Art Teachers or Security Guards?

Heather Mullinix

Heather Mullinix



There are a lot of needs, wants, “gotta haves” and “wouldn’t it be nice” items for school systems to evaluate when planning their budgets. Most of the time, the available money doesn’t cover all the needs, wants and “wouldn’t it be nice” lists and choices have to be made.

At one Massachusetts elementary school, that choice came down to art teachers or security guards. This was a kindergarten through eighth-grade school that was noted for discipline problems and poor test scores, where backpacks were banned due to fear they might conceal weapons. Security guards were considered one of the necessary “gotta haves” to keep students safe while they worked on their lessons.

But Principal Andrew Bott decided to reinvest the money used for security guards and instead offer arts education.

He was the school’s sixth principal in seven years, and many saw his move to the Orchard Gardens school as a career ender. Bott saw a chance to turn the school around.  READ MORE…

Celebrate National Arts and Humanities Month!

President Barack Obama declared October 2014 as National Arts and Humanities Month!

“Cultivating the talents of our young people and ensuring they have access to the arts are critical to our Nation’s growth and prosperity. To meet the challenges ahead, we must harness the skills and ingenuity of our children and grandchildren and instill in them the same passion and persistence that has driven centuries of progress and innovation.” – President Barack Obama

The arts and humanities shape our nation, and give meaning and voice to our ideas and culture while sparking societal reflections on issues big and small. For these reasons and more, President Barack Obama declared October 2014 as National Arts and Humanities Month! Read the White House proclamation here and discover how America honors the spirit of this celebration at the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities site.

Reach to teach: Arts organizations make education a priority

Adam Parker Email Facebook @adamlparker

Testimonial #40: Jennifer Lavern, CEO of AURAA UNLIMITED

“These women, I give voice to, because their voice is my voice.  Their voice is our voice. They have broken traditions, fought to express themselves and because they’re fierce like that, they “don’t look like what they’ve been through.”

 How has your life been indelibly touched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason and acknowledge how they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you to become who you are today?

As a little girl growing up on a small island in the Caribbean, I, at once, hewed to and despised some of the more stringent traditions. At the time, the word sexist was not in vogue but somewhere deep within me I knew that my soul was being robbed of its fullest expression.

Being the eldest sibling my role as a leader was secure but the inner me rebelled at the very thought of gender submission.  It is not that I was personally subjugated. I attended an all-girl high school which was presided over by a formidable head mistress. Many of my teachers were women and the few people that I elevated to role model status were female.  Yet, there was a restlessness within, an unspoken but unrelenting whisper which kept beckoning me to seek grander pursuits.

Limited by geography as well as opportunity, I chose to explore a world unknown through reading. I read whatever I could get my hands on. Through the pages of the mystery books, sans illustrations, I could be whoever I chose to be. I could travel to any continent in the world and I could control my destiny just as the authors of my favorite tomes did.  As I got older and became familiar with different genres, I would engage the author in a battle of wits, racing ahead with a self-styled version of the conclusion, one that I conjured to suit my fancy. Often, we would wind up on the same page, author, protagonist and audience; audience of one.

The more I read, the more I came to understand the power of the pen. The power of the pen soon gave way to the power of the written word. The written word became my escape from the confines of the edited spoken word.

My mind could freely wander away from the dictates of the patriarchal systems of education, religion and culture. I could easily segue from adventurer to jet setter, from hall monitor to strip teaser all the while maintaining the demeanor that won me an award for comportment. I could create roles for myself that would shock the establishment but would fill my fanciful world with excitement. Through my early writings my teachers came to know the person behind the pressed school uniform, the passion beneath the pirate hat, but only as much as I allowed. Hints of my quiet rebellion would emerge but could be discerned by only the most careful observer.

Years later, a college professor, Dr. Shine, broke the code as she discovered that my opinion pieces were particularly pithy, betraying a more than casual observer. She encouraged me to enroll in an advanced English class which tackled themes that questioned the very core of my belief systems. There I learned to wrestle with the status quo. It was in that class that I came to appreciate the plight of “Everyman,” the constant struggle of our higher consciousness to subdue our lower nature. It was the thinking developed in that setting which taught me that the gender war is timeless, universal and that without great sacrifice there could never be great victory.  It was there I discovered that the most brilliant diamond needs undergo tremendous pressure to release its shine.  Then, it was all theory. Now, it is a living truth.

I have watched individuals face insurmountable odds and eventually triumph at the very brink of defeat. I have seen women fearlessly brave crushing challenges and cave at the onset of moderate pressure only to rise again at the edge of their mortal strength.  These women, have become for me, icons of virtue by virtue of their resilience. These women, have become the women I admire and whose cause I am honored to champion. These are the women who inspire me and whose stories I am now chronicling in my upcoming book titled, “A Quote She Wrote.”

These women, I give voice to, because their voice is my voice.  Their voice is our voice. They have broken traditions, fought to express themselves and because they’re fierce like that, they “don’t look like what they’ve been through.”

For consideration to contribute to the book, “A Quote She Wrote,” please visit


Re-Defining the Teaching Artist: the Marriage of Pedagogy and Artistry


What does it mean to be a practicing artist?  

I started as a teaching artist in the spring of 2001.  I didn’t even know what a Teaching Artist really was. I was sometimes referred to as a Workshop Leader, a Visiting Artist, an Artist Educator or a Teaching Artist and I often wondered – what did all these things mean? Was it just semantics?

Are there really necessary skills to support the work that I do? Is it really a practice?

I was in grad school and still learning.

Often I have prospective graduate students come to the City College Educational Theatre program, not really knowing what a Teaching Artist is.  I speak to emerging practitioners in the field who have no idea how to develop a career, artists who did not seem to reach their desired level of success in their artistry and think that being a Teaching Artist will buy them some time until the big break. How hard could it be? My need for a definition emerged. Read more

Sobha Kavanakudiyil is Faculty in the Graduate Program in Educational Theatre at The City College of New as well as an Arts Education Consultant. She is currently on the Board of Directors for the New York City Arts in Education Roundtable and a Co-Chair for their Teaching Artist Affairs Committee.