School-wide Art Advocacy

posted on Jan 6, 2020

Imagine a team practicing plays every afternoon but never playing an actual game in front of family and friends. Or imagine a band playing full pieces in practice each day but never performing at a concert hall.

If these situations persisted, student athletes and musicians would lose interest in their craft and lose interest in investing the time and energy required to develop their talents and skills. It can be the same way for art students. Formally recognizing the creative efforts of student artists can positively reinforce their talents and efforts, enhancing the visibility of school visual arts programs.


As a principal, I worked with each of my art teachers to highlight the work of our artists and promote our visual art programs. Our goal was to honor our student artists and to develop awareness for the visual arts within our community. The examples that follow can be replicated or modified at any level.


Student Art Gallery
We dedicated a wall near the middleschool entrance as a gallery for student art. Wooden letters were installed for the Glenna Goodacre Gallery, honoring the nationally renowned sculptor who attended the school. In other schools, trophy cases were dedicated for displaying art. Bulletin boards throughout the school were used for exhibiting student art.


Framed Student Art
We professionally framed student art pieces at several campuses for permanent display in the hallways. This highlighted the individual artists, who donated their pieces or, in some cases, received a monetary stipend for their pieces. The art enhanced the beauty of the school hallway and drew attention to the visual art program to students, parents, and visitors.


Art Speakers
In an effort to expose our students to professionals in art-related vocations, we invited experts to make presentations to our students enrolled in art classes. This included Mike Wimmer, painter and illustrator; Joe Don Buckner, award-winning photojournalist; Don Smarto, filmmaker and photographer; and Will Terrell, comic book artist. Media coverage of these events highlighted the visual art programs on each of these campuses and developed community awareness.


Gallery Field Trips
Field trips to gallery exhibits sponsored by the local universities and community art organizations provide students with the experience of viewing an organized exhibit. Opportunities to attend event openings or to hear special presentations by artists are enriching for students as they begin to see themselves as future art exhibitors. Our community has a strong First Friday Art Walk. Multiple formal and makeshift galleries highlight area professional artists each month. This venue provides an opportunity to view work by a variety of professional artists. Highschool and middle-school student artists have been extended opportunities for group exhibits at this special event.


Art Honor Society
At the middle school, we created a chapter of the National Junior Art Honor Society. We named our middle-school chapter in honor of Rosie Sandifer, a professional artist who attended the school when it was a junior high-school campus. Mrs. Sandifer spoke at the first annual induction. At the high school, we established a chapter of the National Art Honor Society. The chapter members are recognized for their dedication to visual art and participate in an art-related service project each year. Induction speakers can include local art center directors, professors from art departments, and former students working in an art-related field.


Art and Literary Magazines
Our middle-school art and English teachers worked together to create an annual art and literary magazine, highlighting student writers and artists. The selected submissions were featured in a printed publication. The magazine was distributed to students, faculty, and parents.


Art educators can work cooperatively with campus and district administrators to expand traditional efforts to highlight student art and campus visual art programs. I hope these examples will be helpful.


Samuel Ayers is a former teacher and an administrator in the Lubbock Independent School District.


View this article in the digital edition.