Teaching with Contemporary Art

Making the Circle Bigger

Image: fastcompany.com

Image via Fastcompany.com

After my last post I got to thinking about the kinds of networks teachers create in order to stimulate thinking and their own practice. When I talked with a few colleagues about the topic I discovered that many teachers use their own circle of colleagues in the school building to help them tackle questions and day-to-day challenges—but new thinking most often comes from wider circles such as online communities (like our Art21 Educators Ning), professional organizations, professional journals, workshops, and conferences.

Having colleagues in our schools and districts is especially helpful for issues specific to the community we are working in. But the critical friends we often need are beyond our daily practice and the comfort of “home.” What we need when expanding our network of colleagues are fresh eyes and ears, people who aren’t afraid to ask why?

So if you’re in the same spot I was in years ago—getting slapped on the back for the great job you’re doing but knowing in the back of your mind that things can be better—it’s time to expand your circle of critical friends. You might start with a professional journal that you’re not already reading, for example, Phi Delta Kappan, since it doesn’t focus solely on art education. Then begin searching for online communities where you can post questions, share ideas, and build your network of colleagues. Some places to start (along with a myriad of pages on Facebook) include:

Another obvious place would be this column; “Teaching with Contemporary Art” posts go back five years! (When you comment on a post, please know that a large bell rings on my computer and I am able to read it immediately 🙂

Can you suggest other online communities or useful websites for contemporary art educators? Please share!

Note: Our July 31 post will feature guest blogger Jack Watson, one of our outstanding Art21 Educators. Make sure to tune in for his piece titled, “Works Well With Others.”


  1. Hi Joe!
    Wow, returning to Seattle from the Art21 Educators Institute late last night, I am still on NYC time and up and at ’em this morning. I know, especially as an educator this momentum will ebb and flow, but I am taking advantage while I got it. But I was curious if there’s an Art21 Educators page on FB?

    Look forward to seeing what will happen with our new community and how that will continue to spread. But I agree with what Jess Hamlin said I think on the first day. Something about, needing to meet together in person, because so much of what we do together might be virtual. It’s the in person connection that initially gives a spark. Like your story about calling the office and asking to speak to the education department, and it WAS JESS HAMLIN!

    Bells ringing, DING!
    Thank you for everything,
    Erin Shafkind

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