ART21 announces selection of 16 exceptional art and humanities teachers to spend a year working with contemporary art, artists, and files. Our own Jethro Gillespie, art teacher at Maple Mountain High School, was selected to participate in this free, innovative, and highly selective program inspired by and based on Art21’s films and curricular resources.

Led by Art21 Education staff, participating teachers are empowered to integrate the working methods of today’s dynamic visual artists into their own teaching practices; effectively use media in the classroom; and participate in a supportive community of fellow educators.

“Contemporary artists engage with so many ideas that connect to other disciplines – history, literature, music, philosophy, and more,” notes Art21 Executive Director Susan Sollins. “Art21 is once again breaking new ground in professional development by engaging teachers with contemporary art and the humanities, by offering educators new ways of bringing contemporary artists as role models for creative thinking into the
classroom.”

Past participant Keeley Stitt, an elementary teacher in Chicago, IL, described the program as “…one of the best things that could have happened to me. Through Art21, I was engaged in rethinking everything that I ever thought about art education — from being an artist and a student myself, to becoming a teacher. It informed me in different ways to re-situate myself as the teaching artist, and engage contemporary artists as a means for embodying the concept of creative thinking within my own classroom.”

The exceptional new cohort of teachers hail from diverse cities and towns across the United States — including Burnet, TX; Pittsburgh, PA; Spanish Fork, UT; Chicago, IL; and Brooklyn, NY. Each applicant submitted an extensive written narrative, as well as a video profile. Applicants apply in pairs, to ensure support and collaboration when they return to their classrooms. To forge a community of teachers who will work intensively together – and with Art21 staff – over the course of a year, Art21 selected teachers who expressed passion, curiosity, and a commitment to reinvigorating their classrooms with an expanded field of art and ideas. The selected educators represent diverse backgrounds, including rural, urban, and suburban; various regions of the United States; and both new and seasoned teachers.

The program builds on Art21’s extensive experience in presenting workshops at local schools, school districts, museums, and universities nationwide. Jessica Hamlin, Director of the Art21 Educators program, explains, “Art21 is in a unique position to support teachers who share a passion for the art of our time and are eager to explore possibilities for their classrooms. This program aims to re-imagine how the arts are understood and utilized in the classroom.”

For the third year, a 6-day Summer Institute in New York City launches the program (July 6-13, 2011; co-hosted by New York University and the Museum of Art and Design). Art21 staff and guest speakers – who in the past have included leading contemporary artists such as Ursula von Rydingsvard, Allan McCollum, and Oliver Herring – introduce participants to a range of perspectives on working as an artist and educator today.

Unique in its focus on video and media as a classroom tool, the program offers strategies for using Art21’s diverse archive of films in ways that resonate with today’s youth. Participants will also explore interdisciplinary teaching strategies that bring visual art into dialogue with other subject areas. Over the course of the week, each teacher develops a unit of study designed specifically for his or her classroom context.   

Throughout the academic year, monthly webinars and a social networking site allow the group to maintain momentum and communication as each teacher implements his or her curriculum. Participants receive a full set of Art21 DVDs, books, and Educators’ Guides to use in the classroom, as well as a video camera to document and share their teaching practices with the Art21 staff and group of educators. Finally, the teachers develop case studies to represent their experiences over the course of the entire year that follows the summer institute.

At graduation, the newest cohort will join a growing national group of Art21 Educators Alumni – from diverse locations and schools such as Jackson, MS; Hillsboro, OR; Greenville, SC; Cuba, NM; The Bronx, NY; Culver City, CA; and Glen Rock, NJ – who continue to share their work through online forums, and mentor new program participants. This spirit of creative, collaborative learning is key to the program’s continued success.

Major support for Art21 Educators 2011-12 is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts; the W.L.S. Spencer Foundation; the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; and by individual contributions to the Art21 Education Circle.

Over the past decade, Art21 has established itself as the preeminent chronicler of contemporary art and artists through its double Peabody Award-winning biennial television series Art in the Twenty-First Century (2001-ongoing) and the hour-long film William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible (2010). The organization has used the power of digital media to expose millions of people of all ages to contemporary art and artists and has created a new paradigm for teaching and learning about the
creative process. In addition to its PBS series and year-round series-based education and public programs efforts, Art21 has expanded its film production and educational efforts in recent years. Current initiatives include the short-format documentary series Exclusive on multiple online platforms, an expansion of the Art21 Blog and Art21 Educators, an ongoing professional development program for teachers. Art21 also maintains an extensive archive of all of the original footage, completed films and educational materials it produces.   

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