Celebrating Arts in Education Week
We believe that the arts are essential to the quality of life and community in Central New York. Our mission to promote, support and celebrate arts and culture is the heart of all our programs and services.
We strive to engage with students at every level of education, from elementary to college and with educators and administrators to build a culturally engaged community. Arts education is a key component of several of our programs: Dasher's Magical Gift, Michael Harms Theatre Festival, DeFrancisco Young Artists Scholarship Program, STAR Training Program (Support for Teaching Artist Regional Training), and the AiHE Consortium (Arts in Higher Education). These programs, help ensure that arts education is given full support it deserves in central New York.
So in celebrating Arts Education Week, we would like to recognize some of the many people in our community who are dedicated to enriching the lives of students at all stages of their education.
Thank you to Americans for the Arts for hosting this national celebration of arts education, and thank you to all the educators who impact lives every day through the arts. We hope you enjoy learning about a few of our local educators and reflect on how teachers have impacted your own life. #BecauseOfArtsEd #ArtsEdWeek.
Heather McCutcheon is a former CNY Arts’ Decentralization Arts Education grant recipient for Herkimer County, a grant panelist, and has participated in the STAR Training Program administered by CNY Arts. LEARN more about the STAR Training Program.
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your current role in arts education?
My name is Heather McCutcheon and I have worked at Herkimer CSD for the last ten years as a K-12 art teacher. Just recently switching over to teaching just high school classes. My favorite classes to teach are the 3-D courses: Sculpture and Ceramics. I have successfully created four new courses along with getting approved to teach college credit and AP courses.
In my district I also have the role of the Arts in Education Coordinator. I am able to work with others around the country to bring exciting and fun programs to our school. In the last three years in this role, I have brought Jazz & Ensemble Group, a speed painter and even an American Comedic Dance-pop duo for assemblies.
Some of my favorite and exciting things in my art career are the murals that the HCSD students worked on.
In 2013, I worked with the Herkimer Now group to design and paint murals to cover broken windows and doors of the former Glory Days building after a shooting. Fall 2015: I worked with students to create and paint a 10 x 50-foot mural on the Herkimer VFW.
I have had three articles published in national Art Magazines. I have also written and implemented five Arts in Education grants to bring local artists into the classroom, along with a grant through the LOWES foundation for a “Creative Space.”
I am also the NYSATA (New York State Art Teachers Association) Region 3 Co-Chair and now a new Co-Chair of Youth Art Month for NYS.
2. What drew you to education?
The love of learning and art is what drew me to education. At a young age I loved drawing and painting. Middle school was the first time I was in a public school which meant art class with an art teacher. I was so excited and knew this is what I wanted to do. Throughout high school and college my goal was always the same: To strive for the best and show others how great the arts are!
3. How do you think arts education can help students address current issues in our society?
Art is an outlet for students to express their feelings and thoughts. This is a very important part of our daily life. Especially now that media and technology seem to be the most important thing to many. With Art Education students seem to connect on a different level with each other, and seem to connect better. The arts seem to challenge students and their though process. We want our students to be 21st century learners. Yes, technology is a big part of that, but creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, communication are also huge. You can find all of these things in my art classroom!
4. What is one way in which you keep your personal artistic practice fresh outside of the classroom?
I try to keep the arts a part of my daily life. I do create pieces of work through out the school year and the summer. I always keep a sketchbook journal with me at all times. It seems to be a part of me now. Aside from the creation of art, I am constantly working with artists, art teachers, and going to meetings about art and museums. Sometimes on a slower day at home, my children and I have an “art day.” We spend the day creating and playing with different materials
5. What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring young student interested in furthering his or her artistic career?
I always tell my students: A life in the arts is a fulfilling and fun life. The arts keep you alive!
I feel that any person, young or old, should have the arts in their lives. If they would like to further their artistic career, it is never too late. We need creative and happy people in this world. We need people to share and teach the arts and to spread the word that creativity is in all of us.
6. As part of National Arts in Education Week, we'd love it if you could share one story about how arts education has personally impacted your life.
As I stated previously, my first year in a public school changed my life and the way I saw art education. That middle school teacher I had was my first great role model in the art education field. She was dynamic, energetic, fun and loved her job.
In 6th grade I found my calling and a future mentor. In my senior year of high school, we needed to do a senior project on something you loved or something in your future. I chose Art Education. This teacher from my past, my role model became a mentor to me during this project.
To this day while teaching I find myself wondering what she would do. I often find myself wondering what some of the other great art teachers I had would do and If I am making them proud. I am where I am now because of my many amazing art teachers, amazing support of my parents and now my husband and children. Luckily my husband is a graphic designer and we met in art class!