Alumni honored for art education

December 7 2006

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- Indiana State University and Vigo County can lay claim to not one but two art educators who have received statewide recognition for their work.

The Art Education Association of Indiana (AEAI) selected Pam Anshutz, a teacher at Farrington Grove and Dixie Bee elementary schools and an ISU graduate, as its 2006 Outstanding Art Educator and named Brad Venable, assistant professor of art at Indiana State, as its Higher Education Educator of the Year.

Pam Anshutz

Anshutz was nominated by Rockville High School art teacher Rita Jacks for the Elementary Art Educator of the Year. An errant postal code on her notification letter worked to heighten the drama of the awards ceremony.

"I received notification two weeks after everyone else," the 13-year art educator recalled. "When I received the notification I thought it was for the elementary art teacher of the year. I was really excited."

But the excitement had only begun. Anshutz's husband and daughter both made plans to attend, along with Vigo County School Corp. Superintendent Danny Tanoos, Camilla Correll, her supervisor, and principals Tim Sheehan, Dixie Bee and Bill Smith, Farrington Grove. At the awards banquet she found flowers waiting for her from the Dixie Bee Parent- Teacher Organization.

"I didn?t have a program, but I knew the first item on the agenda was the elementary art teacher of the year award. The time came and they didn't call my name. I was really worried all these people had come and done all of this for me and I didn't get the award," she said.

But an hour and half into the ceremonies, Anshutz's name was called as recipient of the biggest award of the evening, Outstanding Art Educator for all grade levels in the state.

"I was really surprised and humbled," she said.

Anshutz received a degree in elementary education from ISU in 1992, after earning a degree in journalism and working in the newspaper business and as a graphic designer.

"I really am glad in retrospect that I do have the elementary background -- the reading, the science, the social studies, and the math. I have more classroom experience and I can relate other subjects to art rather than just teaching art," she said.

Anshutz was fortunate to land her first art education job with the Vigo County School Corp. in 1994.

"They were in need of art teachers at that time. I love my job and this is where I belong," she said.

Her students serve as her inspiration.

"They are excited about art. I just finished a morning with first graders and they are just so enthusiastic. We could sit and talk about art for a full half hour because they have the desire to learn but we do break for a hands-on experience with each lesson. If I can nurture in them a lifelong desire to enjoy and appreciate art and the realization that we use art in so many ways in everyday life, then I've fulfilled my goals," she said.

But this is not your usual art class. The students work with a variety of materials such as paint, paper and ceramics, but there's more to it than just a constant buzz of activity.

"I like to teach my students about all of the different aspects of art by integrating those concepts into projects. In our visual society today, we use art in so many different ways. That will make them better at understanding art. I also like to give them a lot of history in art because so many of the students that I have are going to be patrons of the art, not just producers. I want them to feel comfortable producing art, but I also want them to appreciate art," Anshutz added.

She regularly works with classroom teachers when planning her curriculum.

"Knowing that ISTEP comes up in third grade and symmetry is an important concept that they need to get across, I work with my second graders on symmetrical items. The first project of the third grade has always been a project in symmetry. Generally it will be a mono-print where you can fold it over and see that you have symmetry. We talk about those concepts that they learn about in the classroom," she said.

That extends to talking about authors the students are reading to photos they've seen in textbooks and even to Egyptian history.

"We talk about how what we know about the Egyptians is through the art relics they left behind," she added.

Prominently displayed in Anshutz's classroom is a quote she firmly believes in - "Every work of art must have something to say, otherwise the artist shouldn't even bother."

"We should think about what we are doing before we do it, and while we put it together, we should plan. You have to do that in life. There are a lot of skills you get out of art," she said.

Looking back over the years at the number of students she's had in her classrooms, Anshutz wouldn't trade the experience.

"It's the best job in the world. I love it," she said with a wide smile.

Brad Venable

Venable has taught art at various levels in the Terre Haute area since 1979, including a seven-year stint in Clay County schools before teaching at Chauncey Rose, Honey Creek and Woodrow Wilson middle schools. During the summer months he also taught at Gibault School and ISU?s University School.

Venable has been a longtime member of AEAI and has served as its treasurer and most recently its president-elect. While he was honored to receive such high recognition, something else was a greater reward.

"What made the award more meaningful to me was having previous students nominate me," he said.

Nominations came from Heather Millick, an employee of ISU's Center for Instruction, Research and Technology, and Amber Gentry, an art teacher at Gibault School. They described Venable as a passionate educator, adding that he challenges students to perform at their highest level, providing students with guidance and knowledge they need to be successful.

His passion over the years has evolved from creating art to providing meaningful educational experiences for young people. That passion took another turn when he began teaching future art educators.

"My passion is to motivate my students to become reflective, to provide meaningful art experiences for their students and to move beyond the idea of making art to relating to their students so their education moves beyond the classroom and into their daily lives," he said.

Venable is very proud of his students, who spend time in the field learning from veteran teachers. In addition to leaving the program ready to provide classroom instruction, they leave with a commitment to community service.

Venable teaches a class where every student has to do an individual project. As a class project, students conducted six sessions of an after-school art program at Chauncey Rose Middle School with art teacher Ricardo Hutchins.

But each student has to do something beyond that.

"They have to seek out in the community those kinds of experiences where they can provide art experiences for people," Venable said.

During the fall semester, students worked with the pediatric unit at Union Hospital and at Ryves Youth Center at Etling Hall, Gary's Place, Spectrum Industries, Happiness Bag, and the Vigo County Juvenile Detention Center.

Venable, along with department colleague Nancy Nichols-Pethick, has given his students a hands-on learning opportunity that allows them to create art, but also complete a project that benefits the community.

A large mural, located at the Terre Haute Boys and Girls Club, was created in conjunction with the Gilbert Wilson Memorial Mural project, named in honor of the late muralist from Terre Haute who created several large works of art in public buildings, including the entrance to Woodrow Wilson Middle School, Community Theatre of Terre Haute and ISU?s University Hall. The project is funded by a Lilly Endowment grant administered by the Center for Public Service and Community Engagement.

In addition to preparing future art educators, Venable has created a unique online database of children?s artwork with the assistance of ISU's Office of Information Technology.

"It's a very innovative, one-of-a-kind site that will allow anyone to do research on children's images and look at graphic development. The artwork is searchable by characteristics, such as ethnicity, age, gender, school variables and subject matter," Venable said.

"It's a wonderful tool for anyone who wants to do research or a casual visitor interested in seeing how children learn to draw or kind of discover drawing on their own," he added.

The initial 750 drawings for the site (found at http://childart.indstate.edu) came from children in local schools, Venable said, before he expanded.

"I asked every middle school and elementary in the state of Indiana to participate and got about 75 teachers who were willing to collect drawings from their students and send them in to be digitally prepared and put on the Web," he added.

The submitted pieces were not as a result of an assignment, but in response to prompt questions, such as "draw my family," "draw what I like to draw," "draw what I like to do." They were not graded, so Venable hopes the drawings are more natural and a result of the students' inner workings as an individual as opposed to an art assignment.

Venable said the continued research into children's artwork is a valuable activity that will promote the importance of art in our society and culture, and bring about greater understanding of children's development.

While he admits being an art educator is challenging, Venable is quick to point out its rewards.

"Students who teach art break down classroom walls and break through to other disciplines. That's a very exciting thing to do," he said.

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Contact and writer: Paula Meyer, ISU Communications & Marketing, (812) 237-3783 or pmeyer4@isugw.indstate.edu

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Story Highlights

Indiana State University and Vigo County can lay claim to not one but two art educators who have received statewide recognition for their work.

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