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PAEA trip to Cuba!

Hola, Art Teachers!

This Summer, members of PAEA embarked on a trip from Pennsylvania to Havana to experience Cuban culture, learn about art and education there, and share ideas and inspiration with our fellow teachers.

In the midst of this Socialist island, we found ourselves in a sort of time warp, surrounded by latino culture, 50’s Americana, 70’s and 80’s Soviet influences. With our guide, we visited cities, small towns, and a biosphere, swam in rivers and the gulf, and met local Cuban artists in many mediums.

Instead of a complete reiteration of our itinerary, I thought I’d share a few inspirational highlights, with a special focus on those that I felt might lead to lesson plans:

FUSTERLANDIA (Jaimanitas, outside Havana)

Mosiac artist José Fuster has created a whole magical neighborhood, constantly expanding for the past 20 years. It was cool to explore the grounds and walk through his workshop, finding repeating themes and symbols in his work. His simple images and complicated forms reminded me of Isaiah Zagar’s Magic Gardens in Philly! I think I’m going to revamp an old Zagar lesson, showing some images of Fusterlandia to my students. What is the same, and what is different in these two artists’ work?


CAMERA OBSCURA (Plaza Vieja, Havana)

On the top floor of a vila in Havana (115 ft up!) a “Cámara Obscura” (invented by da Vinci) uses mirrors and a lens to project a live 360 degree view of Havana onto a platform in a pitch black room. I was in awe – as a photo student, I’ve been introduced to the concept of camera obscura, and even seen some primitive examples of it. This one though, blew me away. The operator used manipulated it and focused it with such precision that we could see individual figures on rooftops having breakfast and going about their days, far from where we stood. Two PAEA members shared ways to create camera obscura lessons with students in your studios or art rooms!


ANTWERP HANDS (Children’s Museum in Havana)

Across the plaza, we found a children’s art gallery featuring a traveling exhibit from Antwerp Hands. Loads of illustrated hands featuring the theme of friendship were on display, along with the ideas of different culture’s phrases, stories, and lore involving hands. I’ve got a feeling I’ve got a hand project in my future!



This rather out of the way spot is home to Korimakao Community Arts Group – which brings art, theatre, music and dance to small towns and the rural communities of Cuba. When we visited, we were treated to an enthusiastic live music performance, saw dancers perform in their studio, and got to see the visual art gallery featuring member’s work. The work on display gave me some ideas about presenting work in shows – particularly these cool spin art paintings which were displayed on light boxes! Definitely gave this work an added dimension.



We got to visit the Santander family pottery studio. All of us art teachers have thrown on a wheel at some point, and I gotta say, we were blown away with the deftness and skill we saw from these master potters. I’ve never seen something I know to be difficult look SO easy. It was awesome to get a live demo!
Among all the pots and vases (which were available for purchase, and yes, broke in my luggage on the way home), were these very cool delicate windchimes. I bought two, (one for home and one for my art studio), where I hope to use it as an inspiration so we can do some collaborative work with some air dry clay. Maybe each class will make one together?



One thing we noticed again and again through our travels on the island was the use of recycled materials. Like I do, you may associate Cuba with a sort of vintage aesthetic, and that’s no joke. With US embargoes going back 50+ years, access to general supplies can be sporadic, and acquiring “frivolous” materials (like art supplies) is nearly impossible. We saw so many beer cans, bottles, second hand fabrics, even palms – repurposed into visual art. I bought a couple small items that fit the bill to bring back and show my students when it comes time to do a recycling project! I know they’ll be impressed with the craftsmanship and ingenuity.


EMBROIDERY (mainly in Trinidad)

I can’t resist some beautiful embroidery. We saw so much cool textile/embellishment work (particularly in Trinidad) that made me decide I *must* get some needles and thread (or…floss?) into my kids hands next year. Gotta work on the logistics for that one!


TILE (Havana and Trinidad)

Sooo many crazy tiles. In the cities with older architecture, the beautiful ceramic repeating patterns were everywhere, and I couldn’t resist them. Bright colors, geometric and organic shapes, crazy combinations. Working out how I might implement this in a lesson. And into my kitchen.

What an awesome opportunity to bring new perspectives to our students. Can’t wait to see where else PAEA might go next! Keep your eye on the blog, IG, and turn out for conferences to learn more.

Video of our trip here!

Organization in the Art Room

The following query was posted to our PAEA Facebook Page. Members chimed in, and their responses are below for your benefit and organizational enjoyment! I’m getting goose pimples already thinking about the wonderful ways to organize!!!!

“Please share some of your unique and successful classroom organizational devices/structures. How do you store 2-D work? How do you store 3-D work? What do you feel is necessary to always have on the table? What are your art room life hacks? Etc…”

Marita Fitzpatrick of Bodine High School in Philadelphia suggests: “For small 3d (our recent stuffed toys): I have a copy paper box for each class. The students put their work in manila envelopes, write their names on them and I have one person from each table collect the envelopes and return them to the box. For 2d, each table puts their work in folders marked w the table color (tables are color-coded) and that goes in the copy paper box. This box is marked, period 1, period 2, etc. I have a closet of shelves for ceramics and each kid gets a shoe box to store their stuff in. It keeps the others from touching the work and breaking it. Students wrap their work in dry cleaning plastic to keep it moist. I regularly have kids empty the drying rack, sort the work and put it in the copy paper boxes. I keep nothing on the tables, because the stuff disappears and they put trash in the containers. I store markers and colored pencils in plastic pencil boxes on open shelves in the room and number them. I never look at the numbers or count them, but the kids think I do, so nothing disappears. On those shelves, I also have scissors and other frequently used supplies that students have open access to.”

Alison Elizabeth of Lancaster, PA shares her planning strategy: “Each class I teach is a different colored sticky note. This calendar is glued into the front of my sketchbook (which I use for all of my demos, meeting notes, and conference notes). It’s all with me and ready to go at all times.”

Linda Keels suggests making the investment in folding tables from the local hardware store (she uses 3) for about $30-40 a piece—there is room to hold up to 6 classes worth of work (she teaches 12) which forces her to keep it moving and the kids to stay on track for 3-D things.

Eleanor A-Evans For stores 3D work, such as clay sculptures and paper mache on ‘mobile pan racks’ (like the one in the photo- thanking Google image search). Depending on your supplies resources, the cost on the average is under $90, and can be the solution for saving space and stowing away the masterpieces!

Julie Schedin share with us how her students creatively tackle this issue with a little design thinking! “My Crafts class yarn bombs a coat hanger. They own the airspace above their seat, and hang all work (basket weavings, etc) from the coat hanger in the drop ceiling. The room develops a type of “rainforest canopy” but a least we can keep 3d projects organized and handy.”

Judi Treffinger of Carlisle, and formerly the Carlisle Area School districts has an idea for yarn storage! “You know all those large gallon sized plastic food containers your cafeteria gets when they purchase food? I duct tape then together with the open sides up and use them to store and separate skeins of yarn. They can sit on a counter top, or stash neatly in a cupboard with open ends facing out- all colors are visible and yarn doesn’t get tangled!”

Moore College of Art and Design Alumni, Autumn Rae suggests art teachers to follow her Instagram: mrsdow_artroom where shes posts things about classroom display and specific grade levels k-5 . She posts lots of classroom things about organization what materials I use.

Autumn also shares:

“- Container store bins are the best!
– It needs to be organized and colorful for me to function. I cannot stand messes or piles.
– I keep messes at the middle table whenever possible.
– I use my drying rack when I can but I actually love rolling out a sheet of paper and either working on the floor with the kiddos or having them dry their work flat and organized on a sheet of paper. Work great for printmaking each student gets a row for all their prints.
– All my notes are on my Instagram that describe each photo and what it relates to classroom, display, or a grade level.”

Autumn teaches art to 881 students k-5 students. She describes, “We are an emotional support school with a high ESL population and also a title 1 school. I have put lots of my own money into my class but once the upfront cost is paid off then I have all these organizational systems in place for years to come. I need everything organized like I said but also kid friendly. I have created two closets for classroom teachers and stock it at the beginning of the year so they don’t ask me for supplies I need for my own classes.”

Woah Autumn! Thanks for all of that!!! Loooooove the colors!!! And there is no denying where those pencils came from!!

Daisy Konowal uses a system of table color folders. 2 sets- one for work in progress and one completed work. Also, Daisy uses sheets/fabric/blankets to cover her shelves to limit access to shelves.

Sunnylee Mowery of Philadelphia’s Greenfield Public School strives to make my classroom organization methods so easy a kid can do it! Each table is color coded and this helpful chart rotates at the start of each week so everyone knows who is in charge of what. The artists are expected to pass out work and supplies, monitor volume, tidy table bins and floors, and even call each other to line at the end of class.

Sunnylee has clearly labeled bins with teacher name are organized by grade level. All supplies that accompany the project are placed above in their grade section.

Sunny poses the question, “How do students monitor sound, you ask? The volume giro migrates to the table in charge of volume each week. If the room gets too noisy, the students “ring” the giro to signal to the class to quiet down. If we get 3 giro rings, we lose the privilege to talk.”Click Here for a link to the video of the magical giro sounds that have the power to quiet students!

Kim Horan Colasante, art teacher in the School District of Philadelphia  shares, “My routine is very much the same as Sunny’s. Each table has a color, table folders or student folders are matched to the table they sit at. I have a job chart, students give out folders, supplies, paint patrol, and floor sweepers. Jobs rotate weekly according to table colors. Supplies are located in front of the room and Barney’s Cleanup song plays at the end of every class 10 minutes to go. The students know to stop, put their work away and do their jobs. The ones that are done sing to barney. (I teach middle school) they dab to it also. It only plays for a minute so work must be away by the time song is done. then folders are collected and floors swept etc. 3D work is done a bit differently due to lack of space in classroom. When Barney plays each table brings me their 3d work and I place it in a special section so that they may retrieve it the following day. Clay is kept in large Rubbermaid containers until in it ready for drying.”

What do you do in your classroom?????

Sneak Peek: Clayprinting at PAEA 2016

Some of the conference presentations I find most valuable as a teacher feature hands-on demonstrations. With that in mind, I offer you something else to add to your list of “Things to Check Out at the Conference” this year! Potter turned printmaker, Mitch Lyons will be doing a demo on making clay monoprints – bright and early Friday morning! I love printmaking with students, and I feel like they’d be very into these techniques (and the results):


Check out Mitch’s work at his website, and read the description below:


Mitch Lyons, innovator of the clayprinting process and author of The Art of Printing with Clay, will be demonstrating at this year’s PAEA Conference on Friday, October 7th, at 9:00 AM.  

Since 1968 Mitch has been pioneering his image making from a slab of leather-hard stoneware clay. Mitch will demonstrate how he applies colored slips, one color over another, and then builds a design using textures, slip trailing, pastels, and stencils. Once ready to print, a moistened piece of paper/canvas is placed over the slab. Pressure is applied using a rolling pin to transfer the clay slips onto the substrate to create a one-of-a-kind clay monoprint.  Using very simple techniques and tools, he is able to achieve very sophisticated results. You’ll be inspired to take this simple, non-toxic printing process back to your own classroom to teach your students!

You can view examples of Mitch’s clay monoprints by visiting his website  Several videos are also included on his site that show the process in action.  Visit him later at his booth in the vendor area where he will have his book, DVDs, calendars and more for sale.  

“Do we love our kids? Do they matter to us?”


There’s a lot going on in the world right now that affects many of our students’ lives, opinions, and environment as as well as our own. So when we are teaching or talking to our kiddos, how do we take everything into consideration? Are you wrestling with how to approach these issues in your art room?? I know I am. How do we make our art room the safe and nurturing environment it should be so that students can express themselves and grow emotionally?

This article was sent to me, and it resonates loudly. Click the text link below, and give it a gander:

How we talk with our kids 

“Part of our job as educators and caring adults is to make school a place where all students can find productive outlets for their emotions in response to the adversity and trauma they experience. But educators do not bear the sole responsibility for helping communities recover or changing systems that perpetuate injustice. ”

The article mentions that as educators we must be connected with our communities to help support our students and help them get through what the world is throwing in their faces. This, obviously is where we must go above and beyond our call of duty. This is our before and after school time, where we give ourselves selflessly to our profession without consideration of being compensated for that time. There are of course teachers who only work the contract, and I understand. BUT, if we truly want to affect change and to make a difference in our children’s lives and communities, then we have to give a little more of ourselves. I believe it to be our call of duty as educators. One does not get into this profession for the pay, nor do should they come into the classroom thinking their job starts and stops at the school doors. Being and educator in today’s world is demanding, and no one should have a veil over their eyes on that.

The article continues to give some advice on how we can help support our students, and as art teachers I believe we are the perfect conduit to follow through on those points. We see our students year after year- we are a constant in their life. We are the ones that can develop long and lasting relationships where students can come to trust us. Often, the art room is the place where they can fully express their dreams, hopes, rage, and personality and we need to remember to embrace that. Art educators need to give students that room for choice and expression so that they can fully realize their potential.

Naturally this article made me think about teaching from a trauma informed or trauma sensitive background. And during a summer where I am reevaluating and reconsidering my approach to classroom management, this article enforces my belief that we must be the calm and centered educator they need. If they lash out, don’t lash back. If they say hateful things, don’t take it personally. Always remain calm, and tell them you love them. And keep striving to make schools a better place, and the world a better place.

“So as we work to prepare our kids for the world they live in today, we will not stop fighting to create the world we want for them.”


BTW- This year’s theme for the PAEA is “social justice” and I hope that you consider how you approach these issues in your art room this year.

Thanks for letting me bend your ear.

Sneak Peek: Rande Blank’s Presentations

Rande Blank has been the Director of the MAT in Visual Arts Education program since 2012 and a faculty member with UARTS – Art + Design Education department since 2003, teaching graduate courses, and mentoring students in their practicum experiences. Most recently she has been selected to be on the Advisory Council for the Design-Ed organization and the Director of the Higher Education Division for the Pennsylvania Art Education Association. (Text borrowed from )

35011Rande will be delivering not one, but two presentations!

Support Your NAEA Student Chapter Through Fundraising Events: University Student Panel Discussion

Friday at 2:00 – 2:50 PM

University faculty and students discuss advocating for professional association participation, fundraising activities, conference proposal writing, and art education studio workshop opportunities. Experience pride and success with your university chapter. 


Design Thinking as a Problem Solving Process: 5 hands-on participatory activities

Sunday at 9:00 – 10:50 AM.

Teach students to become independent, innovative and thoughtful decision-makers.  Apply the design thinking cycle where problems are identified, solutions proposed, produced and evaluated. Participate in design activities to explore process.  

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