Promoting the Art Department

This file was developed in 2010 by Max Darby

Not everyone understands the value of Art in the curriculum or the diversity of things we undertake. Art teachers need to promote the value of what they do even if Art is currently valued in their school. There are always new people involved with the school and new and exciting things happening in the Art World, in Education and in life. Support is most given to things administrators, parents and students understand and see. You can’t afford to be too evangelical or too over-bearing. Sometimes, as seen below, actions speak far louder than words.

To think everyone knows about Art or what we do with our allocated time, resources and money is a mistake – as it also is to think everyone values Art highly in the school or the outside world. We have a crucial role to play in educating doubters, and even gently reminding believers (that’s where ‘showing or displaying the things we achieve, rather than talking, can play an important role).

Students play an enormously important and active role in informally promoting the value of what we do. They need to know at their own level of understanding why we are doing things, especially various activities. Not only do they ‘vote with their feet’ when choosing their courses, their enthusiasm for things they enjoy is seldom missed.

The following briefly, outlined ideas are things that work and have been done before. You might not be able or wish to implement all of them but with a staff like mine, who were committed to each other and who shared responsibilities, it was not as demanding as seems. Once some things were set up they looked after themselves. They can obviously be adapted, varied or extended to suit your needs. They are divided

onto two areas under simple headings.

– 1. Big things.

– 2. Everyday things

Big things.

  1. Establish a Parent Support Group with a brief to support and promote the Art Department. This should not be seen as a financial support group (that will happen once the group gets established. The PSG should become a formal school body with endorsement from The Principal.
  2. Establish a Student Art Committee with representatives from different Year Levels.
  3. Hold an election for leaders of this committee. Some schools have an Art Captain who represents art on other school student bodies.
  4. Establish an ‘Awards system’ to acknowledge the achievements of students. This could just be a certificate and designed and printed by students. All students should be able to earn such a certificate. At my school we also included the awarding of Art Colours (with formally presented badges) to students who undertook significant tasks for the Art Department (over and above class room work). Criteria were established by the student Art Committee.
  5. Develop an Art Department file on the main menu of your school’s website where student artworks can be exhibited or displayed. Parents will visit it if they know their children have work there. It’s great PR for the school and for the Art Department.
  6. Find a Patron or Mentor for the Art Department, preferably someone known in the Art World. (Australian artist John Olsen undertook this task at my school).
  7. Hold an exhibition of works made by the Art staff for the school community to enjoy. There are few better ways to promote the Art capability of the school’s teachers.
  8. Organize an Art Exhibition, sale and auction of works by community and local artists (people associated with the school can also enter).
  9. Take your students to work in the local community or set up an exhibition outside the school. In some places it is possible to get permission for students to demonstrate their art-making skills in large Shopping Centers. Small displays can also be mounted in public places – shopping malls, public libraries, shop windows, parents homes, hair salons, cafes and restaurants, art suppliers premises, professional suites, charity offices, real estate offices are some of the spaces my school has used.
  10. Organize a visit to an Art Exhibition or Opening for parents and friends of the school. This can be made a formal or informal function. Galleries are often willing to arrange such special openings for ‘private’ viewings.
  11. Organize an Artist in Residence to work in the school. The artist can work with the students on a project or can undertake their own work, allowing students access to the works being created (see the files on this website that show Artist in Residence Projects).
  12. Organize visiting speakers and artists for short term projects and talks about Art (their own or other). Invite other interested people.
  13. Organize an Art Historian in Residence or Art Critic in Residence to work with students.
  14. Build an Art Department website onto which ‘quality’ examples of student work can be exhibited in a Virtual Gallery. Examples over a period of time can be collected. It is important for the whole school community to be aware of this facility.
  15. Organize an exchange of artworks with another (or other) school(s).
  16. Organize a Virtual exchange of artworks with distant or overseas schools. This could be done with schools in distant locations I can help you to set up contacts if desired).
  17. Provide short lesson for parents, such as, how to use Adobe Photoshop. These might even be run by students.
  18. Undertake some major Art works to be displayed around the school. These might include ceramic or painted murals on walls, ceramic mosaic pathways (on concrete pavers), outdoor formal gardens, vegetable gardens, environmental sculptures including totems or bollards, and embroidery or patchwork wall hangings. It is important to have a presence around the school. Teachers from other subjects can be asked to contribute.

Everyday Things

  1. Always have interesting displays of Art in the Art Department.
  2. Change the displays regularly. Not having displays and not changing them regularly demonstrates a lack of interest in what we do. Lack of time is no excuse…or not one that can be used often. Make time.
  3. Include displays of artworks from students at all levels not just the senior students.
  4. Include the work of all students in the displays not just what you think is the best. Keep in mind that art at school is about individual expression and achievement not competition.
  5. Include works in progress and trials and experiments in the studio spaces – even on a short-term ‘pin-up’ basis.
  6. Set up displays in other classrooms with the co-operation of other subject teachers. You may be able to support their classes, e.g. for History classes.
  7. Set up on-going displays in staff areas.
  8. Set up displays of student Art at school functions, for example, Parent/Teacher Interview Evenings, Music Performances or Concerts, Drama Productions or Plays, Course Information Evenings, School Council Meetings (these need not be large amounts of work).
  9. Provide works for display in Administration areas including the Principal’s office.
  10. Always maintain the Art studio spaces in excellent and attractive working order so that visitors understand that these are places where serious work happens.
  11. Let students now about the intensions of activities and where they lead.
  12. Happy students are always good advertisements. Set standards, of course, but once students enter the Art Department treat them as ‘special’. This is one of the few places where differences are expected and highly valued. A good approach is to make sure students came to the Art rooms with enthusiasm and leave feeling good about what they did there.
  13. Encourage students to be happy because you genuinely want them to be happy, not just to make you look good. If you can’t be bothered get another job! You’re paid to serve them, not them to serve you.
  14. Present yourself as a happy professional who is well presented.
  15. Look after students who need tender loving care. If you look after them when they’re a little down the positive results will be enormous.
  16. Try to see things from the students’ point of view and explain your own point off view.
  17. Set some small and interesting home practical assignments that also engage parents, for example, drawing an adult’s hand quickly in a number of positions. This engages the parent in the activity, reinforces that Art needs is important to have set homework and provides students with extension work. The amount of work needs to be reasonable.
  18. Invite parents to visit the Art studio to see their daughters and/or sons at work. This need to be managed and is dependent on the school – and, often your credibility in the school!
  19. Invite other teachers and school administrators to visit your classes.
  20. Invite your school Principles to some Art classes (providing what you do is professional and your room is well-organized). Sometime they will even join in (I had a Principal who once asked whether she could join the Life Drawing classes – it’s not a good idea to ask if she wants to be the model!).
  21. Offer to be a member on school committees, especially those that have an input to curriculum decisions.
  22. Always have a say on key school issues at staff meetings, faculty heads meetings or management meetings. You need to be visible and knowledgeable about all school issues. If you want other staff to understand why Art is important, you need to understand why Mathematics is important.
  23. If individual school rules do not suit the Art Department (and some don’t) you need to explain the issues patiently and logically. Sometimes a compromise can be worked out.
  24. Promote the view at meetings that Art is one of the academic subjects if suggestions are ever made to the contrary. You have a good case but need to present it clearly.
  25. Offer to design and paint the sets for the school plays (using students).
  26. Make a contribution to the design and layout of the school Magazine.
  27. Suggest that each faculty at school takes a turn at introducing their aims and objectives to the rest of the school, and be well-prepared to explain and show the best of what you do. This is a winner because you have so much to show and tell. Other faculties often find it daunting to follow you.
  28. Never just focus on the Art Products as the major contribution to a student’s education. Of course a painting or pot can showcase some important things, but the Art Processes, such as ‘Creative Problem Solving’, should never be over-looked (see the file, Program Planning 2 for some of the important ‘process’ experiences.
  29. Take students to exhibitions, or meet them there on weekends or after school. Invite parents and friends to join in.
  30. If you can afford it help teachers of other subjects with requests for paper, paint etc. If you are unable to help at least offer to help them with ordering their own supplies (This will vary from school to school). Advice should always be offered to other teachers.

By engaging in some of these activities, the whole school community quickly comes to realise the value and importance of what you. There are obviously many more ideas that can be used to promote the Art Department and additional entries will be progressively made to this file. If you have any of your own ideas that you’d like to contribute or any other feedback please feel free to make contact..



Be Sociable, Share!

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Promoting the Art Department”

  1. max says:

    Ideas come from experiences and just looking around. I make many up but they are all things I’ve done, many at St. Catherine’s in Melbourne and they have worked for me…some better than others, of course. Pass this site on to people you know and send me some you use. Best wishes, Max

  2. Lyn says:

    Hi Max. I liked all of the ideas especially the one about adding an art department website to the school. Where do you get so many ideas from? I’ll blog again. We have nothing like this in the old USA. Lyn (Florida HS)

Leave a Reply