Linda Pauley of the United States Department of Education accepts artwork from Holly Simonsen, of Cedar Wood Elementary in Bothell, WA. The painting will hang in the Department’s Seattle regional offices. In the background are winning works from Crayola’s Visual Voices program. These pieces will hang on walls throughout the Department’s regional offices and at the LBJ building in Washington, D.C.

Student Art Inspires Department of Education

Last week while  attending the National Art Education Association conference in Seattle, Wash., in my capacity as a Teaching Ambassador Fellow, I was a little bit surprised when some art teachers asked, “Why are you guys here?”

My answer was that, consistent with the President’s call for a well-rounded education in his plan to reauthorize ESEA and fix No Child Left Behind, I felt it was important to be present for art teachers.

One example of how art functions at the U.S. Department of Education was illustrated at the conference by two officials, Doug Herbert and Jacquelyn Zimmermann.  They presented on overview of  The Headquarters Art Exhibit Program that  fills the lobby of the LBJ building in Washington, D.C ., and described the significance of having student art on display at the Department.

The Department has two exhibit spaces in the lobby.  One accommodates about 60 winners of the 87 year old Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.   Student artwork honored by this program is exhibited for an entire year.  A second gallery holds a rotating exhibit of exemplary student art from schools and districts across America.  This museum quality display rotates every 2-3 months.

The Headquarters Art Exhibit Program places artifacts of student achievement in a space through which every headquarters employee and official must pass each day.  The students of America have painted pictures that teach us what student learning looks like and those images animate the department with a constant reminder of why we do this work.

My questions for teachers are these:  What do young artists teach us through their accomplishments?  How can we include art in our instruction so that every student becomes well-rounded and fully prepared for college and careers?

Steve Owens
Stephen Owens is a Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow on loan from Calais, Vermont.