The Art Ed Now Mailbag (Ep. 155)

Still basking in the glow from the Art Ed Now conference, Tim opens up the mailbag to answer all of the questions that have been coming his way. Listen as he shares a behind-the-scenes look at how he prepares for the conference, talks about some of his favorite presenters, and maybe lets you in on a couple secrets for what new things will be coming this summer.  Full episode transcript below.

Resources and Links


Tim: Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for art teachers. This show is produced by The Art of Education University, and I’m your host, Tim Bogatz.

All right. We have wrapped up a really successful conference recently, The Art Ed Now Conference. It was amazing as always. You heard us talking about it a lot on here, and Lindsey and I did a wrap-up last week. But I continue to receive a bunch of questions via email, and so I thought to myself, “Let’s do a mailbag episode.” Now, I don’t know if you guys ever listened to Everyday Art Room with Cassie Stevens. She has the market cornered on mailbags, but we’re going to give it a try here and see how it goes. Because like I said, I received a ton of comments and a ton of questions. Thank you to everyone who sends their well wishes about the conference or sends me questions ’cause they’re curious or want to know more about how they can participate.

We have a few themes that kept coming up, and so I wanted to grab a few of those and just talk about them this episode so you have a better idea, not only of what’s available at the conference but also what’s going on behind the scenes ’cause you see the five hours that we’re there but you don’t see the months and months and months of work that goes into it. Hopefully, we can provide you with a look into everything that we do. Anyway, let’s go ahead and see what’s out there with the questions, with the mailbag, and we’ll dive right in.

First, this was maybe not my favorite one, but let’s go ahead and get it out of the way. This came from Corey via a DM on Twitter and says, “Do you have to talk about the conference so much on the podcast? It’s a little much for people who aren’t going to be going to the conference.” Corey, yes. The answer is yes, I need to talk about it, because of a few reasons. Number one, it’s interesting. Number two, the conference is a huge part of my job. Putting together Art Ed Now is a lot of work, and I’m really proud of what we do. I think it really is worth talking about.

Finally, the third thing, and I’m tempted to just kind of go off on this, but it’s the first question in the mailbag. We don’t need to get too worked up, but I’ll say this. Art Ed Now is showcasing everything that’s relevant, everything that’s worthwhile, everything that’s happening right now in art education, and getting together with 2,300 other art teachers for a day of professional development is an amazing experience. Each time we do it, it makes art teaching as a whole better. Every teacher who comes to the conference is better because of it. Why wouldn’t we want to celebrate that and discuss that and share those ideas even further beyond that one day? That’s why we talk about it on the podcast. If you think it’s a little much because you’re not going to the conference, there’s a simple solution for you, Corey. Make sure you sign up next time.

All right, next question. Hopefully, this will take a little brighter turn. “How many people work on the conference and how long does it take to put it together?” That’s from Cindy in Lafayette, Louisiana. It takes a lot of people, and it takes a lot of time. The most important people are the ones who work at headquarters at AOEU. If you’ve ever talked to Cindy or Lacey or Sheridan, they do a lion’s share of the work, getting people registered, helping people with all of the issues that come up, troubleshooting, etc., etc. Personally, I do a lot to put together the lineup, reaching out to presenters, working with them to fine-tune their presentations and handouts and everything that goes along with presenting at the conference, and I’m part of a bigger team that looks at new presenters, people who are applying to present at the conference, and decide who we really want to work with.

We have a lot of people putting things together on the back end, and I’m probably going to forget some people. But just off the top of my head, we have people building the webpage, editing videos, editing presentation descriptions, editing emails that go out, making all of the arrangements that are needed to get all of our technology up and running. A month or maybe a month and a half before the conference, once all of those things are kind of running and in order, we start to put together the schedule. That takes a lot of fine-tuning. We see who’s presenting, what the topics are, and try and fit everything together in some kind of a logical order. Jessica, my boss, the founder and president of AOEU, she’s super hands on with that. She’s really helpful, and just kind of looking at things together, usually we’re able to put together a pretty good lineup, and so that’s always an exciting part of it.

Then once we have that settled, we start working on the social media rollout, making plans for the chat that’s happening during the day. A couple of our writers, who you know, play big parts in that. Abby Schukei does all of our social media. Lindsey Moss has run the chatroom for the past couple of conferences, and they both do just an amazing job. Then finally, it’s up to me to write the script. I have to write down everything I’m going to say for the entire five hours and put together all those amazing polls and questions we ask during the conference, do the raffles, and figure out everything else that’s going to be happening, and that is a lot. That takes a ton of time in those last couple weeks leading up to the conference.

As far as how long it takes, honestly, already working on the next one. We do two conferences per year, the winter one and the summer one, and we are working on it throughout the year. It’ll ramp up as we get a little bit closer. For the conference that is at the end of July, probably start at the beginning of June to really go almost full-time working on the conference, putting everything together, getting it ready to go so we are ready to go by the end of July. Even now though, even in February, we are already putting together presenters, talking about social media, looking at applications, figuring out who we might want for a featured presenter, all those types of things, talking about what went well, what needs to be improved, reflecting on what we’re doing, and so it is something that’s constantly at the back of our minds at least, something that’s happening year-round. Hoping to make the conference as good as it can possibly be.

All right, next question. “Is the day of the conference just like chaos? Are you going crazy behind the scenes?” That comes from Anthony in Houston. Honestly, no. We put so much effort into the conference, going up to the day of. Honestly, knock on wood, things have run pretty smooth for us the last few times. When you put all of the effort in beforehand, that allows you to just let the day lead where it may, and usually, we can be pretty relaxed and let it go where it needs to go. But just a couple ideas as far as preparation, a couple things we do to make sure that the day of runs smoothly. A couple of days before the conference, I go up to AOEU headquarters, and we start making our final preparations. This last time, the conference was on Saturday, so I went up there on Thursday, so we had two full days of prep before the actual conference.

We have a giant whiteboard. It’s 12 feet long, takes up an entire wall at headquarters, and it is filled with the checklist of everything that we have to do. It’s all divided up. We’re very efficient, very organized, and there’s a name by each item on the checklist to show who’s responsible for it. Everybody just puts their head down and gets to work. Some people are signing up people at the last minute, which let’s face it, we’re art teachers, we’re procrastinators. There’s a lot of last-minute registrations. We are contact presenters to double-check they’re ready for the Q&A. We’re making sure handouts are ready for download, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Making sure all the behind-the-scenes things are ready to go.

That script I was talking about, I run though that two days before and run through it again the day before, and I’m just kind of sitting there by myself in front of the camera, in front of the computer, just talking to myself, and I feel kind of stupid, but that’s okay. I’ve done it so many times at this point, everybody at HQ is just used to it and just kind of go about their day, not worrying about the crazy guy talking to himself in front of the camera. Then we test the technology a couple days before. We test it again the day before. We’re checking out Internet speed. We’re checking out the platform, making sure all the videos are ready, making sure the chat is ready. We make sure everything is organized, the script is ready, just anything you can think of.

Then the actual day of, like I said, it’s not chaos. Everything is pretty fine-tuned at this point, and like I said, it runs pretty smoothly. I don’t even come in that early. A couple of hours before the conference starts, everybody showing up, we check one last time on everything that I just mentioned. I preview all of the presentations one last time, and we’re off and running. The day is exhausting honestly, and I don’t know why hosting is so hard. I don’t know why I’m sweating while that happens, but it really does take it out of you, but the time just flies by. I’ll just look up, and all of a sudden we’re halfway through hour four. There’s just so much going on, and it goes so quickly. Then once we’re done with all five hours, once things wrap up, we have a little celebration. We clean up, we shut things down, and everybody’s out of there fairly quickly. Like I said, it’s exhausting, but it’s also exhilarating, and it feels really good at the end of the day if we’ve put on a successful event.

All right, next question. “How does the swag box get put together?” That is from Ken in Tennessee. Ken was telling me how much he loves the swag box, how much he loves the supplies. Cindy, who I mentioned, helps me do so much with the conference. One of the things that she does is she contacts all the brands we work with to see what they would like to contribute to the swag box. If you want to help her out, make her life a little bit easier, send an email to whatever your favorite brands are, like you love Tombow colored pencils for example, or you love Art to Remember, or you love Nasco. Go ahead and just shoot them an email and tell them thank you for being part of the swag box, and encourage them to continue to do that. I know Cindy would appreciate that because that will make brands more willing to put cool things into the swag box.

It’s amazing that we are able to get so many different brands and stuff all of those things into the swag box that get delivered to you. We have a storage facility that we call the barn that’s kind of near AOEU headquarters. Everything gets shipped there, and so the barn just gets filled up with all these awesome supplies and all the boxes that we need to pack. Then there’s an organization of teachers, retired teachers, called PEO. You may be familiar with them. They do a lot of philanthropy. But they help us out with everything swag box related, so they assemble the boxes, they pack all the supplies in the boxes and get them ready to go, ready to ship out, and then UPS will come, pick them all up from the barn. By the way, you do not want to see the shipping bill for all of those.

But we get them all sent out, and then the money that we give to PEO for putting that all together, they turn around and use that to fund scholarships that they give out through their organization, so it’s a win-win all around. They’re able to put together all the boxes for us, and then, like I said, the money that we pay them for that goes to scholarships, so it’s a really cool deal, and it’s kind of fun to see everything packed up and putting together. If you keep your eye on social media, a lot of times you’ll see some pictures of just the sheer amount of things that are in the barn, which is kind of a cool thing to see.

All right, next question. “How do you get all of these featured presenters?” Khadijah from the Chicago area. I think it’s just my personal charm and a little bit of luck, I guess. No. Really though, there are some presenters who you can contact directly and just see if they might want to talk to a bunch of art teachers. But a lot of the really big names that we’ve had, like Sir Ken Robinson, Alexa Meade, things like that, you need to go through their agents. We have a company that helps us get in touch, kind of gauge interest, and see who might be interested, who might want to speak to a bunch of art teachers. Once we find someone that is interested and we feel like is a good fit for us, then we’ll make arrangements for me and the video crew to fly out to wherever they are, wherever they’re living or working, and we’ll do the interviews and video shoots out there.

Next question. “Who is your favorite featured presenter you’ve had at the Art Ed Now conference?” That is from Tasha from Des Moines. That’s a tough one to say for sure. Sir Ken Robinson was obviously amazing. He comes to mind first. If you’re interested in education at all, he is a great interview. Honestly, he’s one of the smartest people that I’ve ever been around, and just to be able to spend a whole day with him, just listening to everything he had to say about art, about creativity, about education, and just getting the chance to sit down one on one and interview him, that’s something that I’m always going to treasure, honestly. I loved also being in Alexa Meade’s studio. I love all of her work, and just seeing all of that work that I admired for so long come to life was a really, really cool experience. Then Paul Topolos was at this conference, and he was great. I loved seeing all of the images from what he’s done on the various Pixar films, and kind of talking through all of the cool things that he’s done as an animator. I feel like I learned so much from him, and honestly, he was just the nicest guy ever as well, so it was a lot of fun to work with him.

Next one. “Where do you find presenters? I have a couple of suggestions of people I think would be good.” That’s from Chris in New York. Chris, email me and let me know who you think should present. I’m always interested in finding new people. We always try to cast a pretty wide net. We always have a few AOEU team members. This time around, hopefully, I remember everybody, Debi West was here, Wynita Harmon, Tiffany Carr, Sarah Ackerman were all presenting at this conference. There are people who have presented with us a lot before. Don Masse is always amazing and has been since the very first conference in 2013, way back before I ran things. Rachel Albert and Lena Rodriguez are always really popular, so they keep coming back. They’re also on the podcast a couple weeks leading up to the conference. Then our team always looks for people who are doing great things on social media. Really, I just love people who want to share what they’re doing. I look for people who are presenting at different state conferences I go to and people who are presenting at NAEA.

Of course, applications. We have a lot of people who apply through the AOEU site, so if you know someone, Chris or anybody else, tell them to apply. Go to the, click on About, and then scroll down to where it says Work With Us, and you can see everything that’s involved in the application there. Yeah, I would encourage people to do that. We already have two people who I put the call out at the end of the conference to say, “Hey, if you have any great ideas, come apply. We want you to be part of the conference.” We got a ton of applications, but there are already two that we’re like, “Yes, this is a great idea. We want you at the conference.” We’ve put out offers and we have a couple new presenters, so that’s awesome. But again, there are so many teachers out there who are beyond our reach, and there are so many great voices that need to be heard from, so if you know anybody who should be presenting, or if you are somebody who should be presenting, just shoot me an email and let me know, or better yet, go apply at the AOEU site. Again, just, click on About, and go to where it says Work With Us, and you can see everything that’s involved.

All right. I think we need to wrap it up here, so one last question. “What’s coming in the future for Art Ed Now? What can we expect for next time at the summer conference?” That’s from Brian in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. All right, let me just start by saying that I subscribe to the idea of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I feel like just about everything we’re doing is successful. Again, we’re going to knock on wood with that. But we’ve had a really good run of conferences the past few times around, and so just feedback from a huge majority of the people who come to these conferences, they love what they’re seeing, and so we’re probably going to continue with the format. We’re going to continue trying to find the best presenters we can. But that being said, we’re always looking for new voices. We’re always looking for new ideas. We have a couple ideas that have come up that we might try out, a couple other new things planned, and we’re already working on our featured presenter for the summer, so the best I can say is please stay tuned.

All right, that is going to wrap it up. Thank you for all of the questions, and I hope that gives you some insight into everything that goes into the Art Ed Now Conference. Important thing before we close: If you are signed up for the July conference already, good work. You’re doing better than Corey from the beginning of the episode. If you have not signed up yet, go to, and you can register today. The price is low, as low as it’s going to be, and that price is only going to last until Friday this week. Go get registered, and hopefully, we will see you on July 25th.

Art Ed Radio is produced by the Art of Education University with audio engineering from Michael Crocker. Thank you for listening as always. If you have any more questions or you want to apply or know somebody else who should apply, always feel free to shoot me an email, and next week we will be back with the always popular Shannon Lauffer. Should be a fun one. We’ll talk to you then.

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.