I feel like our 14 for 2014 wouldn’t be complete without some thoughts from someone just making their way into the profession. Enter Breanne Kanak, a student at Northern Michigan University. I have been enjoying Breanne’s Twitter feed for a while, and her blog (with the great title of Anti-Glitter, Pro-Googly Eyes) is a pretty good read. Breanne’s ambition and enthusiasm really come through in this interview; she seems to have a clear vision of what she wants to do and be as a teacher.
Can you give me a quick bio? Where you grew up, went to school, what classroom experience you have, and what other art-related things you’re doing. Also, what made you want to teach art?
I am originally from Villa Park, Illinois, which is about 45 minutes from downtown Chicago. I am an Art Education student at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan. I previously attended College of DuPage (COD) in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, for two and a half years where I began to discover my passion for teaching and learning. I have spent over 150 hours in classroom observations between Illinois and Michigan with about 25 of those hours being active teaching hours in k-12 classrooms. I also taught as the arts and crafts director at Camp Michigamme this past summer, which completely strengthened my passion for teaching and making art of all kinds. I had my own craft cabin; what more could a girl ask for?!
Currently I am the director of the Students’ Art Gallery at NMU and holy WOW is that a pile of challenges. But I thrive on it. The work that comes through those doors is always a surprise and I have met some truly amazing people through working at the SAG*. Note to students: if you can work at your university or local gallery DO IT. You build amazing connections and learn so much . . . like how to hang 150 pound paintings . . .
How I came to become an art ed student is a long story. In all honesty, when I was a high school student I wanted to be a marine biologist– and that dream followed me to my first year of college! By the end of that first year at NMU I had filled a sketchbook and my head was completely full of art ideas. When I went to COD I met one of many mentors who fostered teacher leadership and really pushed me to explore teaching as an alternative avenue for my art. I had great art teachers throughout my k-12 education and I knew I could do what they did and rock it.
Art education is a profession – no, a lifestyle – that pushes and challenges the teacher and the students to think in different ways and investigate their interests to make anew. While that can also be said about general education teachers, art teachers have the unique experience of stimulating personal discovery and creativity at the same time. I Love That. I always want to be challenging myself to think differently and working with kids is pretty awesome, too. Did I mention that? Kids are great. I never leave a classroom feeling otherwise.
What are your strengths as an artist? What role do you think your personal artmaking will play in both your classroom? What role does it play in your life?
I would say my strengths in art are most focused in drawing, graphic arts, sculpture, crafts, and painting… soooo everything? Can I say that? Haha The one media I am a bit nervous about is ceramics and clay. I am taking my FIRST ceramics class since high school in the fall so hopefully I will be able to meet these goals. . I cannot think of any media I do not enjoy working in, with, or around. As a practicing artist I would say my dedication to working and TIME MANAGEMENT are easily the biggest strengths. I can put several hours – non-stop – into one piece and still go back to it later. I like to have many projects happening at once so I am never bored. Currently I am working on about 5 different projects, ranging from animation to starting an art club at a local high school. The fun never stops for this girl!
My personal art making is hugely important to me and I spend large amounts of time working on projects and assignments. Making personal work forces you to be honest. Working is therapeutic and being vulnerable teaches me a great deal about myself. That was feely…So feely. But truly – I am a very dominating personality and I sometimes have to put things into perspective and just “art about it”. When I have my own classroom my art will be EVERYWHERE because as stated before I work in so many media it’s overwhelming.. and I have a tiny apartment! My big metal leaping fish would be much happier with students to hang out with.. and I would hope to be making my own art alongside students and outside of class.
What are the ideas, or who are the people, or maybe even what are the websites, that influence you as a teacher? Where do you look for inspiration?
Outside of being inspired by students in the classrooms I work in, I am really inspired by interdisciplinary educators. As stated earlier I was completely heart-set on becoming a biologist so I strive to activate my own prior knowledge (and frankly, whales are really cool). But in all seriousness, I learn a great deal about curriculum and management from other teachers in other subject areas.
We all have similar classroom management problems and solutions. As to where I gain art inspiration and ideas for lessons, my Twitter account is the main source of ideas presently. That, and surfing the net like we ALL do. Hyperallergic, Colossal, Cool Hunting, Microscopic Images, Shapeways, i.Materialize, various museum websites… I have a slew of Twitter accounts that are my go-to inspiration sources. I have a LOT of interest in 3D printing.. I think sometimes I should be a science teacher. Or a shop teacher… I love welding.
Tell me about your blog. Why did you start it, what types of content are there, and what are you trying to accomplish with it?
My blog has several different stories and entries (journaling as arts and crafts director at a camp, lesson planning, teaching k-12, brainstorming) but the main goal is being an open-minded and progressive art educator for k-12. Lessons span from craft projects (from camp) to my own artworks, to 3D printing.. I have lots of big ideas and resources and blogging is a great place to stick them all!
I hope to gain more readers and feedback from other teachers – my other avenue by which I accomplish this is Twitter, which I have begun to tie into blogging. Retweets and favorites on Twitter are being developed into lesson ideas and put into action – so Twitter isn’t just a ‘fun’ outlet; it’s also a working tool. I want to create a living testament to my efforts in art education – successes and failures – to remind myself to keep moving forward. And I like to step back and admire all the work I put into my future career – it’s a scrapbook of my adventures through art education.
What will be your strengths as a teacher? What do you do best? On the flip side, what are you trying to learn/do better/improve upon before you get into the classroom?
I know I am a highly organized person.. that definitely carries over into planning, teaching, and arranging supplies. I literally spent 5 hours arranging and cleaning an art room that wasn’t even mine because I wanted to. There’s some kind of syndrome manifesting there, I know it… I can multitask like crazy but I can also crack down and focus on one thing that needs all my attention. That goes for students, too. I can work with everyone or with just one – it’s hard to do that in bigger classrooms. I have a big presence and I know how to control that – sometimes. Mostly. Sometimes I go on tangents but who doesn’t when they’re excited about something!?
Some things I want to learn more about: CERAMICS. I know very very little about this media and I am working to remedy that. I would love to learn more about assessment because it’s a complex concept for me – the art can’t just be ‘well made’ or ‘interesting’ it has to be measurable. I want to continue to build my knowledge base of contemporary artists and unit planning. I was taught in DBAE classrooms throughout k-12 so this is a big change for me!
What traits/habits/skills do you think are most important for students? Why? What about for teachers?
If you can’t laugh at yourself you are going to have a really hard time teaching kids who just want you to be you. We are all human – mistakes are part of learning. Let them happen and BLOG about it!
Habits: CLEANING. I love organizing and arranging spaces – supplies can get pretty helter skelter without organization.
Encouragement and discussions: one thing I have always done when I teach students is reinforce my knowledge of their ability. Even if I have NO idea who these kids are I know they are capable of accomplishing great things. We all are, really. Always encourage your students and other people.
And discussions! I love talking – it’s usually not a problem. Discussing ideas, successes, failures, artists, concepts, and problems with students is amazing. You never know what is going to come to light when you open the floor to kids. Sometimes it’s pizza scientists, sometimes it’s something more ‘real’ and personal. I love to get to know the students I work with – they’re all so different and snarky, usually.
How important will technology be in your classroom? What role does it play in your planning and teaching?
I’m so not kidding about 3D printing. I want one in my classroom 100%. But in addition to that I have a strong graphic design background (thanks, dad!) and I want to incorporate that media into my lessons. I would hope to have access to computers for graphic design, game design, modeling, photography, and mixed media projects. I have been working to use iPads and even phones in my lesson ideas but that goes into the list of things I want to learn more about… I learn more each day. And I SERIOUSLY want an iPad. Even one classroom iPad can be passed around the classroom to accomplish tasks and display work on a screen.. I’m getting ahead of myself. I heart technology, let’s go with that!
In no particular order, who are your five favorite artists? What do you love about them?
Paul Cézanne: My favorite artist. I mean, I named my pet snake after him. I love his command of media. His oils look like they could be done in about 5 minutes but they have so much time and dedication poured into them, his figure studies are adventurous with color and shape, his still life paintings are not snooze-fests.. I love discovering his work through art history books and the almighty internet. I will never tire of Cézanne.
Crystal Wagner: Printmaking, sculpture, combining the two to create installations?! I love her aesthetic and sense of space and color. She was a recent find via the web, but I am completely entranced by her process. I want to live in one of her installations. I want to invite her to my university!
Ai Wei Wei: Social issues brought into the open using art, social media, and humanity… Ai WeiWei is a powerhouse in the contemporary art world.
Egon Schiele: His drawings were messy and kind of unsettling sometimes but he had such a way with color and capturing the attitude of the muse. I love figure drawing and again.. he is very much about portraying the real personality and appearance of his subjects.
Frida Kahlo: She seems like a fill in the blank answer but Kahlo’s work has always spoken to me. She worked very hard to create a name for herself and her artwork. She was a victim of circumstance but she did not let her obstacles pull her down beyond a point of return. Frida was a talented storyteller with her paintings and she had a great deal of passion in her work and her life. She was a superwoman.
Lastly–describe what an ideal classroom would look like for you.
OH MAN. Oh man I’m excited about this question. Where to start?! I will make a list because that’s how I operate. Lots of big windows, 3D printer, two+ DEEP sinks, lots of shelves or cabinets, WALL SPACE with a bulletin board to display beautiful things, outside of the classroom some kind of display case for work, houseplants ( I have about 7 that travel with me), my snake’s tank, a big whiteboard, standing desks with stools, a projector with a big screen, iPads or laptops, space for me to work alongside my students, my own desk nook/corner, skylights…. I want lots of natural light and lots of LIFE. Plants, Cézanne (the snake, not the dead man), storage for art supplies and places to display all the work my students create…
Oh and of course students would be there! Lots of them, art enthusiasts and football stars. Working hard together, learning about themselves and others, creating constantly, and making a friendly classroom environment that is welcome to new ideas and art making. Even if my art room is tiny I will make the most of the space and my opportunities to teach and learn from students. Become the most excellent art teacher/student/painter/human ever? Challenge accepted.