Admissions News + Events
MAT Students at MECA Inspire and Heal at Barbara Bush Children's Hospital
Portland, Maine ~ Making art transports the mind, body and soul to places of imagination and inspiration. While the Master of Arts in Teaching program at Maine College of Art primarily prepares teacher candidates to teach in K-12 public schools, opportunities for teaching art in local community-based settings abound. As part of the Alternative Settings class with Kelly McConnell, a group of four MAT candidates selected a placement at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland.
The group shared their enthusiasm for collaborative and individual art making by planning a group activity, followed by one-on-one projects tailored for each person.
Shaun Aylward, a member of the MAT cohort, began the idea of making puzzle pieces with one common line to unify their creation.
After the puzzle activity, the MAT teacher candidates worked with individual students, designing lessons that focused on art skills that would bring out personal expression and be fun to do. Each teacher candidate used a medium that the children wanted to learn something more about.
When describing the experience, Tess Hitchcock noted, “Ashleigh wanted to learn how to paint, so I brought watercolors and a smile to the hospital one Saturday morning.” Hitchcock’s lesson built on Ashleigh’s desire to paint and extended her thinking by posing age-related provocative questions about art making like, “Is it okay to make a mess?” “Does your painting have to look like something real?”
Tess Hitchcock worked with Ashleigh to learn about basic watercolor technique and to experiment with abstract design.
Adrienne Kitko’s reflection on the hospital experience sums up the artistic and emotional aspects of their placement.
“Tess, Lia, and I got to the hospital early to set up. While we were waiting at the nurse’s station, I heard doors slowly open, and saw tiny eyes peering at us through the sliver of the open door. We put our stuff down and immediately a curious little girl came up to us, exclaiming that she loves to paint, but only had 10 minutes before her next IV treatment. We all reacted quickly and set this little girl up with a palette of various colors of paints, brushes, a water cup, and let her pick out her own puzzle piece.
Some children collaborated on their puzzle piece together, furthering the community aspect of our project. One mother was sitting and painting with her son. Her husband was running around the ward with the other children, a 20 month-old baby among them. I had no way of knowing which child was sick, but the mother’s face and body language told me all I needed to know as she kept glancing over to the baby. At the end of the night, the family had to say goodbye to the baby and put him in a little metal crib. They thanked us profusely for giving them a night to collaborate with their children through art. That moment is when I realized why I was eager to select this teaching opportunity.
The next day was my one-on-one lesson with a year old boy named Collin. I had met him the night before and he seemed enthusiastic about art and had some art terms under his belt. I decided to explore the subtractive and additive processes of monotype printing with him. He was shy and not as talkative as I am use to, however he was ready to learn and get his hands messy from the get-go. He used every tool I brought to experiment with mark making and was very interested in writing “I <3 you” to his mother because he learned one has to write backwards while making a print. Collin made his print by adding paint to an inking plate and using various tools to subtract and explore line qualities and mark making.The best moment of the monotype printing-pulling lesson came when he pulled the paper back to reveal his print.”
Colin titled his monoprint "Sand Monster.”
Maine College of Art’s nationally accredited Master of Arts in Teaching program is designed to prepare artists to recognize how their personal attributes and talents enhance and strengthen the learning environment. It is an intensive, ten-month program that blends the worlds of art and education.
Learn more about MECA's MAT program.
Contact: Raffi Der Simonian
Faculty Spotlight on Art Education (MAT) Chair, Fern Tavalin
Fern Tavalin, Professor of Art Education
How did you get from a B.A. degree in Economics from Franklin & Marshall to being a professor in the field of Art Education at MECA?
F&M is a liberal arts college. So, while my major was economics, I took several fine arts, language arts and foreign language classes. I especially enjoyed the sculpture studio and metal sculpting in particular. Also, I lived in Belgium and attended a Flemish high school for one year, with a heavy emphasis on aesthetics. The year after I graduated my college built a state-of-the-art photo lab and extended its use to alumni. There, I found a life-long love for photography and subsequently video.
What is the most challenging teaching experience you have had? What did you learn from it?
The toughest challenge I had as a teacher was analyzing student performance in social studies and realizing that my methods did not work. It was with that awareness that I turned to integrated arts and hands-on learning. I still required essay exams, so the tests did not change, but my method of teaching and learning shifted radically. As a result, student learning and engagement improved dramatically. From this experience I became an active proponent of arts integration and project-based learning.
Much of your professional life has been dedicated to the use of technology. Studio art classes, currently, are tactile experiences. Do you see any change in this facet of art education in the future? Are campuses becoming irrelevant?
Your question begins with a common, mistaken assumption. My approach to technology is to use tactile processes alongside virtual experiences. For instance, when I designed technology-based summer institutes, they included workshops in book arts so that there was literal copying and pasting alongside the virtual. I stressed stop-motion animation so that students could still learn about the properties of clay and other materials along with the subtlety of movement that stop-motion requires. Artists worked with teachers to build plaster body casts to project words from found poetry, generated from personal narratives. These skills and processes, when used in tandem with planning items such as sketching and storyboarding, foster the type of critical thinking and problem solving that embody new standards for student learning. Are campuses irrelevant? It depends upon how they are used. Our MAT candidates need on-site mentoring for the first semester. Student teaching is another matter, though. This year, we sent three people out of state, one as far away as San Francisco. Given the current state of telecommunication, distance supervision works, and having classroom experiences in other locations enhances seminar discussions.