Art Education Student Chapter Organizes Statewide Show

Posted: March 12, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Colleen Kearney Rich

A new exhibit in the Mason Hall Atrium makes a mockery of the old adage, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach,” but that is exactly what art educator Renee Sandell hoped it would do.

“When we talk to students about our program, many of them ask, ‘If I choose to become a teacher, will I still be able to make my own art?’” says Sandell, who directs Mason’s Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program. “We were wondering that, too.”

So that question was posed to the regional art education community in a call for submissions, and the results were pleasantly surprising. The juried show,

“Artist/Teacher…Past/Present,” which runs through Friday, March 23, includes work from art teachers from public school systems throughout Virginia as well as a few Mason students.

Top, “Messenger,” and bottom, “Adam,” both by Kathleen Kendall, Springfield Estates Elementary School teacher in Fairfax, Va.

Organized by students in the Mason chapter of the National Art Education Association, the show was juried by local artists Nancy Sausser, the exhibitions director for the McLean Project for the Arts, and Annette Polan, an associate professor at the Corcoran School of Art and Design.

The 22 works featured in the show were judged on their artistic merit, relevance to the theme and artist’s statement. The teaching experience of exhibitors ranges from more than 30 years to those who are currently student teaching while completing their degrees.

Veteran art teacher Carolyn Beever says, “I teach for the moments when a student realizes he/she can actually create something meaningful and worthwhile.” Beever, who has two mixed media pieces in the show, has taught in the Prince William County Public Schools for 30 years. She is currently at Forest Park High School in Woodbridge.

Mason MAT student Sarah DeWitt pulled double duty for the show. Not only is her work on display, but she helped hang the show with fellow chapter members on a snowy Sunday morning in February. She is currently teaching at Newington Forest Elementary School and plans to graduate in May.

“It has been challenging, but in a good way,” she says of the opportunity to get practical experience in the classroom while still in college. “When you are the art teacher, everybody’s glad to see you. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Sausser, one of the jurors, spoke at the opening reception about the difficulty one faces when try to juggle the multiple priorities of daily life. “It takes tremendous discipline to get back to where the spark starts — your work as an artist.”

birds in flight artwork
“Birds in Flight” by Cynthia Burrows, Mason BFA student
Photos by Evan Cantwell

The MAT program, which is offered jointly by the College ofVisual and Performing Arts (CVPA) and the College of Education and Human Development, is just two years old, but already boasts an active NAEA student chapter and strong connections to the local school systems, Fairfax County Public Schools in particular.

Sandell emphasizes the importance of these kinds of collaborations and hopes to have similar shows in the future. “This artistic community is a powerful one,” she notes.

Mary Del Popolo, an assistant professor in Art and Visual Technology Department and an MAT advisor, says the answer to aspiring art teachers is, “Yes, we can do both!”

“It is very important to stay connected with your art in order to engage and inspire the students,” she concludes.

Write to at