist is to work like a professional and charge prices that reflect your skills.

  • Patricia Brentano

    Sooooo all the above has happened to me and I fit all the stereotypes! #embracingit

  • BossySnowAngel

    I am a collector of potential art materials including paper bags, interesting boxes, cardboard tubes, craft supplies of all kinds, gift wrap, house paint and more. I tend to horde canvases and reuse them. I also beg students to donate any supplies they haven’t used. Unfortunately it is all too common that they use my supplies when unopened supplies are in their cubbies.

  • Lisa

    I wear A lot of black, but that is more what an artist wears. Yes, I have gotten asked to fix and repair a lot of glasses and shoes through the years ( I don’t do it ). I have gotten asked to paint a lot of murals, my students and I have done one mural.

    • Cocared

      I wouldn’t say most artists wear black. I know hundreds of artists and maybe 1% feel the need to dress in black.