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Advocating for your art program is a necessary part of your job as an art teacher. One way to share what your students have been creating is to display their art in your local community. There are restaurants, libraries, coffee shops, and boutiques that would love to benefit from your symbiotic relationship. You get to display student art in the community, and they get to have more customers walk through the door. It’s a win-win situation!
Some of the best places to ask for display space include libraries, coffee shops, post offices, ice cream shops, book stores—just about anywhere! You can always send an email to businesses to ask if they are interested. However, I would suggest going in to see them in person.
Walk in the door with a big ‘ol smile on your face and say something like, “Hello! I am the Art Teacher at _____ School, and I was wondering if you’d be interested in displaying some student art here at your business.”
Most likely, the response will be something like, “Oh! That explains the outfit. And yes, of course—I’d love to know more!”
Once you’ve got your foot in the door (pun intended) you can start talking details with the business owner. On the off chance they say, “No, thank you,” suggest creating and displaying an art book with student work that can be swapped out from time to time. If they still aren’t interested, move on and try connecting someplace else.
If your partner has offered a coupon for the student artists, it’s important to agree on how many student artworks to choose to respect their business. For example, I partnered with a local ice cream shop that offered “One Free Scoop” ice cream coupons for student artists who had their art displayed at the shop. We decided on an appropriate art display number so as to not deplete their entire stock of ice cream.
Displaying student art is a great advocacy tool. You might mention, “We have art on display at two local businesses, showing our community members what we are teaching our students!” If your school district is ever passing a referendum, your community will remember seeing the ways you are supporting your students. You can also post links to your school website, social media, or fundraising efforts.
The business owner also benefits from added patronage. He or she might say, “I am supporting creative youth and getting their families in the door. People who may not have known about my business are coming to see their student’s art and in turn, stopping to check out what we have to offer.”
When you bring your first exhibit to the business, make sure you have all artwork properly labeled and mounted or matted. You may want to include a project description display so visitors can see what art content students have been practicing. You will also want to send home a note or email to the families of the artists to encourage them to go check out their student’s creation during business hours. Then, if your partnering business is kind enough to hang the display for you, you can just hand over a stack of amazingness and watch the magic happen!
The next time you are running some errands around your school’s home town, keep your eyes peeled for a space that might need some art love. Bringing art outside your school walls is truly an experience for everyone to enjoy!
Do you already display student art in your community?
What other local businesses do you think would want to display student art?
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.