About msgraceface

Hi there! I am an art teacher in the city of brotherly love! I have been teaching since 2004 and can't imagine doing anything else. I have taught all levels of art now, and most recently find myself teaching in a K-8 urban class room, and it has changed my life. I can see and feel what these kids need in their lives. I fully enjoy being their teacher and at the end of summer I can't wait to get back in the classroom with them. I know I was always meant to be an art teacher, but I believe I have found my calling in the urban classroom city setting.

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.

How drawing can be a pathway to mindfulness…

“When we are practising the mindfulness of drawing, it id the movement of the pen across the page, the coordination of eye and hand, and the object we are drawing that become our mindful focus.” -Page 10 of Wendy Ann Greenhalgh’s Mindfulness & the Art of Drawing

I have yet to fully embrace the mindfulness movement, and honestly I’m not sure that I want to. I know I have a lot going on, and a lot of “chatter” in my head of tasks that need to be completed and lists that need to be checked off. But I am okay with that. This is how I work and it works well for me. Meditation gives me anxiety, which seems like the opposite of what it is supposed to do, so I avoid it.

I reading the first chapter of Mindfulness & the Art of Drawing, I think I can make a compromise with the mindfulness movement and approach it though drawing. This definitely makes more sense to me. I first think about when I use to doodle my notes in high school and college. That act of doodling helped my to focus on what was being said/taught in class, though I guess technically that made me less mindful of the lesson. Next thought that comes to mind is when I use to be more into visual verbal journaling. I use to get so into my journals, and I would draw, paint, and build layers, just being absorbed into the act of the medium to the paper and to the layers. I have not done that much since I have been teaching K-8…and since I have become so busy.

I’m not gonna lie. I was nervous about this book and the mindfulness stuff. But after this first chapter, I understand that Wendy Ann Greenhalgh’s ideas are more about getting lost or absorbed in the act of drawing and letting that be your “breaths” or whatever to get you to focus on one thing only. I feel relieved and less anxious and hopefully I can revive my passion for journaling.

I’d like to imagine myself beginning classes with a mindfulness drawing activity with kiddos, though I am not sure how that would play out yet, or if even realistically I will have enough time with my students to do that. But maybe there will be a way I will figure out to incorporate mindful drawing. I still need to work on it for myself though.

My Core Values

List between 5-9 values that are most important to you and explain why in 1-2 sentences for each.

I may change this list later, but this is first what comes to mind…

Honesty– Being true to oneself, trustful of others, and honest to the ones you are working with and/or serving leads to more authentic leadership. It’s much easier to be honest than to lie.

Reliability– A leader is someone others rely on, and it’s important in maintaining trust and respect to be someone others can count on. Show up on time, answer emails, do what you say you are going to do.

Flexibility/Adaptability- Times change so incredibly fast now, and an effective leader has to be able to roll with that and learn how to adapt with the times. Saying something like “kids these day don’t …” is regressive. Kids will always be changing, trends will always be changing, technology will always be changing- a strong leader will adapt, be flexible and know when to change with it.

Reflection– It’s important to always look at your own journey and to be introspective about it. Understanding where you came from, taking note of your strengths and weaknesses, and understanding what you need to work on. A reflective practitioner and leader continues to grow and learn and understands who they are and where they want to go.

Humor/humility- This speaks to being a humble leader and knowing how to lead with dignity, how to remain grounded, and to not be ashamed of yourself, but also knowing when to have fun. Being able to lead effectively while also enjoying yourself and putting smiles on faces.

Competency– It’s important to be prepared for a role as a leader, and it can be frustrating when someone is in charge and cannot perform their duties with proficiency. I realize it’s not possible to know everything about a position or role, but having the ability to seek out the knowledge and to do so proactively can speak to one’s dedication and understanding of being that competent leader.

Total Leadership: Vision & Values

My Leadership Vision

In this exercise, describe the kind of leader you want to become by writing a short story of your life between now and fifteen years in the future.

From Total Leadership by Stewart D Friedman

The journey toward my leadership began in 2013 when I started working at the School District of Philadelphia. Due to enrollment issues, I was laid off from my previous position at a prestigious private school in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and I was definitely left feeling a bit jaded about that. That summer I applied to every teaching position I could find, but no one gave me an opportunity to even get my foot in the door. Labor day was fast approaching, which meant school was starting soon, and I was beginning to think I would have to start waiting tables or become a nanny- neither of which appealed to me.

Labor day weekend I was at the beach and received a phone call from the School District of Philadelphia to come in for an interview that Tuesday. I had to have a portfolio of my own art, showcasing a diversity of mediums and all mounted or framed. I was feeling panicked. I left the beach early Monday morning, to get home in time to go to the art store and get mat boards and to swing by a friend’s to borrow their mat cutter.

I of course got everything prepared and was hired by the district to start the following week. I knew nothing of the schools I had to choose from except what little info I could gather from the internet, which all made it seem hopeless, so I chose the school that said it had a garden, because that it least was a ray of hope to me. It was a tough school, and some of the administration was not at all supportive of the teachers. Many teachers in my shoes would have quit. Many in our district do quit. But I am stubborn, so I stuck it out. It was a struggle, and after 9 years of teaching I felt like I knew nothing. I was isolated in my setting and exhausted. This is when it happened. This is when my journey began, although did not realize it yet.

I started going to these meeting for art teachers hosted by the amazing Lynne Horoschak at Moore College of Art and Design. There were a solid 3-4 of us that would attend at the beginning and just get together and talk about school, and support one another. Lynne started to recruit me to inspire other teachers to attend, and even had me lead the meetings. Then, Lynn informed me she was retiring, but encouraged me to keep the meetings going. She introduced me to Lauren Stichter who assumed Lynn’s position at Moore, and with her help and my leadership of the group, we sustained the meetings at Moore, and the group grew to become the Philadelphia Art Teachers Alliance (PATA).

Around 2013, I also became more involved in the Pennsylvania Art Education Association. Just feeling that dire need to be connected to other art teachers, I went to every event I possibly could. Robin Brewer and Lisbeth Bucci took me under their wing at the 2013 conference, and from there I felt a connection to them. Eventually, I took on a board position with the PAEA as a regional representative for our very large state. I started to consider what my future with the organization would look like. I knew eventually I would want to take on a larger role with the Leadership Council (LC) but when? Robin was president when I started thinking about what my leadership would look like. Then Lisbeth became president-elect, and then I started to think about who I would want to follow in that position, and it was clear as day to me that if anyone, I wanted to follow the line of Diane Wilkin, to Robin Brewer, to Lisbeth Bucci, and then me. So here I am now, as president-elect of the PAEA, and it’s a little scary, but I will figure it out.

One thing about me is that no matter how daunting a task or job is, I know I can figure it out. That’s just how my mind works. It may scare the pants off me at first and cause lots of anxiety but I can and will get to where I need to be. And if I mess up along the way, I learn from it. Mistakes are steps to success. Weirdly I sound positive right now, but I don’t think that I am always the most positive person, and that is something I hope to work on.

Through my work with PATA and PAEA I hope to help support art teachers in their roles and to advocate more profoundly for art education. I want to be a strong and confident leader whom others can depend on and I would hope to have the wisdom to understand boundaries of when I give too much of myself. As a leader I hope to learn how to better focus my time and energy and to balance more goals in the most efficient manner. I want to be an authentic leader leading with my authentic self and understanding my sense of purpose and direction. That’s my destination for the next six years or so, and it’s hard for me to fathom what the day to day might be like, but I know that I will adapt as needed.

Looking further into the future, I see everything I am doing as leading up to taking on a role as a district art administrator, which is something I have said in whispers to close friends before, but in being true to my authentic self, this is something I do feel like I have been and will be working up to. That may mean taking further Graduate courses for an arts administration degree, but I will cross that bridge when I get there. Currently, I am far too busy to consider taking Grad courses again!

I feel like I’ve bonked this first exercise…I mostly wrote about what got me to where I am and did not write so much about how I imagine my future in leadership will look… or how I will make the world better in some way. Is this even a leadership vision?? I am not sure how to envision something so vague at this point. Maybe this will get cleaned up and redone later… For now let’s call this Version 1.

NAEA School for Art Leaders

In July I will be attending the NAEA School for Art Leaders. I have decided to use my blog as my venue for my exercises and reflections. So be prepared for that if anyone is actually still looking at this thing! It’s been a few years since I have been on here!

I obviously could do these reflections and such in my sketchbook, but I find typing to be easier for me to get what’s on my mind out there. I have horrible handwriting and I don’t tend to organize my thoughts well on paper. If I do it here, then I will be able to more easily reference my ideas and look back on my work.

I will be reading these two books, and doing a lot of work on here as well as in my sketchbook. I imagine I will be sharing those images also.

Anyways, bear with me as I work through my leadership values. 🙂

Lastly, there are a few folks I need to thank for helping me make this journey possible. I started a GoFundMe account to help pay for the cost of attending, lodging, and travel to Arkansas, and the following families are making it happen for me: the fabulous Fox/Shank Family, the Gonzalez’s (My mom and stepfather!), the ever loving and giving Hunters, the marvelous Moons, good friends the Weissmans, good pal Carla Fernandez, partner in leadership goals Lora Durr, my PAEA mentors and colleague Lisbeth Bucci and Robin Brewer, the super Shindells, high school pal Amber Eshelman, the supportive Dahlkempers/Alfonsos, the marvelous Mahoneys, old pal from Georgia La Rhinehart, the handsome Hongs, the stupendous Slabodas, and the first to support my campaign the Buscainos.