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Art Education Events and Thanks to Dr. Kuster

Viewpoint; View from the Field »
By Jeff Young, Professor of Art, Art Education »

Spring Art Education Class

Photo by Jeff Young

Many of the students in Dr. Young’s Introduction to Art Education class this spring will get their first taste of teaching when they work with elementary-age students in the department’s Visual Art Studio. Visual Art Studio was started in the spring of 1997 as a way to provide an after-school art program for children in the community and also to provide art education students with an early field experience working with those children. Each spring, art majors pursuing the art education emphasis develop and implement art lessons around a theme or medium which they then teach to approximately 30 elementary students, kindergarten to fifth grade, in April. The elementary students come to the UCA campus and are taught in the art education studio in McAlister Hall.

Past themes for units in the Visual Art Studio include Art and Poetry, Alone/Together (focusing on times when people want to be alone and times they want to be together), Dreams, and Why are People Creative? The Intro students work in teams to develop the lessons for the unit, making art games and examples for the studio portion of the lesson that they teach. Intro students gain experiences in presenting lessons, working with elementary-age children, and reflecting on their teaching experiences – both the successes and the parts of the class that did not work as well.

Last September’s Workshop and Art Education Reunion

On Friday, September 21st last fall, thirty-five art teachers from across Arkansas gathered at UCA Downtown for a professional development workshop, “Reflecting Together on Curriculum, Student Engagement, and Resiliency” that was hosted through UCA Outreach and Community Engagement. The workshop was presented by Dr. Kuster in collaboration with her exhibition, The Makings of a Teacher: Textile Art by Deborah Kuster, on display at UCA Downtown. Most of the participants were graduates of UCA now ranging in years of teaching experience from first-year to eighteenth. Dr. Kuster shared personal stories that inspired her art and then lead discussions about teaching such as: 1) When have you been disappointed in the outcomes of your teaching? How did you change? 2) Is there anything special that you do to “win” students over to the goals of your course? 3) Describe some examples of how you use humor and laughter in your teaching; and 4) How do you stay motivated and satisfied as a teacher? In response to discussions, participants created “Zines” (short, self-published booklets) and a community weaving. Following the workshop, the College of Fine Arts and Communication sponsored a public reception with refreshments.

The following day, the UCA Alumni Association provided refreshments for a reception for Art Education students and alumni in the Mirror Room in McAlister Hall. This was a special reunion for current and former students that had been taught and mentored by Drs. Young and Kuster since the fall semester of 2003. This is Dr. Kuster’s final and 16th year at UCA, and she received a surprise quilt consisting of hand-made, personal squares and heartfelt notes made by her students. Both events were filled with rich, encouraging times together.

Dr. Deborah Kuster’s Last Semester

Dr. Kuster, responding to questions about her work. Photo by Hannah Bernhardt

Dr. Deborah Kuster has been on phased-retirement this year, and this spring she is working with student teachers in the field. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Kuster, Professor of Art Education, for being my art education colleague and for managing the art education program with excellence over the last sixteen years. I could not ask for a better co-worker and friend. Over the years Deb and I have co-mentored art education students, co-presented at conferences, co-sponsored the art education club, co-hosted art education club events, co-authored manuscripts, and conducted research together. During all that “co-ing,” we shared conversation, laughter, worries, meals, and coffee. I do not think I have ever known a teacher who was so steadfast in her commitment to students and the profession of teaching.

Because Deb is working with student teachers in this, her last semester, I thought it appropriate that Hannah Bernhardt, one of her student teachers, provide insight into what makes Deb so special. Hannah said, “Dr. Kuster has been a huge influence on the way I teach and the way I handle situations. She always speaks thoughtfully to her students, and I think I’ve only ever seen her angry once in my four years, and she didn’t even raise her voice. I can’t imagine UCA without her so I’m glad I’m graduating as she’s retiring. I told her if I could hand out grades for cheerleading she would get an A+, she’s her students best cheerleader, always encouraging, always peppy . . . after coffee.”

You can tell that coffee is important to Deb because both Hannah and I mention it. By the way, Deb has promised that I can keep her office chair, adorned with her hand-knitted armrests. Already, students who come for appointments or to visit seem to love sitting in it. Come by and see me, and you can sit in Deb’s chair, too. We’re going to miss you Deb! Thank you!