Davis Desk

In Memory of Laura H. (Hill) Chapman

By Toni Henneman, posted on Sep 3, 2021

Last month we lost a pillar of the art education community and an icon in the Davis family of authors. In celebration of the life of Dr. Laura H. Chapman, please enjoy this abridged letter Marilyn Stewart presented to NAEA in support of Laura’s nomination for the Elliot W. Eisner Lifetime Achievement Award (awarded 2018).

In Memory of Laura H. (Hill) Chapman
Image used with permission from Seth Freeman Photography

From Davis author and Professor Emerita, Kutztown University, Marilyn G. Stewart, Ph.D. :

“As far as I can tell from her vita, the year of Dr. Chapman’s graduation also was the year of her first presentation at a regional art education conference where she presented a workshop titled Visual Display for Learning. More than sixty years later, her laser-sharp policy analyses frequently appears as guest posts on Diane Ravitch’s Blog site. This span represents a professional lifetime of significant engagement in and contribution to the field of art education and education. I’ve so enjoyed perusing her vita in preparation for writing this letter, especially noting her early days as an art educator. Within the first eight years following her graduation, Laura Chapman presented at five regional and three national conferences, published eight articles, one occasional paper and two book reviews, earned a Master of Arts degree from New York University, and was one year away from earning her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University.

She taught in four elementary schools, was Instructor at Indiana University and The Ohio State University and was Assistant Professor in Art Education at The University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. As a consultant, she designed the art program for two rural elementary schools not served by art specialists in Indiana. During those early eight years, Laura also was exhibiting her own studio work regularly—in fifteen exhibitions, three of which were one-person while twelve were invited or juried group exhibitions. Finally, she was an invited participant to the historically significant 1965 Seminar on Research and Curriculum Development held at Pennsylvania State University. Think of it… all of this took place within the first eight out of sixty active years in our field.

Her gifts to art education are many. As teacher, author, researcher, editor, consultant, lecturer and presenter, Dr. Laura Chapman has modeled for all of us what it means to consider our field close-up, addressing where we meet with the day-to-day issues of practice, and from a distance, providing a meta-view, seeing art education in the context of a much broader world of education, and that within the context of policy and politics.

In the area of curriculum and instruction theory and development, Dr. Chapman’s early work with Manuel Barkan at The Ohio State University provided the groundwork for several publications, including the significant Guidelines: Curriculum Development for Aesthetic Education that she authored with Barkan and Evan J. Kern. Her ideas about art curriculum content and planning coalesced in the 1978 publication of Approaches to Art in Education, the text that became a standard in teacher preparation programs and most certainly counts among the classics of our field. Emphasizing the curricular relevance of response to visual forms, knowledge of one’s artistic heritage and an awareness of the role of art in society, this text reinforced the importance of an expanded view of the content of art education curriculum and anticipated a later focus within the field on visual culture. Through her publications, invited addresses, lectures, and seminars, as well as through her many consultantships with international, national, state, and local agencies and organizations, museums, and universities, Dr. Chapman has had a consistent influence on our broad thinking about curriculum in art.

Theory meets practice, however, in the textbooks for grades 1 through 8 that she has published with Davis Publications. I have had the immense privilege of seeing her handwritten and designed pages for the first series, Discover Art, for grades 1 through 6—truly a labor of love and evidence of a commitment to providing teachers with content and approaches for teaching art. In these and the subsequent volumes of Teaching Art, Adventures in Art, and A World of Images and Art: Images and Ideas, Laura demonstrates that important art concepts, skills and themes can be introduced and developed systematically. It has been an honor like no other in my life to have had Laura’s blessing and support as my colleague and friend Eldon Katter and I continue her work and the textbook tradition in Davis Publications’ Explorations in Art for elementary and middle school. I have cherished her mentorship in this project and in other areas of my professional life.

Immediately upon receiving a copy of Dr. Chapman’s vita to review in preparation for writing this letter of support, I scanned the many hundreds of entries, searching for the one that has held such significance for me throughout my professional life. I knew which years to search through because they corresponded to the years in which I served as leader of a small curriculum committee made up of art educators teaching in the Columbus, Ohio, Diocesan Schools. We had learned of a workshop on the new state curriculum guide in art, and I was asked to attend on behalf of our group.

I found a tiny entry on page 6, under the broad heading, “Consultant: State Programs and Agencies,” in which, in 1972–73, Dr. Chapman served as a consultant to the Ohio State Department of Education and conducted training workshops to implement the new state curriculum guide in art. It appeared that at least one of these workshops was held in Columbus. So, there it was. The entry takes up a mere three lines on one page of the twenty-page vita, and yet those three lines reference a dramatic change in my own professional life.

I remember every one of her strategies for presenting the content and approaches represented in the new Ohio guidelines. The expanded conceptions of art and art teaching have remained a constant in my own thinking and in the way I have approached curriculum, instruction, and professional development. I mention this because, as I have had the privilege of going through her vita and seeing hundreds of entries, I am struck by how many lives have been impacted by the presence of Laura Chapman. I believe that this kind of impact is what we mean by achievement over a lifetime. How fitting that she be awarded the 2018 Elliot W. Eisner Lifetime Achievement Award from the organization whose thousands and thousands of members—some who may not even know her name—have benefitted so deeply and powerfully from her tremendous energy, intellect, and commitment.”

Read Obituary

Laura Chapman and Diane Ravitch - 2017 National Conference