Stepping Stones is a monthly column that breaks down seemingly daunting tasks into simple, manageable “steps” that any art educator can take and apply directly to their classroom. Stepping Stones will explore a variety of topics and share advice for art-on-a-cart teachers and those with art rooms.
SPRING ART SHOWS IN YOUR COMMUNITY
by Heidi O’Hanley
Springtime is always a popular time for school districts to host an art show within their buildings. After a few quarters (or a full semester), it’s enough time to gather a mass amount of artwork for display.
Spring art shows are also a good way to demonstrate the students’ growth over time to parents and administrators, which is a nice add-on to your evaluations while demonstrating your efforts. On top of it all, you get to brag about your students’ artistic achievements!
1. ORGANIZING ARTWORKS. Speaking of saving all the artwork throughout the school year, there’s a matter of how to store it until the big date! Every teacher has their own method of storage that works for them. Some use portfolios for each class, others utilize color-coded clips for projects, and some set up portable shelves for temporary storage.
With saving projects over a period of a few months, make sure you create a method of organization with projects that can easily be prepared for setting up for the show, taking down after the show, and passing back to students in a timely manner.
2. CREATING LABELS FOR THE ARTWORKS. Prior to setting up the show, prepare a method of creating labels that are less time-consuming and can be displayed with the artwork. One way is to create a Doc with a list of student names, which can be printed on sticker labels. I’ve seen many teachers use this method for preparing labels that look professional for art shows. You can also save the Doc for the following year’s show, which saves you from re-typing all the names each year.
Another method is having students sign their names on their artwork (just like the artist masters), which is a nice personal touch. This can save you plenty of time from creating individual labels. With each project displayed, you can easily create a description that can hang with the artworks.
3. REACH OUT TO THE LOCAL COMMUNITY. There are many ways to create community connections with an art show! Your students’ show is a great way to share their work with the local community. After collecting and labeling all your student work, you may consider securing a location outside of the school and within the community. Recently, our district has been showcasing our student art contest winners at the local community center, where the public can come to see the amazing artworks our students created!
Other locations that connect with your community can be your local library, park district, village hall, or arts center. All you need to do is reach out to bridge that connection. For example, when the Jr. High art teacher and I discovered that we each had a state art contest winner, we asked our local library if they could display the student artwork for all the winners in the state for a period of time. They were happy to discuss and provide the opportunity.
4. REACH OUT TO LOCAL ARTISTS, ART STUDIOS OR ART CENTERS. Another way to connect to the local community would be to invite a local artist to view the student artwork, or even collaborate with your students at the show. This helps your students to learn about and meet working artists, which helps them to explore career opportunities in the arts. Local art centers or studios have also worked in conjunction with school districts to promote local art programs, continuing classes outside of school, and art activities for art show attendees. There may also be a few non-profit makerspaces who may also wish to collaborate with creativity stations!
5. PROMOTE YOUR STUDENTS’ ACHIEVEMENTS! So how do you plan on advertising your art show? The most common ways to do so with your school is through a weekly newsletter, Twitter, Instagram, the local newspaper, or invitations that can be sent home. As a parent, I love receiving a personalized invite featuring my children’s achievements. If you are working in collaboration with a local community/arts center or artist, you can work with them on promoting a joint event, which could spread to even more potential art show attendees.
6. AFTER THE SHOW. Once your show is finished and artwork is ready to pass back, consider the potential for displaying student work in more places than just your art show. Contact your local village hall, library or arts center and ask if student work can be displayed throughout the remaining school year. Without putting additional work on your already full palette, it takes little time to create temporary displays that can hold artworks for a brief period of time.
If you use Artsonia, family and friends (fan club members) who were unable to attend art shows in person can view the artwork digital images, add comments, and purchase items to help support your school.
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor, Heidi O’Hanley (NBCT), teaches art at Brodnicki Elementary School in Justice, Illinois. Visit her blog at www.talesfromthetravellingartteacher.blogspot.com.