Every other week, we’ve been learning about our newest Art21 Educators—most recently Ryan Schmidt and Erin Shafkind. Now, from Pennsylvania, Thomas Dareneau and Domenic Frunzi.
Thomas and Domenic teach art together at Boyertown Area Senior High School. Located 50 miles north west of Philadelphia and 25 miles south of Allentown, Boyertown is a small borough with a population just over 4,000 but it’s school district is one of the largest in Pennsylvania. The High School serves just under 1700 students and is known for its art and music programs.
Thomas describes his early years as a teacher, “I found art through a lot of back roads. I had always wanted to be a teacher but I never knew what I wanted to teach. In college I had to take an art appreciation class and I discovered that I loved art history…Eventually I turned back to education and became an art teacher. I had a knack for graphic design and animation, which I ended up teaching for over a decade.” He goes on: “[Boyertown Area Senior High School] hired Domenic Frunzi as our new ceramics teacher…Dom had loads of experience drawing but he was slated for his ceramics position. He offered to give me a hand with the drawing courses. We discovered that we worked well together and had the same vision for our students…The love of art brought Domenic to education and the love of education has brought me to art.”
“My colleague Thomas Dareneau and I compliment each other very well in terms of teaching styles and where we come from as educators. Thomas comes from a love of teaching and I come from a love of art. Our experiences have helped us love both teaching and art and we truly challenge each other on a regular basis from an artist’s perspective and from a teacher’s perspective.”
For Thomas, Art21 was yet another nice surprise. “I was introduced to Art21 by a bout of insomnia,” he tells us. “I caught an episode late night on PBS.” This late night foray encouraged Thomas to begin teaching with Art21 artists Do-Ho Suh and Cai Guo-Qiang.
Domenic, meanwhile, found Art21 in the classroom—as a student.
“I was first introduced to Art21 in college while I was studying for my bachelors in Art Education at Penn State University. Many of my art education professors as well as studio professors showed artists and videos from Art21. I have been referencing and using Art21 since I began student teaching and still use it today in my teaching.”
He says he finds Art in the Twenty-First Century appealing because of each episode’s theme or “big idea,” which he explains can help “creative and critical thinking as well as problem solving and deeper learning and understanding in general.”
Thomas believes the first work of contemporary art was probably Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1919), but he loves when students argue about the boundaries of contemporary art, a conversation he’s seen continue into the hallway outside his classroom.
“I see contemporary art as work that challenges preconceived notions of what art is supposed to be,“ Thomas says. “My goal is to incorporate more understanding and a broader sense of what art is.”
Stay tuned: In two weeks we meet Art21 Educators Alyssa Greenberg and Rebecca Mir.