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  • Photography by Heather Canterbury

Q&A: Sarolta Brannen, Participating Art Teacher in Thea's Arts Reconstruction Summer 2019 Pr


Sarolta Brannen, an art teacher at Sylvan Hills High School and an online educator for Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, is the last teacher we're featuring in our special Q&A series for participating teachers who learned about cyanotype at UA Little Rock's Windgate Center of Art + Design during Thea's Arts Reconstruction professional development week held this past summer. Sarolta has received support from Thea Foundation for four years now, including taking part in Arts Reconstruction as well as receiving funds for art supplies needs through Thea's Art Closet. What we love the most about the following responses is Sarolta's mention of executing collaborative lesson plans with a chemistry teacher at her high school. We look forward to checking in on how the new medium is implemented in Sarolta's classroom this school year.

How many years have you been an art teacher in Arkansas? Where do you currently teach and what grades does your instruction cover? Yearly average amount of students taught?

This year marks my 7th year as an art teacher in Arkansas. I currently teach 10th, 11th, and 12th grade at Sylvan Hills High School in Sherwood, Arkansas. I teach Painting, Art Foundations, Crafts and Pottery and Crystal Bridges online courses to roughly 200 students a year.

To date, what has your experience been with the Thea Foundation? Have you benefited from programs outside of the Arts Reconstruction’s professional development week?

I have been working with the Thea Foundation for four years. This is the second time I have had the opportunity to be involved in the Arts Reconstruction program. I have also raised money for supplies through Donors Choose with the help of the Thea’s Art Closet fund.

All of the things I have learned in the professional development for the four years have been implemented into my art classes. We have been able to do papermaking, digital photography photo transfers, bookbinding and metal smithing. I have also been able to create collaborative lessons with one of our chemistry teachers. We created a lesson in which students could learn the chemistry of metal etching and patinas while creating keychains. This year our plan is to collaborate again using the chemistry of cyanotypes.

During the 2019 professional development week, what were some of the personal highlights from learning about cyanotype at UA Little Rock’s Windgate Center of Art + Design?

Working with the Thea Foundation and professors from UALR is a highlight of my summer. I love working with new materials and being able to share that with my students. Thea’s Art Reconstruction program is the most beneficial professional development I receive all year. Joli Livaudais was incredibly knowledgeable about cyanotypes and made me feel confident enough to take the content to the high school classroom this year. I loved the freedom we had to experiment with the different types of cyanotype techniques and the discussions we had about implementing them into our classrooms.

How confident do you feel about incorporating this new medium during your 2019-20 school year curriculum?

I feel extremely confident and excited to share this new process with the students and to be collaborating again with the chemistry department.

How do you think your students will benefit from this new addition to your curriculum?

The cyanotype process is one that can be implemented into many of the different art classes that are offered at Sylvan Hills. The process itself gives students a product quickly and teaches them the fundamentals of composition in an art piece. The students are also able to learn the chemical processes of developing photos and the history behind the processes.

What do you wish others knew about the needs of art educators in Arkansas?

I wish that others knew how much work goes into teaching a “lab-like” class everyday. Our entire curriculum requires the use of consumable supplies that districts give little money for. Most of our budget comes from fundraising or donations from the Thea Foundation. We need these supplies for students to receive the hands on learning they deserve.

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