Time for our second round of introductions to the latest cohort of Art21 Educators! Elizabeth, Joseph, Margaret, and Erica can be found in every corner of the continental U.S., teaching studio art, art therapy, and even language arts to a combined total of more than one thousand students each year.
Elizabeth Williams is an educator teaching kindergarten through fifth graders at Meramec Elementary School in Saint Louis, Missouri. With sixteen years of experience, Elizabeth teaches using the TAB pedagogy (Teaching for Artistic Behavior), beginning each class with a short lesson, skill builder, discussion, or art history component. After this brief contextualization, students delve into their own art making armed with knowledge.
“Contemporary art challenges the viewer to look deeper, to react and understand art within the context of his or her life experiences,” she said. “By definition, contemporary art cannot remain static—each generation of artists considers new materials, themes, concepts and processes which expand existing boundaries and again require viewers to ask, ‘what is art?'”
Joseph Eduardo Iacona is a teaching artist in the Greater Philadelphia Region. Collaborating with various non-profits throughout the city, he specifically works with adjudicated youth, trauma-impacted teens, and young people navigating homelessness & the foster-care system. Utilizing Restorative Justice practices, he introduces teens to new ways of thinking through public projects and educational opportunities that bring contemporary art to students who need it most. An artist himself, Joseph Eduardo’s practice goes beyond the studio, bringing art to the public through his work as a Lead Teaching Artist for Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program and as an Artist-in-Residence through outreach programs with the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
“Contemporary art is an inclusive entity. It is a chameleon-like creature, blending traditions from various crafts and cultures,” he said. “With contemporary art there is something for everyone, because art can be about anything and be made by anyone… It is through contemporary art that students can be engaged by ideas that speak directly to their daily lives.”
Margaret Segalla teaches Language Arts, AP Art History, and Studio Art to the teens at Segerstrom High School in Santa Ana, California. She has been an educator for 16 years, and even brings contemporary art into her English classes as a way to inspire creativity and foster critical thinking. Working in the state’s sixth largest school district, her work includes combatting conservative ideas about what art is supposed to be.
“Our parents have made great personal sacrifices to give their children a better future, which to most of them, means a college degree and a job with a salary, such as engineer or lawyer. Expanding this idea of a better future to include a life in the arts—for both parents and students—has been a personal mission over the past few years,” she said. “The process of exploring art and making art is as empowering as the knowledge they acquire.”
Erica Richard is an educator at Vista Academy in Denver, Colorado, teaching art to students from sixth through twelfth grade. Already partnering with galleries to bring her students into art spaces and more art into the classroom, Erica engineers her curriculum around big ideas.
“I always felt like no one understood the way that I think and see the world until I was introduced to contemporary art and theory,” she said. “I love contemporary art because it’s thoughtful and has no boundaries. Artists are no longer restricted by mediums and are more concerned about how the art is made and what conversation it creates… I believe in creating meaningful endeavors that are intellectually rigorous, artistically skillful, and culturally relevant in order to prepare students to become productive citizens.”