Studio Art Club (Ep. 198)

So many teachers are looking for extra opportunities, especially during the summer. In today’s episode, Nic welcomes on Amanda O’Shaughnessy to talk about her Studio Art Club and the opportunities it affords her. Listen as they discuss diving into new mediums, working with adult learners, and how Amanda is trying to find balance with everything on her plate. Full Episode Transcript Below.

Resources and Links


Nic: Amanda O’Shaughnessy has offered to give up a little bit of her Summer to have a chat with us. I’m excited with what she has to say, because she’s going to talk to us a little bit about teaching in the classroom, but we’re going to talk a lot about finding passion outside of the classroom, and maybe investigating a little bit more on your personal passions. Just putting more of a focus on something that you think you can do and something that you want to do for your own personal self.

Amanda’s going to talk about her pop-up art classes that she does, and just give us a little insight of what that looks like and how it came to be. This is Nic Hahn and this is Everyday Art Room.

Thank you so much for taking time out of your Summer to come join us today. I’m going to ask you to just give us a little introduction of who you are and where you’re from, and just a short description of yourself.

Amanda: All right. Hi, I’m Amanda O’Shaughnessy and I live in the Kansas City area, on the Kansas side in the Suburbs. I think I’m going to be entering my 11th-ish year of teaching. It’s hard to keep track sometimes, because I did have a different entry into the teaching world. A little bit less traditional than the going to school for teaching intentionally, and then, doing your student teaching and then landing a job that direction. So it’s a little-ish for me.

I got my bachelor’s in studio art with an emphasis in printmaking and my master’s of arts in teaching after I graduated. And I didn’t think I ever wanted to teach, but then I got a job at the Nelson-Atkins as a museum guard. And one of my co-workers said, “Hey, would you like to assist a class in the education department?” And I was like, “I don’t know.” But actually it sounds a lot more fun than hanging out with these paintings all day, even though that was a lot of fun. And so I did that and it was so much fun. I had to get another degree so I could teach. So that’s how I came into teaching, been doing it for a long time in a lot of different avenues, museum settings, substitute teaching, religious private, religious co-educational. No, not religious, co-educational, private co-educational. And then about maybe five years ago, a hard time remembering, got me on Art Room. Yay.

Nic: Yeah. And you’re currently working in a public art room, a public setting?

Amanda: Yeah. So I’m in a public school in Kansas and I have my own classroom and I teach about 400 students a week.

Nic: Okay. And in the elementary, correct?

Amanda: Yes, Elementary Art. So I teach kindergarten through fifth grade.

Nic: And then last year, were you able to be in your classroom or were you on a cart or in a different setting?

Amanda: I was going to say something about that, but I felt a little too wordy. Yeah, last year was a weird year because I wasn’t allowed to use my room at all, well, not at all, I was able to be in my room when I wasn’t teaching. My room was used for other people to take their lunch breaks.

Nic: Oh yeah.

Amanda: Or to have meetings, but I was on a cart.

Nic: Okay. Yeah. I think that’s the gist of many of our stories right now, so it’s okay to talk about it, but we’ll also let it be in last year, hopefully. I hope for all of us that we get to go back to a more normal situation this next year, that’s for sure.

Amanda: Definitely.

Nic: Now what I’ve noticed from you just following you on Instagram for many years and watching you at some of the Art Ed Now, I’ve noticed that when you get into a medium, you dive in 100%. I mean, you really investigate that medium or that process. You mentioned printmaking, that’s a passion for you. And I can see that in your life and well the life that you share with our Instagram group. And then weaving is one, or fibers in general. Why do you feel that it’s important to really dive and explore in one medium so heavily? Or why is that of interest to you?

Amanda: So I get a little obsessive and highly interested in something and I just go all in. I think that is something artists and art teachers can certainly do. I have a background in printmaking. I took all the printmaking classes I possibly could in my undergrad. And I even did some independent studies because there was like no other courses for me to choose from. It was like, “Okay, I still want to take some printmaking.” So it was lead yourself, but that was all pretty [hoity-toity 00:05:08], if you get a smudge on the back of your paper, that one doesn’t count, stuff like that. And you have to have the press and all this equipment. And it just seems a little bit too far out of reach for everyday people, like my students, like me, I don’t have access right now to a print room.

So having something that everybody and anybody can do, something that you can modify for any situation is super interesting to me. And it’s a lot of fun to learn and to push the boundaries in it. So printmaking has been my go-to, it’s been my jam. I ordered a set of jelly print plates at my old school several years ago. And we just went to town. I use them every year, but this year I feel like I just really dove in deep. And then it’s been one of my favorite things to do in a pop-up setting, like popping-up in classroom teacher’s rooms for art class, because I found a way to make it mobilized. And then a pop-up setting in the adult sphere, which we’ll talk more about in a little bit.

Nic: Yeah, absolutely. I love that. I think that gets me very excited for the rest of our conversation that you were utilizing this year as a pop-up. That is a great mindset shift. And so, let’s dive right into that Studio Art Club. Tell me about that. This is the name of your Instagram now, is that right?

Amanda: Yeah. I switched from Art O’Shaughnessy to Studio Art Club last year sometime. And I was having a really hard time figuring out what name I would have for my business or for my side hustle, whatever we want to call it. But I always call my afterschool art things, clubs like, “Hey, you come into Art Club, let’s come to Art Club. You want to come to Art…” It was always Art Club, so I’m like, oh, I really like to have Art Club. And then Studio Art is actually my college undergrad major. I have majored in studio art. So mash those together Studio Art Club. Yeah.

Nic: Super.

Amanda: It was the best fit out of my huge list.

Nic: So what is Studio Art Club? Let’s talk about that.

Amanda: Okay. So Studio Art Club is for anybody who would like to take a process oriented workshop, art workshop with me, essentially. It could be students who attend my school, which is traditionally how I do my art clubs. You have to attend my school to come to my art club, but I’d get messages from people and parents and even just other family members who have young children saying, “Hey, we would like to come to your Art Club. Can you make one for adults? I’m across the state line and the other state I’d like to come to your art club.” So it’s basically opening my doors a little bit further open to welcome more people to an art experience.

Nic: Yep.

Amanda: And so, I’m doing pop-up styles because I don’t have a brick and mortar.

Nic: Oh my gosh.

Amanda: So the pop-up concept came about when I realized I’m not allowed to use my room for regular classes and much less afterschool extra-curricular classes.

Nic: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Amanda: So I had to start getting creative with location. Okay, how do I do an art class when I don’t even know where it will be? So I started scouting locations for kids. And then for adults, started reaching out to businesses saying, “Hey, I’ve got this idea. What do you think of it?” And places that don’t just offer it like, “Hey, this is an art place.” But places like hotels, coffee shops that sort nature. Food halls have been ones that I’ve reached out to and I’m still working on. And then I did find a party room for kids that I’ve also been using. So I’m finding that location, being mobile, bringing all the stuff in and then packing it out. That’s how I’ve been operating. I would like to do something more along the lines of schedule me in, you want to have your girls together, but you want to have it at your house. You want to bring your own X, Y, and Z, let’s schedule that out. So, that’s maybe the next step. And I’m hoping this coming year, I’ll be able to use my classroom a bit more for school-aged children.

Nic: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, that’ll be a good fit. It sounds to me, I’m just thinking of packing up all your stuff and going on-site and doing this pop-up idea. I bet you are learning so much every single day, every single time that you teach. Are you finding that to be true?

Amanda: Oh yeah. And I’m doing a similar process with a lot of the clubs. So I’m focusing on printmaking because I’ve got to take baby steps. I can’t buy every single art supply in the world because it’s just too much. I don’t have the space to store it. I don’t have the funds for it. And I’m learning. Okay, what’s the best way to bring all this stuff in, to distribute it with a variable amount of time. Sometimes I have 20 minutes before people come, that’s my setup time. Sometimes I have an hour. Sometimes I can come whenever I want and set up in the morning and then come back later. It’s very variable. So I’m learning efficient ways of even cleaning up. So sometimes the cleanup and putting all the dirty stuff back in my car because there’s no sink. Oh no, there’s got to be a better way for this. I hate to throw away [crosstalk 00:10:47]. Disposable has been something I’ve used for pallets, disposable wax paper, but yeah learning stuff every day.

Nic: Yeah. Absolutely. Sometimes you just have to survive. So disposable comes in handy every once in a while. Well, to me it looks like it’s a blast. Every single time that I see you post I’m like, “Ah, man, I want to be there.” What is the response from a lot of the participants, especially the adults that looks, it seems like they’re really having a good time?

Amanda: Yeah. I’m really into adults right now. They’re so fun. They’re just like kids in that they want to have a good time. They want to zone out. They want to get into it. They want to socialize. They want to have a creative outlet. You hear similar stuff like, “Oh my gosh, did you see what I did here?” Like, “Oh, wow. I can’t believe you did that.” And they’ve got the same oohs and aahs when you pull a print. And even those same people who are nervous going into it like, “I can’t draw.” I mean, we hear it all the time. “I can’t draw a stick figure or whatever it is.” And then at the end they’re like, “Wow, I can’t believe I did that. That was so much fun. Thank you so much.” This is really filling my tank and I can tell it’s filling your tank too. So, I mean, honestly, I feel like people are, I’m offering something so people can come and hang out with me. It’s like, “Hey, I want to hang out with people, come to this thing so we can hang out and do art and have fun.”

Nic: Yeah. I love it. And I agree, I think adults are looking for a lot of the same things. And as you were describing, their oohs and aahs, I was getting chills from head to toe because that’s the thing, it doesn’t end when art education ends your K-12 experience, you still have a desire, so many people have a desire to still create and you’re providing that for them. That’s amazing.

Amanda: Oh yeah. It’s a lot of fun. The time comes for cleanup and I’m like, “Oh gosh, I really don’t want to tell you guys the time has come.” Just like with kids, I’m like, “Oh shoot, this is the worst we got to clean up.”

Nic: Yeah, it does seem like that. So as I’m imagining what you’re describing, especially last year, being at school and a challenging year and then, I mean last year was the first year that you’ve implemented this Studio Art Club?

Amanda: Yeah. So actually this time, last year we were up in Door County, Wisconsin. I was working on getting all the business side together, branding all that good stuff. And in the fall, before I even felt ready, my husband’s like, “Okay, you need to change your Instagram name, you need to let people know you’ve got a website with stuff coming out soon.” I think that was in October. And then in March I started actually offering my pop-up workshops. So it’s pretty new even though I’ve taught art clubs for a couple of years to kids and I’ve taught adult classes through the museum, doing it in this way with my own modality has been very new and exciting.

Nic: Yeah. And it sounds like you have some support from your teammate, your husband, is that correct?

Amanda: Oh yes, Brendan is my husband and he specializes in identity work for companies. So, branding your logo, all that good stuff website. So he’s been a really good teammate, so to speak. And also somebody just to talk it out with. We’ve gone on so many walks, just talking about, okay, what could this be? What are we want to offer? What are we excited about? And just dreaming. It’s been really fun.

Nic: Oh yeah, that sounds like a really good time and a good way to utilize each other’s skills. So that’s really powerful that you’re making this together. But how are you balancing this whole entire vision, this teaching and then doing things after school, I know you have a family. Tell me about that. How are you balancing all this?

Amanda: Well, the short answer is I’m not, I try to think of something a little bit more eloquent and cool. But no, I don’t have balance. I love balance, I love organization, but some things just definitely take priority over others and things fall to the wayside. And there’s just no good way of putting it. I just have a priority list of things and I’ve got to be better about prioritizing what things are in what seasons. I’m getting better about delegating and asking for help and even setting boundaries. My focus for this past couple of years with school is I need to draw boundaries, no extra frills, school contract hours are very hard lines for me for when school begins and ends and then what I do before and after those times.

And also it’s just, I mean, we’ve all had pretty rough years, but you never know what’s going on underneath the surface in somebody’s life, so I’ve been having some mitigating, like headaches and migraines and increasing severity and frequency. So that’s been something that’s been really hard and it’s actually stunted my progress. I’ve gone a lot slower with building the business than I would have liked, but each day is some progress and yeah, definitely glad to have my husband is part of my family and then my dog, I feel they both have been really helpful getting me outside, getting me taken care of and just having fun. It’s been good and hard.

Nic: Yeah. Good and hard. And that’s okay. And that’s why I asked you that even when I knew, in our previous discussions that the answer was, “I don’t have balance.” That’s a real thing. And it’s, I think very appropriate thing to say when you’re doing a startup, when you’re starting something new and exciting and in a passion project and still trying to balance something that you have done, which is education. I love the boundaries and creating that contract time for yourself so that you can investigate your own passions beyond that time. That’s really important.

Amanda: Yeah. That’s been really helpful. And I just think boundaries, I love operating within rules. I love knowing that I can do X, Y, and Z within these certain confines with relationships, with my own physical capabilities, with school, with finances. I love it. I just love operating within like a known boundary. So I feel like its something that’s not necessarily restrictive, but freeing. And it makes me feel like I have some control, I guess.

Nic: Yeah. Right. Yep, I love it. That’s great advice for anyone. Definitely someone who’s maybe even not pursuing a second business like myself. I am not, but I love what you just mentioned. All of it. I love all of it.

Amanda: Thanks, Nic.

Nic: I mean, I have always enjoyed following you on Instagram, especially you have a beautiful social media share. You’re very willing and giving with your ideas and your processes. And I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to talk with me today.

Amanda: Yay. Thanks for having me on, Nic. This has been a fun conversation.

Nic: Amanda did a wonderful job explaining herself. I love that she brought us through this whole idea of these pop-up classes. For me, yes I’ve seen them around, usually that paint pub or crayons and canvases, I think it’s called in my local area. Something more like follow along with me, but what Amanda is describing and what I’ve seen from her Instagram account is more studio-based. I think that’s where the title of her business, Studio Art Club, is just perfect for her. That is absolutely what she is providing to adults who still want to create. There’s plenty out there, right? So she’s allowing new processes and she’s providing them with the time and the opportunity and the lesson, the education of how to do a certain process.

As she mentioned, she’s really investigating printmaking. I love what her classes are coming up with every single time that I see a new post, I go, “Oh man, that’s awesome.” And of course she’s working with older students, grown adults, but it’s more about what they’re creating under her guidance.

Join me in following Amanda’s Instagram account, you will not be disappointed. The title of it is Studio Art Club and just watch what she’s doing in her classroom or in her pop-up classrooms, as well as her classrooms. I promise, you will be inspired for your classroom and probably for yourself as well. Thanks for listening. We’ll chat with you next week.

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.