Professional Practice

How to Set Up a Year of “Artist Dates”

image of galleries on a streetfront

Do you know what the most valuable resource is in your classroom? It is YOU!

You are the gifted and talented educator who brings life and excitement to your classroom. That is why it is essential to be good to yourself throughout the school year. And as we all know, school can be very busy and energy-draining. Part of taking care of yourself is setting up a year of artist “dates.”

Artist dates are a wonderful way to not only renew yourself but re-energize your creativity and improve your teaching practice.

So, what is an artist date? An artist date is a way to devote time to your creative self. It should be done solo, and the time is just for you. Julia Cameron, the author of The Artist’s Way, describes them as assigned play. It may be walking through an art supply store or visiting a museum—anything you find creative and enjoyable.

Ideally, an artist date is best done once a week, but let’s be realistic. Most of us cannot accomplish that. So, why not aim for at least once a month? Make time in your personal and professional calendar to block out uninterrupted time—just for you and some art.

How to set up an artist date:

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  1. Plan ahead.
  2. Let your family and friends know you have time blocked out of the calendar.
  3. Plan backup artist dates (life gets busy!).
  4. Start a list of ideas for dream artist dates.
  5. Join a museum and sign up for their email updates about upcoming shows.
  6. Have a teacher friend to share your progress with.

To do your planning, you can certainly use a digital calendar, but there is nothing quite like a paper calendar. When you write something down with a pen and paper, it makes it official–more real. Also, the paper can act as a sketchbook and journal wherever you go.

For some great teacher planning calendars check out a spiral-bound planner, a desktop calendar, or a hanging calendar.

At the end of the year, you can look back on your twelve artist dates and know you renewed your artist spirit and rewarded yourself for all of your hard work.

What do you do?

image of galleries on a streetfront

The artist date should be a solo adventure—time for just you and your creative self. Identifying activities and time may be tough for you. You may have a twinge of guilt with the first couple dates. It will get easier as you see the benefit and rewards. You will find an hour once a month is restorative, well deserved, and earned.

Some “date” ideas:

  1. Visit a local art museum.
  2. Tour a local gallery.
  3. Shop for an unusual art supply.
  4. Go to your favorite fabric store and browse the fabrics and textures.
  5. Shop for and use a new sketchbook.
  6. Create a sculpture in nature with found objects in the style of the artist, Andy Goldsworthy.
  7. Play with 3-D items in your recycling bin, and create an assemblage.
  8. Tear up a magazine for colors and patterns and collage them together.
  9. Go to glassblowing or jewelry-making class.
  10. Sketch at a café.
  11. Watch a movie or a film about an artist. Here is a great list of movies to check out.
  12. Go to an artist talk or lecture at the local museum or gallery.

Why is an artist date essential?

An artist date is important as it rewards you and renews your creativity in ways the classroom cannot. By feeding your artist soul you are nourished and thus have more to give to your students. Teaching can be exhausting as the beginning of the year picks up and goes full swing. You must build in breaks for yourself. Otherwise, we are caught up in the business of the day and weeks go by without renewing our artist selves.

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How does it impact your teaching? 

In a perfect example of practicing what you preach, you are an example to your students. If you are taking time to take in more art, you are showing how it is a priority in your life. It is also a practice and example in goal-setting.

You must refill your cup to pour into the cups of others.

If we don’t nurture ourselves, we have less to share with others. You are the most valuable resource for your students. If you want to teach them to be creative, you must find time to be creative yourself. Putting into practice what you teach is essential to building a rich and supportive classroom. That being said, don’t forget to share your experiences with your students and educate them about how you make time for art in your life. Tell your colleagues and other art educators about your artist dates. Maybe it will even start a trend. How nice would it be if our school districts and administrators also supported these adventures!

Most importantly—have fun on your artist dates! Enjoy the time and chance to play and relax.

How will you block out time for your artist date?

What art adventure are you excited to schedule on your calendar?

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.


Christina Chang

Christina Chang, a high school art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. She enjoys building a welcoming art classroom for all students to create in.

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