Why You Need Visiting Artists in Your Classroom

Humans are all about experiences. We thrive on them. Think back to your last week, what stands out to you? Most likely, it’s an event, an interaction, or an activity.

Now, think about your art room. Surely, you are fostering a creative environment, but are you providing your students with memorable experiences?

Sometimes, you may find yourself stressed out because a student needs to finish a specific project by a certain time for a particular art show. But, our job is not only about assigning meaningful projects to our students. It is also our job to give students the ability to learn more about the world of art through interactions with living, breathing artists.

Here are 5 benefits of inviting visiting artists into your art room:

Visiting artists:

  • Humanize the profession in a positive, approachable light.
  • Add variety to the art room routine with a new voice.
  • Encourage better classroom behavior for a guest.
  • Contribute as strong advocacy tools for your art department.
  • Make lasting memories for your students.

So, how do you start?

The best way to get artists into your classroom is to simply ask!

Picture of artist speaking to elementary classroom

Who are some great local artists you already know? The photo above is by a local graphic artist, Zach Wagner, from Madison, Wisconsin. When brainstorming artists who could visit my classroom, he immediately came to mind. Check out his artwork or follow him on Instagram. Zach came in for a full day with our students and guided classes in goofy animal drawings using simplified shapes. Our students loved gaining confidence while drawing in a safe environment!

Students looking at artwork

It was so exciting to watch kids riffle through Zach’s sketchbooks and creations. They giddily asked questions such as, “What inspires you?” and, “Are you famous?”

Start a list of artists who might be willing to visit your classroom. Then, reach out to artists you know to see if they would like more details about coming into your classroom to talk to your students.

Wall with artwork on display

As you begin contacting artists to visit your room, some helpful sample dialogue might go something like this:

“Hey, friend! The artists at our school would love to learn more about you as an artist, and your creative process! We love having visitors, and our students are eager to learn. I hope we can schedule a time to connect!”

Think about how you can keep the spirit of an artist’s visit with your students. Consider creating a showcase of artwork made during their stay. For example, at our end-of-the-year art show, we created a “visiting artist alley” to show off the experiences we had with visiting artists who came to school. Photos, projects, and descriptions lined the wall, creating a strong advocacy tool for our art department.

Artist speaking to small group of students

Above, illustrator, Emily Balsley, visits with two students creating part of a collaborative creature project inspired by her “100 Days of Zany Creatures” project on her Instagram. Below, you can see students excited to look through her original sketchbooks. Check out more of her beautiful creations on her website.

Students looking at artwork

If you are struggling to connect to artists, try checking with your state art education association. Perhaps they offer grants or resources to help get artists into your classroom. For instance, author and illustrator, Jeanne Styczinski, came to our art room through a grant from the Wisconsin Art Education Association and created an entire garden collage with our students based on her artwork. Check out her website and Instagram. 

Artist speaking to larger group of students

Do all your visiting artists need to be people who solely make their living by creating art? Of course not!

Many of the artists you may think to bring into your classroom are individuals with a different full-time job and are still incredibly talented in their field of art. Look outside your school doors into your community and connect students with your local community artists. If they can’t come to you, bring students to them!

Students looking at picture book

Our 1st-grade artists visited our local rock shop, Ruby Rose Gallery, to read with local author, Jessie Stevens, from her book, What if butterflies loved snow?. This interaction provided students with more than one amazing opportunity to connect with art and artists in a meaningful way.

In whatever way you do it, connecting with artists can be such a memorable experience for your students. Give it a try and start making even more lasting memories with your artists!

Have you ever had a visiting artist come to your classroom?

What value do you see in connecting with other artists?

Sarah Krajewski is an elementary art educator in Wisconsin. Her teaching philosophy is mirrored in her classroom mantra: "I am positive. I am creative. I am mindful. I am amazing. I am an artist.”

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