Sunday, June 18, 2017

Fun Places In Michigan To Check Out This Summer

Now that we've all settled into summer a bit it's time to think about some fun, interesting, and unusual places you may want to consider checking out during the upcoming months.

1. Dinosaur Gardens - Ossineke, MI

My family and I are headed there this week on our way to visit family in the U.P. and this dinosaur lover is beyond excited! If you happen to also love dinosaurs or just like to check out those quirky places we have in our state please post your pictures in the comments. I'd love to see your dinosaur adventures at this dinosaur sculpture garden. Along with a collection of large dinosaur sculptures you can also dig for fossils, go on a miner's sluice, play mini golf, and enjoy some ice age frozen yogurt.

2. Garlyn Zoo - Naubinway, MI

On your travels through the Upper Peninsula along scenic U.S. 2 plan some time to visit the Garlyn Zoo. It holds the largest collection of live animals in the Eastern Upper Peninsula. They have native and exotic animals as well as ones you can feed.

3. Hamtramck Disneyland - Hamtramck, MI

If you enjoy assemblage art you have to check out Hamtramck Disneyland. Created by Ukrainian born folk artist Dymtro Szylak, this installation took about seven years to complete.

4. American Museum of Magic - Marshall, MI

Home to the largest collection of magic artifacts in the United States, the American Museum of Magic celebrates the greatest magicians of all time.

5. Motown Historical Museum - Detroit, MI

Start exploring Detroit early in preparation for the 2017 MAEA Conference by visiting the Motown Historical Museum. Stand in Studio A where some of the greatest artists of that time recorded their hit songs. Explore the history of Motown music in the place where it was created.

5. Sanilac Petroglyphs State Park - Cass City, MI

Petroglyphs were discovered after a massive wild fires swept through central and eastern Michigan including all of the thumb in the 1880s. Created between 300 and 1,000 years ago likely made by either the Hopewell or Chippewa Indians. These are the only known prehistory carvings in Michigan.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Schools Out - Time To Rejuvenate Your Artistic Self!

Congratulations on making it through another school year! You've worked so hard this year planning curriculum, inspiring young artists, prepping supplies, preparing and hanging art shows, working on community art projects, and everything else that goes into all that we do as art educators. Now it's time to focus on you. Here are some ideas of ways you can begin the artist self rejuvenation process.

Reflect on the school year
Start a journal about your successes and ideas for change while the year is still fresh in your memory. That way you can set aside thoughts about school for a well deserved break but have those notes to read when you are ready to dive back into teaching in August.

Take a photo walk
Grab your camera or your cell phone and take a stroll somewhere new through your viewfinder. Zoom in and explore the familiar in a new way.

Go to a Museum or Explore a Virtual Museum Online
Look to those artists of the past and those creating in the present for some artistic inspiration.

Create Every Day
When you are ready start a routine of creating every day. It can be as simple as a thirty second doodle or choose a theme and use that as inspiration to art in any way you like on a regular basis.

Art with Others
Gather together your artist and artist art teacher friends and get together for a night or afternoon of creating at each other's house, a park, or another convenient location. It provides a support system for your creating and it's guaranteed you'll have a great time.

Choose An Art Medium And Start Playing
Sometimes the hardest part is just getting started. Pick a medium and begin playing around to see what comes of it.

Make Time For Yourself
In the end it doesn't matter what you do as long as you make time for yourself. As you look at your summer calendar schedule in some time on a regular basis for to do anything you like to. Before we know it the summer will be coming to an end and we'll back to curriculum planning, prepping, and inspiring the amazing artists we get to work with throughout the week.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Fun Ways To Wrap Up The School Year In The Art Room

I remember every year focusing really hard at the end of the year on getting my classes to finish those final projects, getting them graded so I could get it all passed back by the last day of school. Gradually putting away supplies for the summer and each day limited their art supply access as more difficult to clean up and put away supplies were no longer available in classes that had art supply choice for projects. I loved taking them outside whenever possible at the end of the year but that also took away from time I could work on cleaning the art room while they worked on their final artworks. However, it was also a great time to play and experiment in the art room. Most major assignments were completed for the year and we were all just counting down the days to summer vacation. Here are some fun final art projects and experiments to help inspire you to make it through the final week or so of school as well as make some neat memories with your students that will have them looking forward to seeing you in the fall.

Gel Soap Resist Acrylic Painting   (courtesy of Michelle East at
This looks like such a fun project. I love the idea of layering and a non-traditional way work with acrylic paint that creates some really interesting abstract images. It would be really interesting to then take this a step further and use the paintings in a collage, draw or paint into them after they dry, or use them to cover the surface of a sculpture piece.

Squirt Gun Painting   (courtesy of
Although this goes against my strong desire to remove the messier art supply options it is a project that I wish I had known about while I was still in the classroom and definitely plan to do with my own son one day as well as with future art classes.


Make a Giant Spirograph   (courtesy of
Any child of the 90s remembers playing and creating with a spirograph. It's awesome that they are back on the shelves in the toy aisle. However, how about having your students become the spirograph in this kinetic art making activity.

Soufflage Mixed Media Paintings   (courtesy of Betsy Wellfare)
Soufflage is a Surrealism art technique invented by Max Ernst's son Jimmy Ernst that involves blowing thin paint across a surface. I have done it with my students using watered down acrylic as well as watercolor and straws. It is part of my Surrealism unit for an Art History class I used to teach at the high school level. After the students played with the soufflage technique they'd go back into their paintings with various media to take them even further and be inspired by what had happened when they had blown paint around the surface.

Popcorn Inspired Artwork   (courtesy of Betsy Wellfare)
This isn't one I would do at the end of the year but it would work well there too. I often did it leading up to a holiday break when we were often already done with the previous project but it didn't make sense to start another one only to have a week or two off from school. I always loved on creative my students were and how differently they all were with being inspired by the popcorn we ate and observed.


Printmaking with Found Objects and Inkblot Prints   (courtesy of Betsy Wellfare and
I love using various ways of getting my students interested in and exposed to printmaking processes. We often start with inkblot prints that they would then have to choose one of the minimum of three they created to go back into with any medium they liked. Many would look for what imagery the inkblot inspired and let the inkblot lead their creativity. Others would use it as texture or a starting point that would be added on to and often significantly altered. Other times we played with using fingerprints as our printmaking technique and using watercolor or acrylic start with the texture our fingerprints created as we built up an image or surface texture. And other times we worked with found objects as our printmaking means and acrylic paint. It was always fun to see where the various techniques led each student as they intuitively created. We did gradually work into block prints but I always loved the more experimental, non-traditional printmaking processes and creative experiments best. If you are interested in lessons that involve inkblots, The Inkblot Book website is a wonderful resources for all sorts of creative directions inkblots can take.

Best of luck in your final days of creating with your students! I hope you find some time to play with some of the ideas included above.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Patriotic Art Resources

As we celebrate Memorial Day we remember and recognize all those that have served or are currently serving our country. It seems fitting to take a look at some of the artists who have worked with themes of patriotism in their artwork, many of whom are also veterans, and consider ways we might be able to incorporate some of their work and ideas into our own lessons.

This article talks about the story behind Jasper Johns painting Flag.

Norman Rockwell's the Four Freedoms is a series that refers to Franklin D. Roosevelt's speech in 1941 addressing our essential human rights. These paintings inspired patriotism across America and resulted in selling millions in U.S. Treasury Department War Bonds in 1943.

American Impressionist Childe Hassam painted The Fourth of July, 1916 in response to his attendance at the a parade in New York that was part of a collection of patriotic activities planned as American prepared to enter World War I.

Reflections by Lee Teter is a wonderful work about veterans and those lost during the Vietnam War. 

Jacob Lawrence created his War Series depicting various aspects of war inspired by his own experiences serving in the United States Coast Guard during World War II.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Retired Art Educator - Rita Swartz - Monday, May 22, 2017

I'd like to introduce you to Rita Swartz!

Rita taught for 40 years as a middle school art and language arts teacher. Her career included the following schools: Northview Public Schools, Godfrey Lee Public Schools, Grand Rapids Public Schools, and Jenison Public Schools. 

Her favorite thing about teaching art was "interacting with the kids, seeing them learn new skills, watching their interpretation and creativity."

Rita's favorite quote is:

She is an active artist exhibiting in many shows around the state including participating in ArtPrize in 2015 and possibly 2017. Rita is a member of the Woodland Weavers and Spinners Guild, Lakeshore Fiber Arts Guild, Michigan League of Handweavers, and Handweavers' Guild of America. Her favorite art media are watercolor, acrylic, oil, collage, and all forms of fiber arts. Below are some of her works of art.

One of Rita's memorable teaching moments was seeing kids coiling baskets around school in their spare time. Since retiring she's been teaching painting and weaving classes, creating with Art Girlz, a group of retired art teachers, volunteering to teach weaving in a local middle school and sadly, caring for her sick husband.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Art Educator Spotlight - Teresa Moss - Monday, May 15, 2017

I'd like to introduce you to Teresa Moss!

Teresa is currently the high school art instructor at Fenton High School. She has taught for twenty-three years. Her favorite thing about teaching art is "sharing my passion with young people who KNOW that they love art or soon Discover that they love art."  A highlight from her career as an art instructor was nurturing a student toward winning a Gold Key in the Scholastic Art Awards. 

Her favorite quote is:

Teresa's most memorable art moment:

During studio time, my students and I chatted about life and its challenges. One day, when I offered my opinion about a behavior I didn't approve of, a girl complimented me saying, 'Ms. Moss, you ARE our mom-away-from-home! We shall call you Art Mama!'

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Past Art Educator of the Year - September Buys - Monday, May 8, 2017

I'd like to introduce you to September Buys!

September is an Art and Creativity Educator at Greenville Middle School. In 2009 September was the MAEA Art Educator of the Year. 

Since then she has had two adorable little girls, and built a home with her husband Jason. She's been awarded as the 2010 Michigan Youth Arts Educator of the Year, 2011 NAEA Western Region Middle Level Art Educator of the Year, 2012 NAEA National Middle Level Art Educator of the Year, and 2016 Distinguished Alumni of Western Michigan University. She served on the writing team for the National Visual Art Standards (a three year commitment). September has taught an adjunct course for CMU and was invited and awarded a full scholarship to pursue PhD studies at Virginia Commonwealth University (which she ultimately decided to decline due to young family reasons). She has served NAEA as Middle Level Western Region Representative and just recently finished her term on NAEA's Board of Directors as the National Middle Level Division Director.

Her most memorable teaching moment to date:

     I honestly feel so lucky to get to do each day something that feels very little like work and more            like play. I love developing lessons and building relationships with my students. It is especially            rewarding when students come back to visit and tell you how much impact you've made. It's                usually in the little things.

September values creating right along side her students as well as continually working to find time to create outside of her busy schedule. Here are some of her recent artworks.

September's favorite art quote:

What does the future hold for September Buys? 

    Who knows? :) I am open to wherever luck and hard work takes me. I would love to take on a             curriculum development role at an ISD or large district level or full time college teaching                   experience at some point in my career. Right now, I am still enjoying the work of engaging middle       school kids.