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Art education conference ignites ideas and alliance

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Think "ICE" when it comes to art lessons, build Instinct, Confidence and Enthusiasm, celebrity art educator Mark Kistler told teachers at the New Mexico Art Education Conference. Here he looks over the drawings of one of his "students," a teacher attending a Saturday morning workshop. Kistler, who has won an Emmy for an instructional TV series and travels worldwide to teach children at school workshops and at camps, made several presentations during the weekend conference, including a Saturday evening keynote presentation. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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About 30 adults met up early Saturday morning to draw a dinosaur emerging from an egg, a seahorse, a “creative license,” and three-dimensional boxes.

“We feed the artist’s soul and the educator’s mind,” says Jennifer Furman about the 38 presenters at the New Mexico Art Education Association annual conference, held this weekend in Roswell. Furman is president of the association and a visual arts teacher with the Arts Connect program of the Roswell Independent School District. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

And most seemed to be having a great time as they learned from and bantered with celebrity art instructor Mark Kistler.

“Look at your neighbor and say, ‘Nice dinosaur,’ he said. “Nice dinosaur,” said the student-educators. Say ‘nice grass,’ he called out. “Nice grass,” they echoed.

During the past 30 years, Kistler has headed up an Emmy-winning art instruction public TV show, published 15 drawing books for youth and adults, traveled worldwide to teach at schools and camps, and taught youth who have gone on to win Oscars for their work on major animated movies.

He brought his high-octane style of teaching to Roswell this weekend as a headline presenter at the New Mexico Art Education Association annual conference, held at the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art and the Roswell Museum and Art Center. His presentations not only demonstrated how he teaches youth but also gave educators ideas on how to present concepts.

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Held for the first time in Roswell, the conference, with a theme this year of “Art of This World: We Are Not Alone,” is designed to provide professional development to art educators and is funded by a grant, membership fees and conference fees.

Thirty-eight presenters were scheduled to hold classes and workshops to about 150 educators from across the state during the three days of the conference that started Friday, said Jennifer Furman, the current president of the association and a visual arts teacher with the Arts Connect program of the Roswell Independent School District.

“It’s a good mix,” said Furman about the types of presentations. “We feed the artist’s soul and the educator’s mind.”

The schedule included a master class with local artist Miranda Howe on silk screening onto clay; workshops on such things as Chinese folk art, puppets, photography, and modular paper structures; astronomy shows at the Robert H. Goddard Planetarium; discussions about best practices in art education at various grade levels; and association meetings.

Furman said that last year, as she worked on the 2016 annual conference, she encouraged the association’s members to consider Roswell for a future event. “I think once they saw the museums, they said, ‘Yeah, we should have it in Roswell.’ ”

Furman said the association hopes that school administrators will recognize the conference as professional development. “Sadly, a lot of teachers are doing this on their own dime because their districts don’t support it (financially).”

An Albuquerque educator expressed her appreciation for the workshops.

“It is my first time at the conference because I’m new to the department,” said Felicia Chavez, an elementary art teacher from Albuquerque. “But I think it is outstanding for the lesson shares, the ideas and the inspiration.”

Elementary teacher Brenda Priddy of Santa Fe agreed that the workshops were providing inspiration and added that they gave teachers an opportunity to collaborate with one another.

“Being an art teacher can be lonely,” said Furman. “You are often alone in your room and sometimes the only art teacher in the building. It helps us to be able to spend time together.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.