For this summer, I really want to focus on art teachers and what they went through in the last year teaching through the pandemic. Every teacher has a different story to tell about what they faced, and I want to talk about one of the hardest years in memory for teachers and celebrate getting through it.
Looking forward to the new school year, what have teachers learned from this experience that’ll change the way they teach moving forward? Let’s take back the joy of reconnecting with art and reclaim our power as teachers and individuals by first reflecting on what we’ve gone through and the lessons learned. So in this episode, I start off by welcoming my first guest in a series of teacher interviews: Mary Greim-Gallo, a K-5 elementary art teacher in Rhode Island.
4:33 – Mary’s art teaching philosophy and the classroom environment this past year
11:44 – Particular artwork lessons that connected really well with Mary’s students
14:20 – Regional art and having to carefully choose what to teach students
21:08 – What changes Mary plans to incorporate for future years
28:28 – Why Mary feels a little unnerved about planning the upcoming school year
31:56 – Going forward with a focus on social-emotional learning and diversity
37:45 – The artists that changed Mary’s life
- Curated Connections Library
- Beyond the Surface: Free Email Course
- Curated Connections Experience: 2021 Summer Art Teacher Workshop
- Dorothea Lange: Exploring Empathy Art Lesson
- SPARK Hybrid Learning Art Curriculum
- “From 1971: Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” by Linda Nochlin
- Be a Podcast Guest: Submit a Voice Memo of Your Art Story (Scroll to the bottom of the page to submit your story.)
Cindy Ingram: Hello, and welcome to the Art Class Curator podcast. I am Cindy Ingram your host and the founder of Art Class Curator and the Curated Connections Library. We’re here to talk about teaching art with purpose and inspiration from the daily delight of creativity to the messy mishaps that come with being a teacher. Whether you’re driving home from school or cleaning up your classroom for the 15th time today, take a second, take a deep breath, relax those shoulders, and let’s get started.
Art connection is more than making a copycat version of an artwork. It’s looking at art, talking about art, sitting with art that sparks something inside of you, listening to what it says about the world and finding your own interpretation and meaning. This summer, join us for the curated connections experience so we can feel the power of art connection together. Join me and other art educators for in-person or online professional development workshops and experience the power of great art discussions and activities. Learn how to bring powerful art connections into your classroom. Feel the joy of art education again. Go to artclasscurator.com/workshops2021 to learn more, and I’ll see you there.
Hello, everybody. This is Cindy Ingram from the Art Class Curator podcast. This summer, we really wanted to focus on art teachers and what they went through in this last year teaching through the pandemic. It has been a rough year for everyone from teaching on a cart when you normally have a classroom to teaching more students because now they’re all online to teaching in-person kids at the same time as your remote kids to teaching outside only because of the air circulation to so many different stories. Every teacher has a different story on what they were faced with this year and what they went through. We really want to acknowledge all of you for everything that you have gone through and talk about it and also celebrate that you made it through, you know, you’ve made it through probably one of the hardest teaching years you’re ever going to have. Now, looking forward to the new year, we’re thinking about what did we learn this year that’s going to change our teaching moving forward? What are we going to stop doing that we used to do? What are we going to start doing that we started doing and realized that it worked really well? I think a lot of us are wanting to take back our joy, reconnect with art, reclaim our power as teachers and as individuals and we can do all of that by first reflecting on what we’ve gone through, reflecting on the lessons learned.
I am so excited to welcome my very first guest in this series of celebrating our teachers. Today, I have for you an interview with Mary Greim-Gallo who is a K-5 elementary art teacher in Rhode Island. I loved my conversation with her because she shares her love of teaching with works of art and you’ll see that come through. But also she had some really powerful realizations about her students this year. She had powerful realizations about social-emotional learning. She had really great success introducing works of art to her students in an online format. I really enjoyed this conversation with her and I hope that you do too. So, welcome to Mary Greim-Gallo.
I am so excited to welcome Mary Greim-Gallo to the podcast. Thank you so much for joining me, Mary.
Mary Greim-Gallo: Well, thank you for having me.
Cindy: We’re doing interviews with teachers this summer to talk about how the year went. Before we get started on that, can you give us an overview of who you are, where you teach, what grades do you teach.
Mary: My name is Mary and I teach in Cranston, Rhode Island. I’ve been teaching elementary school for about 23 years. I’ve taught in Cranston. I also taught in Las Vegas, Nevada at the beginning of my career. I’ve mostly always done elementary although I have done middle and high school also.
Cindy: What made you want to be an art teacher?
Mary: I love art. I went to school originally for jewelry design and then a few years later, went back into my Art Ed degree and it’s just– I love sharing art with kids and watching the light bulb go off and it’s just exciting.
Cindy: Can you kind of give us an overview of your overall feel for your classroom? What’s your teaching philosophy? What kind of lessons do you typically like to do? Before this year, what was your teaching like?
Mary: Since I started teaching, I’ve always loved bringing art history into my classroom. I loved talking to kids about art. I’ve looked into Harvard’s Project Zero with the See, Think, Wonder, and I’ve done that. I did the summer institute at the National Gallery of Art. I also did a summer institute at Crystal Bridges American Museum of Art. I just love that the kids how they just express themselves and talk through looking at the artwork like they relate it to what they’re thinking about and I just love that interaction. Like I said earlier, I love when that light bulb goes off and they just can’t wait to talk, their hands waving in the air.
Cindy: Yes, I love that too
Mary: I’ve always brought some sort of artwork into my classroom. Whether we’ve just talked about it for a class period, whether we’ve talked about it and then been a piece of artwork on it. Talked about it wrote a poem about it, talked about it just even told a story about it. I’ve always started a lesson, probably 90% of my lessons start with a piece of artwork.
Cindy: I love that because you don’t often hear that from elementary teachers because of the lack of time that elementary teachers have with the students. They feel like they constantly have to be making something and so that’s a big hurdle.
Mary: I’ve had a lot of them, that’s funny you said that. A lot of over the years when the kindergartener and first second graders don’t come out with a piece of artwork, the classroom teachers will be like, “What did you do?” and finally, I’m just like, “If you want to know, come sit in my room” and they will sit in my room and they’ll be like, “Oh”. When I first started teaching, I was teaching aid 50-minute classes, and oh my god, these kids would just go on and on just making connections talking about art and it was wonderful. Now, I’m down with 35 minutes so the kids usually know whenever I introduce a lesson, we’re not going to be creating that day. When I, almost said grew up, but when I started DBAA and just returned from Art Ed and it was always only 25% I think it was production. I always use that as my backbone like teaching art is more than just doing a craft. It’s so much more.
Mary: I think that saved me over the years.
Cindy: Yes, 100%. I love that because a lot of teachers will come to me and say, “Oh, I’m scared my kids are going to complain that they didn’t get to make art” and in my experience that doesn’t happen.
Mary: No, it doesn’t.
Cindy: Because they like art appreciations have just as much.
Mary: And I think once they realize that they can use their voice, they’re not just going to sit there and listen to my voice the whole time, and they can participate and it’s not just a test, it’s not just– first of all, I always tell them there are no wrong answers when we talk about art. I think once they get comfortable, enjoy it.
Mary: Yeah, it takes a little bit to get them out of that mindset that, “Oh, art. We have to paint today.” But once you do, it’s amazing.
Cindy: Yeah, and then they remember it and they, like months later, will mention artworks that they’ve talked about and they…
Mary: Know the connections they make, yeah.
Cindy: That’s why I’m here. I love it.
Cindy: So what did that mean for the– when covid hit and you know, your school– can you tell us what your school looked like this year?
Mary: This year we started off hybrid. We entered the school year two weeks late so that they could give us training and then we went hybrid except for kindergarten and first grade. They were in-person the whole year. And then from there, some of the grades came back gradually but still I had classes that were all distance learners online because the parents could choose.
Mary: In the beginning, like, September October, I mean, there were classes of like three kids in-person and the rest home. I still have a few classes like that, and now pretty much Rhode Island is actually opening up today.
Mary: As I speak. So all are masking and the dates are down and everything, but there are still kids that are home and that’s absolutely fine, that’s their choice. It’s been kind of interesting and actually it’s been nice to use the different thinking routines talking about art because it’s a great thing that the kids can participate in their home and at school, not worrying about what kind of supplies they have. They’re just, you know, and using the technology that we have like Google Meet, it’s because that’s what the student uses. It’s, you know, type it in the chat. Nobody is talking over each other. No, it’s just, I don’t know. It’s kind of interesting. They see and hear more because it’s typed so they’re getting more out of it, I think. I get so
Cindy: Oh, I like that.
Mary: Well, did you notice they’re seeing– they’re keeping, they’re copying what everybody else is writing and they’re watching that and they’re just paying attention more. I don’t know. It is kind of interesting so I will keep using Google, in other words, to keep doing this because I don’t know, I hate to say they’re more focused on the computer but don’t tell anyone I said that.
Cindy: She says in a podcast interview.
Mary: I know. No, but you know what it is? It’s their world. It’s what they’re used to. It’s what they do every day so you fight it for so long but then I think they share, everybody just kind of had no choice. I just see a huge– I mean, my teaching obviously just like everybody else across the country it was like being a first-year teacher all over again. You had to reinvent the wheel and this is one thing that I really enjoyed doing with my kids online.
Mary: In artwork and talking about it.
Cindy: I think another thing too is when it’s on the screen, they get to see it more clearly than if it was projected…
Cindy: …or if they’re looking at a thing you’re holding up. They really get to see the details in the work.
Mary: Exactly. Yes, you’re absolutely right. It’s up close and in-personal with them…
Mary: …when they– because it’s right in front.
Cindy: Yeah, that’s great. Can you think of one particular lesson that you did with the work of art that went really well this year? An example? or really cool connections that kids made.
Mary: I did show them Charles Demuth Figure 5 in Gold and we did an illustration project based upon that. And then we went on a virtual field trip and I can’t remember the name of the painting and that’s awful that the docent and a virtual trip showed the kids but one of my kids just had to raise his hand and say that reminds me of Figure 5 in Gold because look at the fire truck and then he said, “Do you think the artist knew each other?” I was like– because I always talk about artists that are painting in the same style, how a lot of times they knew each other and they shared studio space, and they talked about their artwork. That was a fourth-grader, that was like, a 10-year-old that said that and I was just like, “Oh my God.”
Cindy: And he remembered the title?
Mary: He remembered the title in it and I’m just like, “Oh my God.”
Cindy: I mean, think about it. All of those kids, so you’re seeing K-5?
Cindy: And you see them year after year. If you show them ten artworks in one year and then ten artworks, they’re building this library within them of all of these connections. By the time, their fifth grade…
Mary: The virtual field trip we went on, we saw one of Yayoi Kusama’s rooms and I had showed them that two years ago. I didn’t say anything because I wanted to see if they’d remember and they went, “We know this artwork. We’ve seen this. Mrs. Gallo has shown us that” and I’m just like, “Oh my God” and they do. The other thing that was kind of interesting is because now this year we were in their homes. One of my students that I’ve had for the last four years, where she sat she had a wall behind her of her artwork through the years. It was framed and it was all behind her, it was in her room and that made me melt. It was just like, wow.
Cindy: Yeah, so many elementary kids just throw it in the trash on the way out.
Mary: Yeah, so that just like made me deaf.
Cindy: It’s wonderful. Did you use the SPARK Hybrid Learning Curriculum this year?
Mary: Okay. I used a little bit of it. I liked the artwork that you chose for elementary. It was kind of like I had to pick and choose because what I’ve noticed and I’ve also done quite a few museum zooms throughout quarantine whatever and they’ll say it’s for art teachers and blah, blah, blah and choose your classroom. But the one thing I noticed, and I had a conversation with this actually with the woman at Crystal Bridges, is artwork is regional. There’s artwork that you can show, for instance, I had two children, I’m using that as an example, in Arkansas that is going to mean something to a child in Rhode Island. She had picked an artwork that had somebody hunting in it and there was a shotgun and I said, “Trip, you cannot show that to my kids.” I said, “That’s like a lawsuit waiting to happen, like, why are you trying to get guns?” and she said to me, “I never thought about that because there they’re hunting and it’s common and how many parts of the country do they hunt it and it’s common.” I watched another thing through the national gallery, it was actually yesterday, and this woman gave this awesome presentation and she taught in Washington DC. I don’t know if it was a charter school or a private school. She showed an amazing artwork and it was related to a poem but it was all about God. It was an angel with his arms up. I can’t do that. Maybe in high school, you could do that but in elementary school? I can’t. I have to be very careful what artworks I pick and show my kids. In Washington or in other parts of the country, maybe people, not that we’re not religious in the northeast, but maybe the section of town that you lived in, you could talk about that but where I am you can’t. I mean, I one time did a Day of the Dead project and I got called into the principal’s office because I was teaching according to the second-grader, I was teaching the child about dead people and that was right around the time the movie Coco came out and I was just like. “You gotta be kidding me.” [laughs] You just have to be– there’s no room for interpretation of anything that could go that way. I did a lot of your worksheets because sometimes I feel, I mean, I could show them artwork every day of every class and be fine with that and know that they’d be getting something out of it. But if you do it like four or five times a year, and then teachers are kind of like, “What are you doing?” The worksheets are great because some of them were just additives they had to come up with or something really simple that I could hold onto for data collection. We’re really doing something. We’re not just, “No, I just didn’t put a piece of artwork up in front of the room” and walk away. You know what I mean and I had that to hold on to so I did like a lot of the worksheets. Although with covid we couldn’t really use handouts and some of my schools are not one-to-one. I’m at four different schools.
Cindy: Oh, wow.
Mary: Uh, this year has been interesting. [laughs] And some of them are not one-to-one so in order to do a handout, it would have to be projected. In some schools, I don’t even have projection capabilities. That’s why picking my lessons, it’s kind of like if I’m going to do a third-grade list that’s what I want to do across the board. If I’m going to do a fourth-grade, I want to do it on my school so there’s a lot of planning that goes into it.
Cindy: Yes. Wow. Wait, is it only this year you’re at four schools, or were you at four schools
Mary: Yeah. This year my schedule changed. Usually, it’s two or three but this year four.
Mary: Seven hundred kids, yeah.
Cindy: That’s nuts.
Cindy: How do you use artworks to introduce the projects that you do? What kind of connections do you make from the projects to the artwork?
Mary: Usually, I’ll introduce an artwork. One thing I’ve learned over the years is not to tell them right off the bat the name of the artwork. Yeah. Let them– the famous, “What do you see? What do you see? What do you see? What do you think’s going on?” and then I will tell them the name, you know, “What is their connection from the name to the artwork?” and then from there, we’re going to create an artwork in the style. I usually say in the style of that artist and this, I mean, well this year we’ve used– the thing is I usually do and I hate to say this two maybe three painting lessons a year and that’s it only because I’m on a cart. I have 35 minutes. I have stairs. I don’t have sinks and I know there are ways you can do it but…
Cindy: Not worth it. [laughs] I think two to three per year is a lot with those…
Cindy: …the scenario.
Mary: Yeah. To say that we always do a painting with the painting, a sculpture with the sculpture, no. So it’s usually they will create something in the style and it’s like, “What did you get out of that? What do you see in that? What do you think? If you were to recreate this, what would you do?” things like that. Well, I was just telling you about the Charles Demuth that was an illustration project. We talked all about illustration and we used his large number but then we used his shading and his value and all that. We talked about all that but then they added things about themselves. So we didn’t go with the city or anything of the fire trucks in the background but we used his values and his cubism and all that, and they made it about themselves.
Cindy: I love that. So it’s not– you’re not copying it but you’re taking inspiration from the media, from the style from the yeah. Well, I mean they can have it at home.
Mary: No, no. Never. If they wanted to copy, they could just take a piece and do it at home. It’s like I want to be a little more creative.
Cindy: Yeah. Keeping the connection to of the artwork but keeping the student’s voice, keeping the choices…
Cindy: …teaching the techniques.
Mary: Making the airs.
Mary: I mean, if they’re just sitting there copying artwork, it’s not theirs. There’s no ownership.
Mary: And yeah…
Cindy: I love that. What do you think that you learned this year about teaching, about your students, about art, that will change what you do in future years?
Mary: Again, I just talked to an art teacher about this at the beginning of the week. For years, and this is kind of funny again I teach elementary school, people have said, “Don’t do directed drawing with your kids” like directed drawing like put a line here, put a line here, like copy me. And I tell you, I did that with kindergarten and first grade because they were at home, they had limited supplies. What do you do week after week? So I did quite a few directed drawings. I will definitely keep that up because after we did it, like say we drew a dog one week and we always make gave them choices so you know I’m going to show you this but you add what you want to it. Where is it? Like, say a dog fur. Where is the dog? Which kind of background are you going to give it? What did the dog do? What does the dog eat? Does it have friends? I mean, we can go on. So they have lots of choices. But then like two weeks later, a kindergarten kid will hand me like a five or six-year-olds a picture that they drew of a dog and I’m like, “Oh my God, that’s beautiful.” and I’m like, I guess that does teach them and it was always like let the kids have a voice, don’t do directed drawings, but that’s something I did a lot of this year and that is something I definitely will keep up with the little kids, especially with the little ones because it really, I mean placement on the paper, we’re going to put a circle in the middle of the paper that teaches them to use the whole paper to center if you want to center something or if you want to put it off to the side, then we’ll draw something. And it’s like, okay, we gotta draw something on the bottom because we can’t have it floating in the middle of the paper. And then I had one kid because for some reason this year I really stressed horizontal and vertical holding the paper with my kindergarten kids. In January, a child said to me, six years or five or six again kindergarten, “Mrs. Gallo, can I hold my paper vertical instead of horizontal?” I was just like, “Sure, do whatever you like.” [laughs] The other thing I did is I started using words that I never used before with the younger kids a lot. I would normally like you’d introduce a principal or an element and use it and then, but this year, I was just like, I mean variety I don’t know how many times I use that but portion, this is the foreground, this is the background, this is horizontal, this is vertical. I’ll get some values in there. Don’t just color with just color one color and like one color whatever and they really picked up on it. I was always thinking, “Oh, they’re five, they’re six. I’m just going to teach them the basics and go from it” but they’re sponges, those little ones.
Cindy: Yeah, that’s so funny. My husband and I were having this conversation just a couple days ago. My kids are third grade and sixth grade. We would call things not by their names by what would make it sense to the kid like the coffee table like we called the brown table for a long time and so we simply call it the brown table and we’re like, “Why don’t we do that?”
Cindy: Why don’t we just call it the right name?
Mary: Oh. Well, you know it’s like instead of saying like lights and darks like you a light red or do it dark red, we’re going to use different values of red and I do that with like fourth and fifth grade but I never would have thought of variety. We’re going to use a variety of colors instead of we’re going to use a lot of different colors. I don’t know, I think I was just sitting at home bored teaching. I’m like, “Usse some fun words.” and see what happens.
Cindy: Yeah. It’s like hot dog folder, hamburger folder just say the right word.
Mary: Oh my god, I hate that. I prefer up and down and side to side to hotdog and hamburger.
Cindy: I love that. I think in general a lot of teachers underestimate what their students are capable of in regards to the vocabulary but also in regards to their ability to connect with works of art and talk about works of art. All my kids can’t talk, that’s too above them and I’m like I disagree with you.
Mary: Exactly. I teach it all title on schools. My kids are not museum-going kids like they have never been to a museum in their life and between now and high school. I don’t know if their parents will ever take them but the conversation some of them have. Oh my God, it’s it just blows you away. It’s, I don’t know. It is amazing. And it’s, that’s what makes me do it every day, especially after this year.
Cindy: Yeah, there’s nothing greater than having one of those really powerful conversations with kids. It’s like an honest drug just like it really like exciting and satisfying.
Mary: No, it is. And you notice this too it’s like you have that quiet student that I always stressed that we’re all great with diversity, you know, we’re all different. Look around the room, everybody’s different. Everybody looks different. Everybody talks different. Everybody thinks, feels. Everybody has a different voice. Everybody’s going to think different. We don’t have different brains. So if you’re not going to say the same thing, your friend sitting next to you says but neither one of you were wrong if you’re telling how you feel or what you see. I think after a few times of doing that they finally get it and they just start pouring. Kids have imaginations, we know that. They just start pouring out this in talking and it’s amazing. Even the quiet little kids that don’t say anything, like I said, using a Google Meet, that shy little child that doesn’t want to talk all of a sudden will start typing in the chat and what they say looks like, oh my goodness. There’s some deep thinking going on in there. Although they can’t always express it or too shy or whatever. So it’s not, I don’t know, I love…
Mary: I just love having those conversations with kids.
Cindy: Yeah, and that kid, that sort of shy kid, is learning through this. That they’re watching what other kids are saying, they’re watching the conversations, they’re watching how it’s received and so it’s going to slowly build up their confidence that even if they’re not really contributing their learning oh it’s okay to contribute and eventually I can I know always definitely builds their confidence and even if they’re not contributing, they’re learning “Oh, it’s okay to contribute” and eventually I can and I’ll be safe here.
Mary: Absolutely. Oh, it definitely builds their confidence. It opens up their thinking, definitely.
Cindy: Also in their other classes, they don’t get to really give of themselves when they’re having a classroom discussion about math or about social studies.
Mary: Exactly, because there are right or wrong answers.
Mary: And they’re on guard kind of, yeah.
Cindy: They can freely give it a little, you know, every little kindergartener wants to talk about their dog. So if they have a chance to talk about something about themselves in relationship to this art content, I think it’s just so exciting for them.
Cindy: So thinking about this year, what are your plans for next year? How do you feel about going into the new school year
Mary: I’m just dying to find out, first of all, if I get my art rooms back, will kids be able to share supplies? All that stuff and I mean it just makes such a huge difference and I’m kind of weary because I really don’t think we’ll know until August. I don’t see them saying in June, “Oh, yeah. Pack your stuff, get ready, and go. And by the way, you have your room back.” It’s very unnerving like not knowing where you’re going to be and how you’re going to teach. To be honest, I am going to plan as if it was the share and if anything changes, then it will be a bonus.
Cindy: Yeah, plan for the worst and hope for the best.
Mary: yeah, plan for the worst and hope for the best. Exactly.
Mary: But very timid at going into next year.
Cindy: Yeah, I think that’s how what has been the work all year. Everybody just doesn’t have their feet underneath them because it’s constantly shifting, constantly moving and we can’t plan beyond a couple weeks. That’s going to make your summer kind of wobbly.
Mary: I can’t think of a word. What’s next? No.
Cindy: Yeah, just don’t do work until August.
Mary: I’m doing a week-long summer Institute and that’s all I’m doing this year. That’s all I’m doing until August.
Cindy: Resting too.
Cindy: All right. I’m really inspired by you and inspired by the work that you did this year. I think that…
Mary: Thank you.
Cindy: I love it. I’d love to hear– that’s exactly how I would teach.
Mary: Masters and you’re like me
Cindy: Did you ever do well after school?
Mary: I did, yeah. I did well. I only took it for two years.
Cindy: Okay. Because, as I said, most of your curriculum is getting period middle to high.
Mary: Yeah, we have. That’s changing for August.
Mary: We hired an elementary teacher and she’s writing separate lesson plans for all the artworks for elementary. There will be K-2 modifications and 3-5 modifications. She’s already gotten started on working on those and so by August we’ll have a good portion of them already created and then all new ones from here on out. We’ll have elementary lessons too.
Cindy: Okay. Even if it’s just like, you know, how you have the– I want to call them handouts like for the descriptions of the artwork?
Cindy: …more elementary friendly. Like, you know how scholastic are? It always has the “God, it’s 4:30.”
Mary: I know what you mean.
Cindy: Yeah. Like the addendum like, hey, say dumb sit down. You know what I mean?
Mary: Right. Yeah, that handout is actually for the teacher so that was never actually written with the students in mind.
Cindy: Oh, okay. Well, I’ll never give them to my students. I was surprised, there you go.
Mary: Yeah, that was mainly just information. and I hear the discussion questions and it has the talking points and then it has the artist biography?
Cindy: Are you talking about the
Yes. The I display, it was the world. Yes.
Mary: But at least we should have a student version. That would be good. It’d be helpful.
Cindy: Yeah. Okay. Can you think of anything else you want to share about this year or advice for teachers as their existing right now? Do you have anything you want to share?
Mary: I was just listening to, I guess you would call it a podcast, all about social-emotional learning and I know that’s big. I know like when my district particularly talks about it, it’s not that the itinerant subspecialists are ever given things to do like based upon itself classroom teachers and again I’m putting the elementary but I think there’s so much that we can do going forward with social-emotional learning. As I said, I just listened to a podcast the other day and that is one thing that I am really going to focus on. The other thing that I know is going to be a big focus is diversity. Being an elementary school teacher having 35 minutes two per class, I’m actually doing a summer Institute this summer on Teaching Diversity through Works of Art, but that’s something I don’t think I am that comfortable touching on because we have very small classes and that you’d never want to not hear a child’s viewpoint if everybody else can speak and in 35 minutes, I don’t think it would be fair to the whole class for that. So that’s one thing I’m going to try and stay away from but I am definitely going to do some social-emotional learning, and that’s one thing I want to plan. I’ve also, I mean, I did mandala’s during when we were in quarantine, and I know that there’s so much more out there. I just don’t know about it. Right now, I don’t have time to look it up but that is one thing I will be doing this summer. Because I do want to put that into all of my grades. And I know there are things you can do with art. How does the artwork make you feel? How do you think I did the whole thing in empathy? The photograph Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother and it was wonderful because the kids you know, how does she feel? How would you feel if you were one of those children? What would you– you know, and it’s just getting all their feelings out and knowing it’s okay that everybody’s feeling the same thing and I think sometimes that just really needs to be– the kids just really need to express that and see that they’re okay.
Cindy: Yeah, I think so many kids are taught that strong emotions are bad and anytime you’re feeling something, you need to stop because it’s sinking everyone around you. And so, I think that we’ve done a disservice to a lot of people in this world, me included.
Mary: Yeah. Well, I’m sure– you’re probably close to my age, my generation. Like, don’t cry, don’t feel this, don’t feel that, hide it, don’t talk about this. Yeah, and now I think it’s a time where yeah, that was fine and well but now it’s a time where these kids really need to talk about how they’re feeling and know that they’re not alone…
Mary: … and express how they’re feeling. And also too, I mean, there have been times when I’ve done that this year, last year, two years, five years ago and something will come up that a child will say. I know I can’t handle it. I’ll always go to the social worker. Its guidance counselor and different things come up and are constantly. That I’ll constantly, you know, a couple of times a year I’m you know, going to the social worker and that’s something that would not have normally come up and that child might not have been helped if I mean I don’t want to make myself, you know, try to do that. But seriously.
Cindy: Yeah, no I get it.
Mary: If we didn’t talk about that in our class that never would have came up, and it’s usually the quiet children that just sit and suffer and don’t understand. So that’s another thing. I don’t know, it’s going forward, I’m definitely getting to this summer research a lot about social-emotional learning. Not just research about it, just research artwork that can be used to talk about it. Research artwork appropriate for my children to talk about social-emotional learning.
Cindy: Yeah. I think art teachers are just teachers, in general, are scared to do too much of that because they don’t want to overstep, and then all of a sudden they’re like being a trauma counselor when they don’t have the training to do that, but doing it with works of art, is it sort of a safe place to talk about feelings, talk about the vocabulary of feelings to recognize feelings in other people and that will help you through your own struggles too.
Mary: Like, when you say, “Oh, asking for a friend” yeah, it’s like if the kid can talk about it. Oh, it’s not really me, but what is she and they are work feeling, could she be feeling this way? But oh it’s not really me.
Mary: But you know, when you hear it that it’s like hmm I need to talk to somebody about this…
Mary: …and this information alone because I, believe me, I do not, we do not deal with that. We cannot deal with that.
Mary: There are people that are trained and that’s what they’re there for.
Cindy: Yeah, but we can teach them sort of solid foundational skills on how to manage their emotions and think about emotions and…
Mary: Oh, yes.
Cindy: Yeah. Yes, and everybody feels emotions too. It’s okay to feel sad and it’s okay to be sad and it’s okay to be happy and it’s okay to be both at the same time, you know, all these, exactly.
Mary: Emotions are there and we can feel all of them.
Cindy: Yeah. They’re not going to hurt you either. They just come and go and you just learn to do it. I love that. Well, I always ask everyone I interview one final question. And it is, which artwork changed your life?
Mary: I have two come to mind. Wassily Kandinsky. I want to say artist not artwork, is that okay?
Cindy: That’s fine. Yeah.
Mary: Wassily Kandinsky and Georgia O’Keeffe.
Cindy: Can you share a little bit about what about?
Mary: Georgia O’Keefe was just very soft, very feminine and that’s okay. As a woman, that’s okay. It’s okay to express yourself through art and express yourself as a woman through art. That was okay. Wassily Kandinsky, because my high school art teachers are listening to this. [laughs] Art isn’t just drawing a picture. If you want to take a picture, take a photograph, my God. Seriously, if you want it to look realistic, if you want to do photorealism, take a photograph and Wassily Kandinsky was just like that is beautiful. Like I said Wassily Kandinsky because he created great art and it was just the colors, the lines and just everything together was like, wow, and I love color– I mean, I studied color theory a little bit and I just love that and it’s like that’s art, too. Like I said it’s not just– and that’s one thing I do with my kids. Art is not just drawing. I think a lot of our teachers years ago, draw, draw, draw, draw. If you can’t draw you’re not an artist and that is totally not true. I think that’s important to tell kids because I mean, you could be a 3D artist, you could be God, now you could create on a computer and you’re an artist. But that’s something that when I was in school, it was always draw, draw, draw, draw, draw. I think when I saw Wassily Kandinsky, it was just wow.
Cindy: Yes up. It opened you up to the possibility of…
Cindy: …what artists are.
Cindy: That’s beautiful. I love both of those stories. I’m going to reflect on your Georgia O’Keeffe one because I think that was a
Mary: And there’s a whole woman that wrote– I just read, there was a woman that wrote, she wrote an article about women during wartime became artists because the men were overseas. So, women painted signs, women did all these wonderful things, were photographers, reporters, journalists, like I said, painted signs, planes, cart- like everything. Women were artists. Then all of a sudden, the men came back and there were no more women artists. So, this woman wrote this article in the 70s and it was all about what happened to the women artists from World War II and at that same time in the 70s, of course, the fall of Gloria Steinem and all that, women were emerging. It was a very interesting article. I’ll email it to you.
Cindy: I love that. I would love to read that. That sounds fascinating. And I’ll put a link to that article in the show notes as well. Well, thank you so very much for this conversation.
Mary: You’re welcome.
Cindy: It was so good and there were so many good nuggets there that I’m sure will help a lot of teachers.
Mary: I hope so. This is fun actually.
Mary: I never talk to people about art. Again, elementary, you’re in your little corner and I might be four different schools but I never see another art teacher.
Cindy: Yeah. Oh, that’s great. I’m glad you got to talk about art.
Mary: Thank you.
Cindy: Thank you so much for listening to my interview with Mary Greim-Gallo. She had such amazing things to say, and her passion for sharing art with her students is very, very inspiring to me. So I hope that it was for you as well. Now, you heard us talk about the membership in the podcast episode and we talked about how we have brand new elementary lessons that are being added to the membership. And we are also, I’m pleased to say, completely restructuring and redesigning the membership. It is going to have a gorgeous new look with some amazing new functionality to it, like some opportunities to share your student’s work and to comment on some of the lessons to tell people how it went. We’re adding some new filtering capabilities. We’re adding videos to the artwork lessons. So, if you’re interested in checking out more about the membership, we are opening the doors in August so stay tuned for that but you can get yourself on the waiting list now. So you can make sure that you find out as soon as it’s open and that you can get on the waiting list at artclasscurator.com/join and also, by joining you’ll get a free lesson from the membership as well in your email. I can’t wait to share with you all of the new work that we’re adding to the membership, all of the value that we’re adding, I think you are going to absolutely love it. And especially like, what Mary was talking about with art selection and how it’s so hard to find works of art that are right for your students. Well, we have over 160 lesson plans for different works of art in the membership and it grows every single month. We add four new lessons every month and so you will find so many different options for your students to help them have these powerful art connections that we talked about at Art Class Curator, that Mary talked about in this episode. So again, you can get on the waiting list at artclasscurator.com/join. [background music] Thank you so much for listening. I will see you again next week.
What’s keeping you from showing more artwork to your students? Do you get stuck trying to choose a work of art or do you fear your students will ask a question that you don’t know the answer to? Have you tried to start a classroom art discussion but didn’t know what to say or how to get your students talking? Are you worried you’re going to spend a ton of time researching and planning a lesson that none of your students are interested in? That’s why we created Beyond the Surface, a free professional development, email series all about how to teach works of art through memorable activities and thoughtful classroom discussions. With Beyond the Surface, you’ll discover how to choose artworks your students will connect with and learn exactly what to say and do to spark engagement and create a lasting impact. Plus you’ll get everything you need to curate these powerful learning experiences without spending all of your time planning. Sign up to receive this free professional development email course at artclasscurator.com/surface.
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