2015 Art Showcase: Lessons Learned

K-3 Student Artwork from 2015 Art ShowcaseSorry for this after-the-school-year-is-over posting of my 2015 Art Showcase. Events at the end of the year and the near-instant beginning of my Summer Art Camp exhausted me and I needed time away from thinking about school. As a result, I decided to change this blog post up. Instead of merely a recap, I will give you some insights into what worked and what didn’t.

Taking the Plunge

This past year was my first foray into the wonderfully whacky whirlwind of a ride doing an all-school art show. My 2015 Art Showcase featured about 470 pieces of K-3 artwork. It was exhausting (as most art teachers attest to when you read their commentaries concerning the details of their shows)!

I had no idea how my Art Showcase would go over with parents at my school. I mean, yes, they would think it’s a great idea to show the children’s artwork, but would they come out in the evening for this type of  event? Totally new ground for me. Of course, it didn’t help when my colleague told me she and the high school art teacher tried this the first year she started it was a huge flop. But, I was determined to give it a try.

Well, it went great!

2015 Art Showcase: Kindergarten Student Work Sample

2015 Art Showcase: Two out of Six Kindergarten Class Displays

High Praise

The night after the show, my principal visited me during my first period class to let me know she came in that morning to phone messages and emails saying what a phenomenal art show it was. Some went on to say that it was the best art show the school as ever done! 

Now, how do I get parents to Cc me on those emails!?

Lessons Learned

Stop Lessons Earlier

Yikes! I had students finishing up their work for the show as I was hanging it. As such, it complicated matters for me because I ended up with stragglers, more than I wanted to manage. This forced me to go back and hang things last-minute to make sure I didn’t forget anyone. (Serenity now!)

2015-16 will see me having students making selections as soon as they have two pieces completed! All other artwork will be taken home. I see this helping me in two ways:

  1. I will no longer have to stockpile student artwork until the end of the year
  2. Those students who want their work back will not be unhappy having to wait until next year to get their art back. (Keep reading to learn why.)
2015 Art Showcase: First Grade Student Work Sample

2015 Art Showcase: One of Six 1st Grade Class Displays

Students Choose

Towards the end of May, I told my students that I would be having an all-school art show. Students were told they would be selecting their best piece to go into the Show.

Unfortunately, as the end approached and students were waffling, I allowed them to chose to not participate. I’m not sure if I will do that again. On the one hand, I like giving students the responsibility of picking their best piece. On the other hand, am I letting students who slack in class off the hook by ‘hiding’ their work?

A couple of things happened that I thought was interesting.

  • There were students who said they didn’t want their artwork in the show that surprised me. Their piece was fine, actually better than fine. Because time was pressing to get the show up, I couldn’t investigate why they chose to not include their work. Sadly, two of those students came back later asking me to have their pieces put in the day of the show and I couldn’t do it.
  • Others, didn’t want their artwork in because they were embarrassed when they saw it next to other student’s pieces where it was obvious who invested more time and effort into making it their work. Mind you, during class time I find something positive to say about all of my student’s work. Nevertheless, students know when they are investing themselves into something meaningful and when they are merely putting in time and allowing their friends to distract them.

So, I’m torn as to what to do next year: give students choice to be in the show or to mandate they select one piece. Does anyone else allow students to chose to not participate in an all-school event such as this?

2015 Art Showcase: First Grade Student Work Sample

2015 Art Showcase: Another 1st Grade Class Display

Food Not Necessary

I was unsure if I would hear complaints about not having light refreshments at my event, but it didn’t really seem to matter. No one said anything to me during or after. So, I am probably going to let this one slide next year too.

To make it easier for me to not have food at my art show, my school has a Health and Wellness Committee who must approve stuff like this. Committees such as this are more about ‘food for the masses’ than true health. The stuff they approve is loaded with polyunsaturated fatty acids, dyes and the like. I’d prefer parents make things as well to make the event more community-focused, but that can be problematic too because of food allergies/sensitivities.

2015 Art Showcase: Second Grade Student Work Sample

2015 Art Showcase: One of six 2nd Grade Class Displays

Paper Ballots Work Best

Click to Enlarge

I created QR codes and signs for parents to vote but few did. However, I had paper ballots with slots for every class, and you know what? The parents did exactly what I had hoped they would do—they looked at every artwork from each class and selected their two favorite! So, for me, the technology solution I had high hopes for didn’t come through.

I was scrambling at the end and I didn’t have my feedback form prepared. I will take care of that next year. I am hoping to have people use a QR code to access my feedback form but, then again, a paper form may work best again. We’ll see.

2015 Art Showcase: Third Grade Student Work Sample

2015 Art Showcase: Two of six 3rd Grade Class Displays

Most Votes for Best of Show

I originally had the Best of Show award on the paper ballot; however, it simply didn’t work because many parents—surprise, surprise—voted for their own child so most kids didn’t get many votes. My solution? I used the overall count for the individual pieces of artwork as my guide. By asking the parents to vote on two pieces per class, I ended up with a couple of pieces of student work with a significant number of votes. In fact, the winning student garnered over sixty votes! That was over half of all attendees voting for her piece. So, that’s how it will be next year too!

2015 Best of Show Student Portrait

2015 “Best of Show” 2nd Student Portrait

Educating About Artsonia

I had two tables in the lobby of the school to greet parents when they came in. These tables allowed parents to:

  • Sign in (so I had a sense of how many people came)
  • Receive their voting ballot for the artwork
  • Get their child’s security code for Artsonia access

One of my goals for the show—besides showing parents the kids create great art—was to educate them about Artsonia.com. Some parents already had accounts. Some parents had accounts but forgot what to do with them. And, some parents simply didn’t know anything about this online art museum for kids. I created two different flyers (see below) that were alternated between class displays. Each highlighted the value of having an account and let parents know where to go to sign up. At my ‘Welcome!’ tables, helpers were waiting to update parental information and write down access codes for parents to take home.

2015 Art Show Artsonia Flyer  2015 Art Show Artsonia Flyer







Changes for next year will include a modified signin for families that provides more accurate information such as who actually is attending. Are they parents? Grandparents? Extended family? How many children are with the adults visiting? This information could be helpful for outreach purposes.

I’m also going all out for email addresses next year! I am formally ditching my attempts to get a functioning phone number because parents in my district change their numbers so often. Email, however, is a different story.

An additional reason I want email addresses is because I want parents to register for Mr. Phillips’ Awesome Artists email newsletter. It just didn’t happen this event. Because this was a technology solution to my age-old issue of reliably keeping in touch with parents, I wanted it to be a real solution and have (most of) the kinks worked out of it. I’ve already been researching effective delivery systems. (More on that at another time!)

Ask for Help

I had one person helping me. She is just about the most awesomest helper ever! No task is beneath her; however, she is only one person. Add me in the mix and that’s two of us! We were both exhausted setting up for this year’s Art Showcase. In fact, I’m exhausted just typing those few sentences!

Next year, I must advertise more to get help hanging the show. If my email list doesn’t materialize then I’ll be sending letters home. If that doesn’t work I’ll make home visits! But, I’m confident my parents will come through for me.

No Extended Showings

My Art Showcase ran late. Administration then wanted it left up for Kindergarten graduation. Great praise, right? Unfortunately, that meant I couldn’t take the artwork down until after all of my colleagues went home for the Summer because Kindergarten graduation occurs on the last day of school. Even my principal left before me!

So, my 2015-16 Art Showcase will be scheduled to go up in early June and come down by the third week so I can dismantle my room and not be crazy the last day of school. Well, that’s my goal. Anyone want to hold me accountable to that?

New to The Poetry of Seeing?

Stay in touch! Click “Follow My Blog” at the top left to receive an email when new articles are posted. You can also stay current with a “Like” on my Facebook page: Facebook.com/ThePoetryOfSeeing.


One response to “2015 Art Showcase: Lessons Learned

  1. Pingback: 2015-16: A Year of Change (Part 4) | The Poetry of Seeing·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s