I know I have been delinquent in posting. My family and I were in an auto accident at the end of July. Fortunately, my wife and two kids were unharmed. Sadly, I suffered some internal bleeding and a lacerated spleen. After being in the hospital for four days (with my spleen intact!), I was discharged and homebound for three weeks. While homebound, I was hoping to get some painting done. Unfortunately, other accident-related issues came up that completely took the wind out of my sails.
The last week of August brought teacher orientation. The first day of school followed the week following. It was a long end of Summer to say the least. But, again, I remain so very thankful for the Lord’s provision for me and my family during that time.
All of this being said, I did finish two small pieces and started another. I’ll post them shortly. I wanted to simply put the word out that I did not drop off the face of the earth.
Well, the verdict is in. My first high school art show sold eight out of the 18 artworks that were for sale. That is nearly 45% which isn’t that bad for a first attempt. It certainly exceeded my expectations. The majority of the 54 pieces were not for sale because the student wanted to keep it or it was being held for the School’s annual fund-raising Gala.
A Few Observations
- No parents bought artwork. I can’t say this surprises me because the parents don’t strike me as being supportive in that way, especially regarding something as esoteric as student art. Who knows. It could very well be it wasn’t pushed enough. The school did contact each family via their automatic phone messaging system. Perhaps I need to send out a formal letter next year? Then, I could follow that up with a self-addressed stamped postcard for feedback on why they didn’t purchase or participate? (But, that’s the marketer in me. LOL!)
- Only 3 teachers purchased pieces. Statistically, that isn’t good since we have about 30 teachers at the high school. I’m planning on sending out an informal survey via email to see what kind of responses I get back.
- Only 2 staff members bought artwork: 1 administrator, 1 support staff. This surprised me since the superintendent is a huge supporter of my program and the arts.
- Only ceramic pieces were purchased; none of the paintings. I’m hoping to get some insight from the informal survey I will be sending out. We do work in a building with cinder block walls which makes hanging artwork less practical. On top of that, most of the 2D work was not for sale.
For Next Year
- Send out a letter to parents ahead of time encouraging participation. Truth be told, my art show included a limited amount of kids from my classes; it was (and was meant to be) a “best of …” event. So, many parents would not have an intrinsic incentive to come and look at what is up.
- Time the event with parent-teacher conferences (3rd quarter) to maximize visibility. This will only go so far since our turnout, in general, is poor at the high school.
- Consider an art exhibit prior to the holidays to maximize intrinsic public need. That said, I don’t want my art program being about making money at a student art show. Many of the pieces that were up were technically painting studies that simply turned out well; I understand that they may have limited interest. To me, if you want a fundraiser then you create a product as a fundraiser and then market it as such (e.g., soup fundraiser: you come, buy a student-made bowl and then are given student-made soup to fill it.)
- Have the school purchase the pieces for the Gala as part of the bid process for the art show versus me listing those pieces as not for sale. Then, they could turn around and resell the pieces at their fund-raising event for a higher price after having them framed. Everything would be for sale at that point and I’d get a better sense of overall interest.
When all was said and done, it was fun to see my students’ artwork on display. It was so enjoyable to see what was accomplished over the year. The experience of hanging it and then reviewing it for the next week and a half gave me time to reflect on what was done, the kids who did the work and next year’s possibilities. I certainly liked seeing my kids’ work in the three display cases (versus the normal stuff put in there) and I know that they enjoyed it being put front-and-center too.
Questions for the Reader
- How often do you put out student work in a formal manner?
- Do you have an annual or bi-annual art show/exhibit?
- Is your art show/exhibit open to any of your students or do you pick the best work?
- Do you sell your student’s work during an art show/exhibit?
- How do you get parents to come out or be involved?
Looking forward to your comments!
Tomorrow will mark the end of my first high school art exhibit featuring the best from select students. The show incorporated a silent auction where prospective buyers filled out a form to purchase the student artwork. I will review the forms and award the highest bid; ties are settled by me contacting the two buyers for final bids.
I have about 55 pieces in the show though not all were for sale. The artworks included paintings and ceramic pieces. I’m hoping to expand the offerings next year with some drawings.
Issues I Ran Into
One of the biggest challenges I had was pricing. Because of the silent auction, I included minimum bids. Some of these prices were from the students, others were recommendations from me. How does one price student artwork?
The middle school art teacher thought my pricing was too low. I explained that some students were going to throw away their work even though it was selected for the exhibit. So, a few decided to offer their work at bargain-basement prices thinking that something was better than nothing. I’m not sure I can label that right or wrong; however, it certainly is pragmatic which is a hallmark of many of my urban students.
In the final analysis, my biggest uncertainty was interest. I simply had no idea how many, if any, parents would show up or if any faculty or staff would purchase pieces. I’ll post the results and my final thoughts in my next post.
In the meantime, how do you price student artwork? Are there caveats you operate under?
Two college students visited me the other week as part of their end-of-class observations. During our discussions they remarked that they were impressed with what they saw in my class. I mentioned that I believed strongly in focusing student attention and effort on foundational skills rather than mere student self-expression. I explained that in no other so-called legitimate class do students get to express themselves without having learned the tedium that often goes along with the foundational principles of the subject.
Think about it. In English class, you do not label yourself a novelist or poet. In music, you do not start off declaring yourself a composer or concert pianist (insert your instrument of choice here). I can’t think of any subject where this isn’t the case.
Every person, at some point in their educational journey, starts at the beginning: learning to spell, practicing scales/chords, memorizing Periodic Table of Elements, adding/subtracting, etc.
If this is normative practice for other disciplines then why not for the arts?
Previously, I spoke about problems I was having with student cleanup. After I purchased brushes on my own for students to purchase, I decided to approach my administration about charging a nominal fee for an art kit that students would either purchase themselves or purchase at the beginning of the year. They would be responsible for maintaining these supplies. She agreed that is something we should consider.
I have yet to follow-up with her, but I was wondering if anybody else does something like this? I remember attending a breakout session at the National Art Educators Convention where the speaker mentioned that she had students purchase a small kit for a drawing class she taught. I think it cost them about $3.00.
When I had students purchase a 2o-piece brush set from me that I got from Michael’s, it instilled in all but one of my students a sense of responsibility and ownership. I’ve only heard of one student who has not maintained his brushes. A few who’ve never painted before told me they plan to keep them (vs. selling them back to me for $2.00).
Have you ever charged for a small art kit that students are responsible for purchasing themselves or get from you the first day of class? Any thoughts? Do you agree with the concept? Disagree?
Okay, I know I committed to posting on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I decided to comment on a recommendation posted by Visualdeyana instead of burying it in a reply.
The idea of color coding my art supplies is sublime. I feel so daft for not considering it before. So much for seeing the forest through the trees. Or, should that be the other way round? LOL! Oh well, you get what I mean. We often overlook simple solutions.
As I reflected further upon the idea, I tried to think of how I would implement it in my high school classes. On a practical note, how would I apply the color?
You see, I know my students. I’m concerned about using acrylic paint since the plasticity makes it very easy to peel off. Same thing for colored electrical or duct tape. Permanent Sharpies™ are an option but can be quickly wiped clean.
Of course, I’m thinking of theft whereas Visualdeyana was addressing collection and cleanup (which is what my original post on managing student clean up was all about). In my situation, cleanup and theft are tied which is why I’m excited about having some visible marker on my supplies should they find their way into other teachers’ classrooms. Visibility could be a great deterrent if students were ask to hand over my supplies while in another class.
In the final analysis, I also have to consider ease of application. I can’t be doing complex color markings on my supplies on the spur of the moment. Therefore, now that this idea has been Providentially delivered to me, I’m going to experiment some! Thanks again, Visualdeyana, for your insight.
Anyone else have additional thoughts? Please don’t think twice about commenting or emailing me. Your feedback and consideration are of great help. Once I determine how I will implement this, I’ll submit an update for your reading pleasure.
I shall state my case forthrightly—I have yet to solve the issue of student clean up. It’s been a perennial problem for me.
This year, things culminated about half way through the year in my painting class and I refused to clean up after my students any longer. I was done with constantly feeling like I was always behind schedule due to my students sneaking out leaving brushes and palettes in the sinks.
Don’t misunderstand, at the beginning of the year I teach all students what set up and clean up looks like (unique for each class, of course). For my painting class that translates into cleaning brushes and palettes and wiping down tables. Once I demonstrate clean up, I dirty a spot in front of each student and monitor their clean up of each table. Of greater importance, I dirty brushes and make each student clean it properly in front of me. I use this opportunity to teach brush anatomy, proper brush loading and brush maintenance.
You may call my efforts overkill, but I thought it was a worthwhile endeavor in keeping with my regular classroom teaching methods of demonstration and practice. Well, it didn’t yield much long term. I spoke sternly to the class on a couple of occasions, reteaching brush cleaning accordingly. But, to little avail.
In the end, I informed the class that I would no longer clean up after them; if they left the brushes dirty they would stay dirty. And, so, the number of brushes dwindled.
I decided to purchase a 20-brush set from Michael’s for $4.00 (normally, $5.00) and sell them to the students. Many students jumped at the opportunity while others balked (some shared against my wishes). I’ve since told students that if they keep these brushes well, I will repurchase them for $2.00 and sell them again next year. We’ll see how that goes.
So, how do you do it? Art teachers speak! Please, let me know what strategies you use for managing student clean up.