CSA Day 2021: Student Spotlights in Art

Interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity.

Shila smiling at the camera against a white background
Photo courtesy of Shila Alexander

Shila Alexander

Project title: “Beyond Black History Month: Art Curriculum for the 21st Century”

Please describe your research.

My thesis research was a nine week art curriculum for grades 6-8 that focused on developing and exploring art with Black/African artists and cultures. “Beyond Black History Month: Art Curriculum for the 21st Century” explores art through multiple mediums and techniques, as well as breaking down the weeks, lessons and resources suggested to instruct students. The curriculum follows the North Carolina Standard Course of Study (NCSCOS). After developing the curriculum, I investigated North Carolina's overall art standards and observed any concerns or inequities in art history/representations of Black/African art.

What inspired your topic?

I wanted to explore inequities within the Art Education community and where I feel it needs improvement. While this research focuses on Black/African art, I feel that many non-Western societies lack in discussion and representation in the art classroom. The times they are represented are often during history months, awareness days, etc. I also recognize that this research is far from over and that what I am representing is just a fraction of the bigger picture.

How did COVID-19 impact your research process?

The overall pandemic impacted my mental health and, in turn, my thesis. I felt overwhelmed and that my work could have been more developed. I am thankful to have had a supportive advisor help me through the hurdles and feelings of unease. Access to information and other libraries in the area due to covid restrictions was also impactful. I think that more variety of texts and sources used could have strengthened my work.

Do you feel that this research or some aspect of what you’ve learned will apply to your future, whether in continuing education or in the working world?

I would like to use and further enhance the lessons in my curriculum in my own classroom. Just because a lesson is developed does not mean it goes to plan! I think it is important to teach these lessons so I can see the gaps in my own planning, and where students may need additional support. I plan on staying in the education field for the time being. I want to continue to develop ways to represent, celebrate and include students and communities in the classroom. My thesis is just one part of my own personal bigger goal of becoming a better teacher, advocate and educator.

Anna smiling at the camera against a white background
Photo courtesy of Anna Phillips

Anna Phillips

Project title: “The Theatre Classroom: A Space for the LGBTQ+ Individual”

Please describe your research.

My research was conducted in the Theatre Department. It is a study into how and why LBGTQ+ youth need a safe space, and how the theater, more specifically the theatre classroom and the community that creates, can be essential for some queer youth coming into themselves and their identity.

What inspired your topic?

My topic was inspired by my own experiences within the theater, watching other students experience a comfortability within the space that they experienced nowhere else in the school, as well as my own experiences in theatrical spaces as a queer individual.

How did COVID-19 impact your research process?

It has made both my organizational and research process for my research a bit more difficult. For one, I've relied completely on online resources, as I did not want to go into the library to check out any resources that I would have to touch physically. While I would have done this if I had had to, I was able to find substantial sources online. As far as organization, I would have typically met weekly with my advisor in person to help coach me through the process of writing my paper. However, with COVID-19, I have had to rely on Zoom, which on one hand makes things speedier and more succinct but on another closes off a window for person-to-person conversation and discussion in depth.

Do you feel that this research or some aspect of what you’ve learned will apply to your future, whether in continuing education or in the working world?

I definitely feel as if this research is applicable to my future as a theatre educator. It is essential to create a space in which every single student walks into your classroom and knows that you are there for them both as an advocate for them and their wellbeing and as their teacher; the two should always go hand in hand. Especially in a subject area like high school theatre, I'm going to ask my students to be vulnerable with me in a period of their life in which vulnerability is particularly difficult, so these extra efforts in acknowledging safe spaces will go to good use.

Interviews compiled by Hannah Brittain-Du Bois, Staff Writer

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