Friday, September 5, 2008

Parents Teach Art - Part 2

The following article, written by me, was published today in the Storque.

In my recent article Parents Teach Art I shared information about Duniway Elementary School in Portland, Oregon, and its award-winning, parent-led art program. Now I'll go into more detail about how to make a program like this work at your child's school.

[Second grade "Paint and Poetry" lesson]

The Art Committee
If you are lucky enough to have your school's support, and you have a strong force of willing parent volunteers, form an Art Committee. At Duniway, we found that the program runs smoothly with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, such as:
  • Chairperson or Co-Chairs – Runs committee meetings, assigns tasks, follows up on action items, liaison to school administration and PTA.
  • Art Room "Mom" (or Dad!) – If you have a designated art room, this person keeps it clean and organized.
  • Art Show Coordinator – Manages volunteer crew for set-up and take-down of student art show.
  • Curriculum Master – Develops lessons, leads training sessions, maintains overall art curriculum.
  • Kiln Master – Maintains clay and kiln-related supplies, develops kiln use schedule, provides kiln support.
  • Publicity Coordinator – Creates and distributes promotional materials for art show, writes press releases, etc.
  • Scheduling Coordinator – Develops master schedule for art room and individual schedules for each class based on classroom teachers' input.
  • Supply Master/Treasurer – Orders and maintains supplies, responsible for budgeting and cash flow, seeks donations.
  • Web Master – Maintains a website or blog to post lesson plans, showcase student art, and keep parents informed.
  • Volunteer Coordinator – Maintains volunteer database, recruits Classroom Art Coordinators, makes phone calls, etc. to enlist help!
It's also great to have at-large committee members who can assist where needed. Of course, you might not need to fill all of these positions — remember to start small!

[Kindergarten "Basic Bugs" lesson]

Getting Ready
Now that you have a framework in place, it's time to start making it happen!

Develop an "art year calendar" outlining deadlines and important dates. At Duniway, art is a twelve-week program that begins in January and ends in April, with a student art show in May. (But the art committee works all year long.) You can expect to put in 1-3 hours a week volunteering, so be sure you have the time before making the commitment.

Come up with a theme. Duniway holds a poster contest and incorporates the theme at the art show: for "Art Rocks," we held a silent auction of kid-decorated musical instruments; for "Art รก La Mode," we sold pie and ice cream, etc.

[Guitars decorated by kids for the "Art Rocks" silent auction]

In the fall, work on developing curriculum, creating schedules, soliciting donations, recruiting volunteers and inventorying supplies. Try to get all your supplies in stock by mid-December. Hold information and training sessions for parents so they'll be ready to start teaching in January. Provide copies of lesson plans, show samples and demonstrate techniques.

Build a library of prints, posters, slides, books and music to help enhance the kids' art experience. Slide presentations are amazing, but even walking around showing pictures from a book will be inspiring. An alternative is to go digital and project images from the web; try Artcyclopedia for a vast library of masterpieces.

Appoint a Classroom Art Coordinator for each classroom who will make sure parents sign up to teach and assist with every class. The Coordinator also creates portfolios for storing finished work and meets with each child at the end of the program to select and title pieces for the art show.

[Young designer at work in one of my mandala classes]

Teaching Art
You're standing at the front of the class with 24 pairs of bright eyes expectantly fixed on you. Don't panic! Here are some tips to help you out:
  • Allow adequate time for set-up and clean-up.
  • Set ground rules, like: raise your hand, keep a positive attitude and turn mistakes into "happy accidents" by finding a way to make it work instead of erasing or starting over.
  • Be prepared. Study the lesson plan and check supplies in advance.
  • Explain that examples are for inspiration, not copying.
  • Demonstrate the technique, but keep it short and sweet! Kids will grasp the concept quickly, and you don't want to bore them. Explain the lesson, then get out of the way!
  • Have free-drawing materials available for those who finish early.
  • To get kids' attention, clap your hands and have them put down their materials and clap back in the same rhythm, such as "clap, clap, clap-clap-clap." Dimming the lights also helps.
  • Never, ever tell them they've done it "wrong." Encourage free expression — each child's artwork is unique and special.

Do you have more teaching tips? Post them in the comments below!

[Second graders' abstract paintings, based on the work of Joan Miro, hanging at the Duniway Student Art Show]

Putting on a Student Art Show
Just one 2-D piece and one 3-D piece from each child provides enough art to transform two gyms and two hallways into an incredible art gallery.

[A parent volunteer arranges mounted artwork to hang]

At Duniway, we made banners of black vinyl which are attached to long poles. The selected artwork is mounted, labeled, laid out and attached to the banners with removable putty. Then, with the help of tall ladders, the poles are suspended from the metal window screens and basketball backboards in the gym using chains with hooks.

[Hanging art is fun!]

A student art show is a wonderful time to celebrate art with the community. Duniway makes it exciting with student musicians, student portrait artists, a pizza dinner and a hands-on art station for little ones.We've even had a mini-tattoo parlor featuring temporary tattoos made from children's artwork! Silent auctions of classroom art projects, raffle prizes, and the sale of children's art note cards and custom t-shirts can also help raise funds for the program.

[The South Gym is transformed into the South Gallery for the evening]

Do What You Can
I hope these articles have been inspiring. If you can't find a way to work art into the school day, consider after-school classes such as those offered by Portland's SUN (Schools Uniting Neighborhoods) program. Even if you just teach one class, you will have touched young lives in a way that will make a difference. Keep asking for more art, and don't be afraid to do it yourself.

Further Resources:
Duniway Art Lesson Plans:
Artcyclopedia — Art image library and search engine:

Please see Part One of this article for more resources.

About the author: Christine Claringbold, aka EyePopArt, has been in business since 2003. She is also a mom, an art teacher and a back-up singer in a punk rock band. Her designs have been published in Tattoo Flash Magazine, and her record products have been reviewed by Venus Zine, National Geographic Traveler, Brainstorm Northwest magazine, and blogs including Great Green Goods and Wickedly Chic. She is a proud member of Trillium Artisans, Etsy Trashion, PDX Etsy and Eco Etsy. Check out her blog at

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