Jaime Patterson | July 2017

Educator as Artist

“Oh, you are going to the Kusama Infinity Room at the Hirshorn this weekend?”

“I wish I could go visit- I’ve been bringing up that art in my artful thinking routines all week but I’m stuck under a pile of portfolios that need to be graded all day on Saturday.”  

Does this situation strike you as familiar?  Why is it that so many of us who work with arts integration, or directly with arts education struggle to find time to pursue our personal passions and interests as artists?  

I recently spoke with a group of friends who work in the professional arts world about our roles as artists in an arts education world.  We chanced upon this topic of the teacher as an artist and found we all had similar experiences.  So often art teachers spend their days teaching about famous artists of the past and present and helping guide their students to become artists of the future, and unfortunately spend very little time exploring their own creative inspiration.  

What’s the problem?

I think part of this phenomenon can be attributed to the fact that we are living in an education atmosphere that can sometimes feel paralyzed by standardized tests and national and state standards.  In some cases when the scores students achieve on tests directly correlate to a teacher’s professional rating, it can be difficult to crawl out from under the cloud of curriculum and find one’s inner spirit of creativity.  It can be difficult to find the time to visit museums on the weekend, or to attend gallery openings merely for leisure.  

It can be difficult to pay out of pocket to attend inspirational art conferences around the country, and difficult to spend very valuable and limited personal time dedicated to furthering artistic knowledge by taking classes or attending figure drawing sessions.  Some schools are no longer giving teachers leave to attend state run arts conferences that are specifically meant for arts and arts integration teachers, and as a result teachers are forced to choose between not attending a helpful conference, or spending a personal vacation day to attend.

Your Inner Educator as Artist!

Personally I have been fortunate to have a job where I am often required to attend such events.  I have taken lessons on puppetry, improv, dance, African music, beat boxing, and paper cutting and I have visited dozens of museums and attended my share of conferences to hear inspirational artists speak about their work all as an effort made by my school system to further my professional development.  

I realize that not all educators are so fortunate.  However, even with all of these professional development sessions in my favor I still struggle to find the time and energy to create art that makes my heart sing on my own time outside of the school day, and even during the school day.  Perhaps this explains the rise of the wine and paint nights where busy individuals do their best to carve an hour of time out of their day to relax and work on a guided painting in an effort to feed their inner artist.  

Feeding the Creative Side

  • I purchased a new sketchbook and located my old drawing pencils from back in my college days and plan on completing a sketch a day for an entire month.  Even if the sketch is sometimes just a basic line sketch.
  • I am making more of an effort to attend local arts events that interest me.  I would also love to attend museums regularly, but for now I am setting small achievable goals for myself.
  • I have joined an art sharing group with a few friends online. Once per month we mail each other a piece of art we have created for one another and in the interim we send each other progress pictures and updates.  It holds us accountable for actually completing a personal artwork while also allowing us to bounce ideas off of each other.


What are you doing to feed your inner artist this summer?  How can we bring our personal creativity into the classroom at the start of the school year?  In what ways can we be truly present as creative individuals in our capacities as arts educators and content teachers who integrate the arts and STEAM learning?  If you have any tips or stories of your own to share, please feel free to comment below so that others can also reap the benefits of your success story!

About the Author

Jaime Patterson is the Chief Communications Officer for The Institute for Arts Integration & STEAM. As the CCO, Jaime enjoys researching and writing for the Artist Chronicles podcast, supporting educators in the Accelerator platform, and working with her colleagues to provide quality resources to educators across the world. She is a proud lifelong supporter of the arts and is passionate about supporting educators in their pathway to teaching and learning through arts integration. Jaime resides in Hanover, Pennsylvania with her husband and their three children.