Visual culture is all around us. We are constantly scrolling through and posting on various social media, creating short videos to share, enjoying movies, and can identify a company with their logo or font alone.
Art & Visual Culture Education (AVCE) at the University of Arizona School of Art is an outstanding program, literally.
AVCE is standing out as a program and the world is noticing. In recent months, four AVCE faculty members have been named as recipients of major awards.
- Dr. Carissa DiCindio, assistant professor
Women’s Caucus Kathy Connors Teaching Award for excellence in teaching, mentoring, and collaboration from the National Art Education Association (NAEA)
- Dr. Amy Kraehe, associate professor
Mac Arthur Goodwin Award for Distinguished Service within the Profession for outstanding achievement, contribution and service in previous years to the field of art education from the NAEA
- Dr. Ryan Shin, associate professor
Outstanding Higher Education Art Educator Award from the Arizona Art Education Association (AAEA) in fall 2019. The award is given to one outstanding AAEA member is honored for service and contributions to art education that merit recognition and acclaim.
- Dr. Gloria Wilson, assistant professor
NAEA Women’s Caucus Mary J. Rouse Award, in recognition for distinguished contributions by early career professionals in art education.
Awards for DiCindio, Kraehe and Wilson will be presented during the 2020 NAEA National Convention in Minneapolis on March 27.
Kraehe’s award was determined by her peers as noted by NAEA Executive Director Deborah Reeve, who wrote:
“There is no greater testament of your exemplary contributions to the field of visual arts education than being chosen for this prestigious award. Your colleagues throughout the United States and abroad join the NAEA Board of Directors in applauding your leadership, commitment and service to the profession.”
Those kind words are much appreciated by Kraehe, personally and for the program.
“It’s clear that the University of Arizona is having an impact in art education, and I have no doubt the momentum will continue,” said Kraehe.
AVCE at the University of Arizona is somewhat unique for a few reasons. The School of Art not only houses studio art programs, but also includes art education and art history, and the School of Art and University of Arizona Museum of Art are literally a part of the same building. The program has different areas of emphasis, including teaching K-12, and community and museums.
But what’s the deal with all of the awards?
“From the day I was hired at UA, AVCE faculty members have been just so generous with their time and resources,” said DiCindio. ‘I immediately felt like I was a part of a team. I think being a part of the School of Art is important to this success in how we are able to connect to studio art and art history and work with faculty through collaborations like the museum studies certificate.”
Collaboration is especially important for programs like this, whose graduates are going into fields like teaching and public outreach. Without understanding how to engage students in the classroom or members of the community, the arts will have no audience or relevance and whither away.
“For me, not only having UAMA close by, but also knowing the museum staff is so willing to work with me and with students is critical to the work I have been able to do,” said DiCindio. “They are really amazing, and they have created a museum environment that is truly a laboratory for experimentation and learning. Because my classes can meet at the museum, students are able to have so many different types of experiences teaching through programs and in the galleries.
“I think the AVCE students are also a big reason for this success. They are so creative and talented, and they bring such interesting perspectives to courses and to their own work. I feel like I am learning from them all of the time, and I am so lucky to be able to work with them and to be inspired by their work.
Kraehe also believes the “AVCE magic” all comes down to the people.
“Often what happens in rigorous academic programs and art schools is that members of the faculty are tacitly encouraged to compete internally amongst themselves, especially where there are finite resources or entrenched divisions.
“In AVCE we work hard to make sure everyone thrives, not just professionally but in all aspects of their lives . . . I can see that this remarkable AVCE community took time to build and cannot be taken for granted.
“The collaborative, supportive, and diverse community creates an ethos that students pick up on and are attracted to . . . Our graduates go on to become passionate art educators in Arizona schools and museums, committed arts activists and leaders across the region, and dynamic university and art school faculty around the country.”
The program currently has students at all levels of study: BFA, MA, Accelerated MA, and PhD. Graduating senior Alyssa Thomas reflects, “Throughout my time in the Art & Visual Culture Education program at the University of Arizona, I have become such a strong teacher candidate.
“Dr. Carissa DiCindio, one of my longtime professors, has done a phenomenal job at making her students, myself included; feel confident and comfortable in museum settings. Having had her support, I can proudly say I’ve been able to successfully facilitate several gallery and museum experiences with my own students today.
“Dr. Gloria Wilson and I met last semester during the fall, in which her experiences and understanding of art as a participatory and active practice were at the forefront of our classes. Her insights and love of the field were nothing short of memorable.
“All the while, Dr. Ryan Shin has acted as my mentor and has overseen my entire journey as an Art Education student. Because of the efforts of these esteemed professors, I will be graduating in May as an amazing arts educator and a better person.”
Wilson, who joined the program in August 2019, has found the community to be impactful to her work.
“There are many factors which may contribute to the success of AVCE faculty. What I know to be true is that AVCE comprises a faculty of truly supportive colleagues. We are genuinely excited to support and see one another succeed in all areas of our professional lives (and I would add, our personal lives also).
“Overall, they’re simply a great bunch to work alongside—and perhaps, this collegial energy is also recognized nationally, with our field.”
According to Shin, this is just the beginning.
“I believe that AVCE faculty is quite active in our professional organizations and services, which results in a number of recognitions. I also think that you will hear more about our faculty’s success and contributions to the field in the coming years.”