One of the simultaneously best and worst studio art class experiences I ever had was in a painting course that cultivated a hierarchical understanding of success. In this environment, all of us students vied for the attention of our instructor like children vie for the attention of their parents. We were steeped in competition, trying to out perform each other at every turn. On the one hand this competitive climate made me grow in both artistic ability and emotional fortitude. On the other hand it completely prevented me from reaping the full benefits of my education by alienating me from my peers. I shared nothing. Since we were in creative competition with each other it was difficult to work together and commit ourselves to the betterment of our collective art practices. Instead we spent an unsustainable amount of time in studio, not eating, not sleeping, only dishing out negative feedback about our peers’ projects in hopes that we could out art each other by the next critique.
Now that I have experience teaching at both the K-12 level and the college level, I realize that establishing a nurturing yet rigorous educational environment is much more conducive to meaningful learning. An important component to initiating this type of spirit is simply by having fun. I focus my first couple of classes on ensuring that my students and I have structured opportunities to bond with each other through Theater of the Oppressed styled icebreakers. Peer-to-peer learning is equally important to me as what the students can glean from me as instructor. Additionally, I always try to emphasize my students’ own leadership in the classroom. I do this by encouraging them to help each other, and also by incorporating a research presentation into the class projects. This helps students learn to thoroughly investigate a topic in art and professionally present their findings to the class. These research projects support the students’ professional development. They challenge the students to take the position of expert on their chosen topics.
Dialogue, collaborative projects, and trouble shooting between the students is key to success in my courses. As a community artist myself, dialogue, relationship building, and collaborative learning is crucial to the progress of my art practice, and I try to foster the same sensibilities and opportunities for teamwork and communal learning in my classroom. Additionally, I think that gaining knowledge from “the field” is an important part of being an artist. With every class I teach I try to bring in at least two locally practicing artists as guest speakers to support the students’ by providing feedback on their in-progress works and then return later to participate in critiques. In the past, these guest speakers have become important mentors and friends to my students.
My classroom is a safe space where students can try new things, investigate important issues at an intimate level, unpack socio-historically constructed differences of race, gender, sexuality, and national origin, and challenge themselves to fully pursue the work they wish to without fear of unproductive, belligerent rebuke. My goals are that my students will leave the class with an understanding that art can function beyond something with purely aesthetic value. Art can be about risk taking, connection between disparate people, activism, and empowerment. In our increasingly global society, my students come from continuously diverse backgrounds. As such, the projects that I plan for the students provoke them to not only think broadly and make skillfully, but also to think critically, politically, and globally, and see themselves as change makers in the world.
In Emily's current capacity as Coordinator of School & Family Programs at the Rubin Museum of Art (2016-present), she has developed and taught numerous in-gallery tours, studio art workshops, professional developments for educators, and more.
During her time as a Graduate Intern at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Emily was primarily responsible for writing and facilitating curriculum for The Met's high school interns. She also lead various in-gallery tours and studio classes for teens.
Read more about the lessons she taught for 2016 Summer Art Explore through the reflections of teen program participant, Jayho (read the long, unedited version here or the abridged version, Art Explorers: Finding Meaning in Stories and Symbols, on the Met's Teen blog), and by reading the Met Kids blog post Art Making That's Hard to Beet.
Emily worked as a Graduate Teaching Intern (GTI) while studying as a graduate student at the Maryland Institute College of Art. She focused her GTI work within the Fiber Department assisting with the courses Intro to Fiber and Soft Sculpture & Inflatables.
In 2013, Emily became the Artist in Residence at Jubilee Arts where, in addition to creating large-scale artworks with community, she developed and taught weekly studio art lessons for youth ages 6-11 and 12-17.