Alaska day 3

  • Hit the road to Wasilla for our visit with Martin Busser at Happy Trails Kennel and his Sled Dogs
  • Hung out with all the puppies and learned about how they prepare for the Iditarod
  • Traveled to Talkeetna and ate lunch on the bus
  • Got on the Talkeetna Air Taxi, a 10 passenger plan equipped to land on a glacier
  • Flew all around Denali and the surrounding glaciers and mountains and landed on a Glacier!! I ate some glacial ice, because of course I had to
  • Walked around the small village of Talkeetna and ate Fireweed ice cream- Yummo!! I skipped some rocks in the river and found a few to take with me 🙂
  • Long drive to Grizzly Bear Resort in Denali National Park area- Great resort with camper, campsite, and room options
  • Ate dinner at a food truck in the resort- Thai food! Lot’s of Thai options in the area
  • Hung out on the patio of our room, with a glass of wine and listening to the river

Soaring above the land
White noise as your soundtrack
Turn a corner and
You'll never want to look back.

Views that will draw a tear
Your eyes can't believe what they see
As the mountains draw near
This is where you want to be.

Majestic scenes at every turn
It's hard for the mind to comprehend.
Nature that'll make you yearn
For this beauty to never come to an end.

Alaska Days 1 & 2

I’m realizing it is very hard to blog while traveling. So I will do this the best I can!

We got in yesterday late afternoon. And though I love being somewhere new, I gotta say, Anchorage is probably not gonna make it on my “must visit again” list. It is quite possible that I am missing something, but I am honestly not blown away. That’s not to say that I’m not enjoying myself, because I definitely am. Just overall- anchorage feels a bit underwhelming.

Day 1:

  • Landed around 2pm
  • Hotel stay at The Aviator in Anchorage- I highly suggest you avoid this place at all costs!!!
  • Walked around a local weekend market right around the corner from the hotel with my pal Jes
  • Drank a beer from local brewery called 49th state and met a friendly local named Sunshine
  • Found a cute bar/restaurant called Tequila 61 and had a fancy yummy cocktail
  • Met our guide from Ruby Range- Adam Moore
  • Dinner at hotel- despite the accommodations lodging the fish and chips was pretty good
  • Passed out and slept like a rock with my face mask and ear plugs on

I began writing rhyming poems on the trip… Here is my first poem written about Sunshine:

Shining in his orange vest
Smiling larger than all the rest.
He's not shy, he'll come right up to you
You'll be confused, not sure what to do.
Engage in a little awkward conversation
Stay or leave? A contemplation.
Just as you decide to go
He stops because he wants you to know...
his number!

Day 2:

  • Breakfast at hotel
  • Went to Wells Fargo Alaskan Cultural Museum and met with Robyn and Megan of the Alaska Art Education Association
  • We got to actually touch historical artifacts!!!!
  • Drove to Alaskan Native Heritage Center and learned about the 5 different cultures of Alaska’s Native people and the different clans within them.
  • Viewed and explored different traditional dwellings of Alaska Native Peoples
  • Bought some souvenirs (Earings)
  • Went to the Alaskan Native Medical Center for their gift shop. It was very small and made me anxious so I did not really look around
  • Walked around downtown Anchorage some more. Still not impressed, but found a cute Oyster/Champagne bar called the Bubbly Mermaid and had both of those things.
  • Went to dinner at the Crow’s nest which had an amazing view but was overrated for food. Very expensive for food trying to act fancy. Would not suggest eating there. Go for a drink at most.
  • Went back to Tequila 61 for after dinner drinks.
  • Played floor is Lava with towels at The Aviator since the floor and carpet was so dang gross

School for Art Leaders Day 5

This post is a bit belated. Our last meeting together was more logistical and reflective, and then ended with a celebratory lunch. After that, it was off to the airport, and then I stopped over in Atlanta for some visiting with friends and family, so I found my time consumed (gladly) by that.

Saying goodbye to my awesome SAL roomies.
Saying goodbye to the green 21C penguins
Flying into storms… a metaphor for the feelings I was going through! Ha!

Reflecting back on my SAL experience I have a lot of thoughts I am still trying to sort through, as well as papers and readings! lol

Going in to School for Art Leaders, I will admit my skepticism in the program. Other folks who attending claimed the program to be transformational and life changing. I thought to myself, “How will this actually be life changing for me. I am not like everyone else! And how will trust falls and learning about leadership transform me?” Well folks, I drank the SAL Koolaid.

What I failed to realize is that SAL is more about learning about yourself and your story. It is about who you are as a leader, what motivates you, what stresses you out, how to work with other types of leaders, and giving yourself time to sort through all this.

I have come to learn how to accept our differences as leaders (no matter what level of leadership one is at) and how to appreciate the value in everyone’s strengths. And admittedly, I feel a little foolish that it took me this long to figure that out.

The Buckminster Fuller Geodome thrown into nature.

The other thing I was skeptical of, was the location. When arriving in Bentonville, I was like, “Where the heck am I? There is gonna be nothing to do and I am trapped.” But this to, I now see the value in. That isolation was necessary to my allowing myself space to process. There were little distractions, beyond good food and nature, and the nature was definitely inspiring and peaceful to be around. Our walks to and from the museum everyday allowed time for reflection.

I have learned a great deal about myself. I have learned what I need to work on and what I am good at. And I have allowed myself to be vulnerable in front of strangers (now friends) in order to understand myself.

I realize there is a larger more personal journey I have to take that will allow me to feel balance in my life. Ultimately, everything in my life and in my story leads me to be the type of leader I want to be, and so there are some things I must work on. In Friedman’s book, Total Leadership , he identifies 4 domains that play into the role of a leader- work, community, home, and self. I put a lot of my time into work and community, and I know there are plenty of things to work on there, but those two domains line up pretty well within each other. Self (mind, body, spirit) and home (family and relationships) live far outside those circles of work and community and seem to get little in the way of my focus of time and energy. So that has to change, and I have to work on bettering my relationships.

This will be my last consecutive post for a while on SAL. I will probably still make other future SAL/Leadership type posts depending on what I am working on, but the next series of posts will be my trip to Alaska at the end of July!!! Woooo hoooo!!!! And then hopefully… I will continue here and there with blogging throughout the school year.

Crystal Bridges Day 4

Today was a big story writing and story telling day. Not much in the way of pictures to go along with the stories so I will just throw some fun ones in at the end.

This post is just gonna be my 3 minute Art Education Advocacy story…

Allow me a moment to frame it. I teach in a district where we are referred to as “prep teachers”…by colleagues, by students, and sometimes (though not usually in mine) by administration. Even our union slips into that language. So all those folks would be my audience. And as you probably guessed, the core of my story is that I am not a prep teacher. And away we go!!

What’s in a name? 
What is my label?

I am an art educator. I teach my students about the visual arts and how to apply what they are learning in other classes. I teach divergent thinking in my art room and how to be creative problem solvers. I have created an art room where my students can learn about themselves, explore their ideas, and experiment with different mediums, themes and content. I am preparing them to be creative thinkers and innovators and to understand the visual culture they live in. But please don’t be mistaken by that. I am not a prep teacher. I am an art teacher. 

A teachers prep time is their time to prepare lessons, grade, organize, have a meeting or do whatever they need to do to be ready for their students. Art teachers have a preparation period also where we do such things- preparing paint, cutting paper, hanging art, assessing work, cleaning paint brushes, researching artists, and so much more (like this list could go on for a while y’all!). To me and many in my profession it feels like a misrepresentation to refer to art class as a prep class. It has the potential for misunderstandings. Knowing that students are sent to me under that false label and to hear a student refer to it as such or to call me a prep teacher can be soul crushing. I feel devalued and unimportant in the role of their education. “But Miss, it’s just my prep class- it doesn’t matter. I want to be a basketball player.” Teaching art is my passion and has always been. I want my colleagues and my students to see, feel, and hear that passion and understand what my label truly is.

You know how labels can share the fabric compositions and care instructions on the back? Well I’d like to share with y’all the fabric of my art room and the care I put into it to create a constructive, creative, and safe learning space.

My room is unapologetically colorful. It’s a space organized and dictated by colors that  create systems to help students understand the art room culture.With an art library bursting at the seems, my room invites students to learn through literacy if that is their strength. We sing songs about art and learn kinesthetically through dancing.  It’s a welcoming space filled with smiling students who are learning about our world through art and drawing conclusions on their relationship with that world, and how to build relationships with one another through collaboration. On a painting day, students can smell the tempera paint and are excited to experiment with mixing colors and explore color theory. My room is a place for all students to succeed in  ways that work best for them while making connections to their learning and to discover themselves.

So, what I’d like to do is switch the perspective…to shift the dialogue. To help folks understand what I do and what happens in the art room… That I am not a prep teacher, I am an art educator. As a community we can make this change. We can flip the label.

There ya have it folks. I even volunteered to be one of the people to read it to the whole group. It was nerve wracking, but I was so proud of what I accomplished and I had to share.

Now some fun pictures…

Crystal Bridges Day 3

Today felt exhausting. I had a headache all day, and I found it hard to focus at times, but I went with the flow and tried to ignore the dull ache.

The walk this morning was really nice, and I stopped by Onyx coffee to try their nitro cold brew that folks rave about. It’s a super cute and hip spot.

The walk to Crystal Bridges via the art museum trail is such a beautiful way to start the morning. It’s a lush green hilly landscape with a huge variety of native trees, flowers, and plants. Today the smell of the flowers was so vivid and strong that I just kept taking giant breaths to savor the moment. Once you are closer to the south entrance of the museum, you pass over this little itty bitty lake reservoir thingy (fed from the springs I believe) that has this cloudy crystal green color. And because of the heat and constant rain, there is always a little bit of a mist rising above it. In all truth, I am tempted to jump right in!

Once we all gathered together today, we first looked at an area of our domains that we felt we needed to pay more attention to and did an activity where we came to 3 words, and then ultimately 1 to focus in on that “deficit”. I am not completely comfortable sharing what got me to my word, but I will share that my word is understood.

Following that we talked about creative leadership and what that looks like- the characteristics and behaviors of a creative leader. A lot of good nuggets of information from this, but this was when my head was really hating me, and I was having a hard time focusing…so I will have to comb through the powerpoint and handouts to revisit what was discussed another time.

“Today is the only day you get. When you get to tomorrow you call it that.” -Niki Ciccotelli Stewart

Elizabeth Guman shared with us the Ladder of Inference, and we had a lot of good conversation around that. I had to think of a situation that was not a positive interaction and think about how my assumptions might have gotten in the way with that. Again, not comfortable sharing that bit, but it was interesting to reflect on that and I definitely will think about how I approach that person in the future.

The last 2 bit of our group work was done in smaller groups. The first group was tasked with relating their DiSC profile to a work of art in the museum and explaining how it relates followed by some problem solving with the group about how different leadership styles might respond to you. If you are not familiar with DiSC prolines, then click here. And for your knowledge, I am a C profile which might not come as a surprise after you read about it. And below is the art I choose to represent me. Of course it has a cat!

This is a piece by Tom Uttech called Enassamishhinjijweian. I feel connected to this painting as he felt connected to nature. I mean a cat and birds! I love both! But what I also see is a quiet and diligent cat waiting for their moment. Maybe they’re in control of the scene or maybe they are just a part of it. Though the painting is seemingly chaotic with everything happening in it, it still has a system. There is still organization. There seems to be an even and thought out spacing of all the birds and animals. And your eye always returns and rests on the cat appreciating the beautiful sunset.

After that we got together with our smaller cohort groups and shared our 3 minute story of why/how we became an art teacher, which we will work on more as a small group.

Holly, Leslie, Laura, Martha Anne, Enid, Jane, and Sally.

After words I explored the museum on my own and truly enjoyed my time outside looking at the color fields exhibit. The evening had cooled off and barely anyone was around.

Crystal Bridges Day 2

Reflections on the day…

Yesterday was a long but meaningful day that ended in the most wonderful way, which you will hear about at the end for obvious reasons. 😏

We started off the morning from some of our SAL mentors as they shared their stories. We began with the always inspiring Wanda Knight, or Wakanda as she referred to herself– the social justice warrior. She used the metaphor of a butterfly metamorphosis to describe her story. ” How does one become a butterfly?…What the caterpillar calls the end the butterfly calls the beginning.” Her story though different than mine, was quite relatable, especially the idea of one transforming into a leader in ways that are unexpected but seem like it was meant to be.

Next, we heard from Enid Zimmerman who spoke about the need for communities of art educators who become empowered, have opportunities to collaborate and build networks, and to speak out, take initiatives, and become influential. With everything in the world changing all the time, we have to know ourselves and our story in order make the big changes we wish to see and to be able to empower others. Besides Enid being motivational, she is also a hoot to hear from and delivers much humor in her stories.

And finally, we listened to Bob Sabol’s story. Bob reminds me so much of my own dear friend who’s name is also Bob, so I find him quite endearing. Bob spoke to us as if we were his students and he were reading to us the story of his life, all while delivering powerful lessons throughout his time line.

Bob’s lessons with my annotations:

1- I’m making all of this up as I go along …fake it til you make it! I know this one well!!

2- sometimes leaders start being leaders before they know they are …ive never been much of a follower.

3- leaders have to have courage to do what they know is right …I need to work on my courage and stop being so damn awkward!

4- leaders have to understand that they are not always in control of those they lead ….I feel pretty sure that I get this, and I don’t want to be in control of everyone.

5- leaders have to do the best the best they can with what they have …teaching in the school district of Philadelphia has allowed me to understand this quite well.

6- leaders need to learn from other leaders …doing that right now! But also I have had some pretty amazing women leaders in art ed to learn from – shout outs to Lauren Stichter, Lynne Horoschak, Diane Wilkin, Robin Brewer, and Lisbeth Bucci

7- leaders have to believe in what they’re doing …I am where I want to be. I always wanted to be an art teacher and I believe in the power of art. And I want to be a strong leader in my field who can identify other leaders, lead other leaders, and know when to step back.

8- leaders have to prepare the next generations of leaders as their first job …working on that. I do want to get better at identifying and finding the potential in new leaders and helping them Rise up.

9- all leaders follow former leaders and then they become former leaders …those same names above! And I hope one day I am on someone’s list as an inspirational leader.

10- all of the experiences you have in your life are helping to prepare you for becoming a leader …I see that now. At times, the struggles make it hard to see how they are shaping me, but I see that now. And I want to get my story down!

In the afternoon we were given a chance to explore the Frank Lloyd Wright house originally built in New Jersey and donated and rebuilt here in Arkansas. This is the Bachman-Wilson house, and I kind of love it. I love the retro style and retro feel of it but mostly I love the thought of constriction into openness that Wright expresses in his architecture. I especially love the the secrets the house holds like the hidden compartments for storage. I’m a sucker for that.

Also during the day we learned about and discussed Emotional IQ. We started by doing a “weather check in” for how we are feeling. My check in was total eclipse… I know, I know- I had to be extra. But, hear me out, it makes sense and coincidentally, connected with the evening.

My total eclipse is a feeling of mystery and awe. And trying to take in something amazing in such a seemingly short time. Like seeing an eclipse, this is such a unique experience that I feel overwhelming joy to be a part of.

At dusk last evening, we gathered at the James Turrell Skyspace and experience what felt like a rainbow of sky eclipses. The sky is visible through the oculus and as you can see in the below photos, there are lights in the dome that completely change the experience and the color or the sky. Total eclipse of the heART.

Day 1 at Crystal Bridges

Today was the first day with the entire group. We all met at Crystal Bridges Art Museum and had a sort of orientation like tour. Our tour guide, whose name escapes me (sorry!), took us around the museum and gave us the low down on where everything is. There were a lot of impressive things about the museum, but I gotta say, I was really impressed that they have this huge library space that is open to the public to use for in house research. So freaking cool.

After the tour we met in a sort of meeting room classroom space that looks out onto the river/stream/lake/body of water… We officially met all the mentors and heard from all 25 SAL participants sharing out on their object that represents some aspect of leadership. I was a nervous wreck during this part and do not remember what I said. I did mention that in Philly we throw batteries at Santa, and that’s when I wanted to just stop talking. Ugh. I don’t think much of what I said was relevant to leadership, especially after hearing other folks powerful/emotional/thoughful stories, but I think I gotta just not compare myself to other folks.

It rained a good amount while we were there but thankfully it stopped by the time we had to walk back.

Lastly, I will leave you with this sweet cat that was on the trail….

Leadership Values Symbol

Today we will be sharing out with the group a symbol of our leadership values. We were asked to bring something small, that fits in the palm of our hand that represents our leadership values.

I thought about this in the back of my mind for the past few weeks. I made a little list with a few items. One of the objects I had in mind was a skeleto key, but I was hesitant with that idea as it felt cliche- like everyone is going to walk in there with a key. But the more I thought about it, the stronger I felt about the idea of a key. Keys unlock doors, unlock opportunities…they can get you in and out of spaces. You control the key. Keys can be a symbol of power. Keys to the city and whatnot…The key to success! The key to my heart… Keys can be mysterious- what does the key open? What’s behind that door or in the locked chest? I do love a good mystery to solve!

The images below are some of the keys I collected and turned into necklaces and sold on my Etsy when I had more time to do that. 😉

I have boxes of skeleton keys at home. I am fascinated by the variety of shapes and designs and thinking about how somewhere out there is a lock missing its partner. They are all dainty yet somehow solid and hefty…and in control of something seemingly bigger than themselves.

So here is what I decided on….it’s a key. But it doesn’t open anything. It’s a key with a secret. It’s secret….it is a pocket knife!

So while the key itself can still be symbolic of all the things a key can be… It has more of an edge to it. Like myself. I keep parts of myself close to my chest… my key is on a necklace. Yet I can open up and share who I am easily. I want to enviosion my self as a strong leader with many aspects and sides to my leadership. I’m not just one thing, I can be many. I’m a little shiny, but also a little dull (ha!). I can cut through BS. I am sharp witted and fun when I need to be and when I want to be. I am dainty but I am hefty. I am utilitarian but approachable.

I am starting to feel like I am stretching this too far, so I will stop there. I’ll let y’all know how it goes.


I feel like I bombed that 1 minute share out of our object. I don’t even know what I said, but I don’t feel that I related it to leadership very well. It’s easier to type than to talk and my nerves got the best of me. 😦

In Bentonville

I have made it to the quaint lil’ town of Bentonville. We landed around noon, and made our way through the flat farmlands with rolled up haystacks galore. For being near the mountainous Ozarks, this area is quite flat and I am definitely on alert for tornadoes…especially since the airport has signs outside their bathrooms deisgnating that space as a tornado shelter. Yikes! …and ew…but better than ouch.

Me and one of my roomies for the week walked around the town upon arrival and looked for a little spot to eat at. We found a lil’ spot called Oven & Tap. Super cute space with some stunning large scale portraits up by a local named Ray Allen Parker. I forgot to take pictures cause I woke up so dang early for my flight and my brain isn’t firing on all cylinders, so this photo is from his website, but this one was hanging in the restaurant. 🙂

New Blonde II

Now I am decompressing at our AirBnB until 6pm when we will have an informal little get together at 21C Museum and Hotel, which I am super stoked to check out. Most of the School for Art Leader participants were staying there, but I wanted something more economical and a little more cozy.