Visual Art Studio – 25 Years of Teaching

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

VAS Art Game by Emily Guthro

Once a week each April, approximately 25 elementary-age children ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade come to the UCA campus to participate in the Visual Art Studio, an afterschool art program taught by UCA students in the Introduction to Art Education class. Visual Art Studio (VAS) was created in spring 1997 as a way for beginning art education students to experience working with children under the guidance of an art education faculty member. This spring marks the 25th year that VAS has been conducted, missing only the spring of 2020 when UCA moved all classes online due to the pandemic.

A UCA Foundation grant of $1,000 helped purchase art supplies and equipment in the first year. Parents now pay $15 per child for all four lessons. Art education students in the Introduction class develop a unit that centers on a specific theme and then team-teach the lessons to the elementary students. The very first unit taught in 1997 centered on connections between art and music and included lessons on making rattles and whistles out of clay, viewing and talking about artwork that depicted musicians, and putting on a performance in which the students played their rattles and whistles. Later units focused on studio disciplines including printmaking and sculpture and themes such as celebration, nature, and dreams.

In addition, the Introduction to Art Education students create art games which are played with the children prior to lessons beginning each week. The games have to be able to be played by a small group of children with little instruction and must focus on art criticism, aesthetics, or history. Emily Guthro, BA Art Education Emphasis junior developed the game seen here when she taught in the VAS program. In the game, there is a stack of postcard reproductions in the center. Students roll the large die and then answer the question that matches their roll, such as “What story does the artwork tell you?”

The Visual Art Studio is often the first teaching field experience for many of the college students in the Introduction class. It provides them the opportunity to create art lessons that are elementary-age appropriate, implement those lessons under the guidance of an art professor, demonstrate artistic processes to a group, and even how to carry on conversations with elementary students.

Jessica Taverna, Little Rock Central High School Art Teacher, and 2001 BA Art Education Emphasis graduate said this about her experience:

“The Visual Art Studio gave me a firsthand opportunity to feel like I was a real teacher. Before this, I had only given private art lessons, and it was wonderful to see so many students learning through my guidance at once. Each time they came to our classroom, I gained more knowledge about the age level, and what they needed to feel successful as a young art student. The Visual Art Studio also gave me added confidence to successfully continue in the art education field of study. I’m very grateful for this time at UCA and hope the Visual Art Studio continues to help other art education majors become more confident and knowledgeable.”

Abby Yanosick, a senior in the BA Art Education Emphasis track said this about her experience:

“Last year partaking in the VAS, it was such a unique experience to see how everyone took the same theme to develop all types of art lessons for the kids. It was also a fun environment to practice teaching in especially because you got to work with the kids in small groups. This helped me take my time to learn about how different students operate! It really helped me expand my teaching practices and gave me some helpful experience in places that I could improve on in the future. Overall, I loved it so much!”