Q+A with Berangér LeFranc, MA candidate in Art Education
Thu. May 28, 2015
Describe your background.
Berangér LeFranc: In 2011 I earned a BFA in Sculpture & Extended Media from Virgina Commonwealth University. I first became interested in art education after spending a couple of summers teaching art to middle and high school students at a sleep-away camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Following undergrad I worked for The Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond for two years, managing afterschool and summer art programs for members ages 6–18. There, I developed a passion for working closely with the immediate inner city youth community. Since moving to Austin for graduate school, I have gained valuable experience in many facets of art education: teaching sculpture at after school and summer programs with the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum, facilitating art activities at multiple community events with Creative Action, working at the Visual Arts Center (VAC), and leading tours of exhibitions at The Contemporary Austin.
What attracted you to the MA Art Education program at UT Austin?
BF: When I began researching art education graduate programs, I was having trouble finding one that complemented my interests in community-based education. Most programs focused only on teacher certification for the K-12 public school environment. The art education program at UT Austin stood out to me for its three different research tracks: schools, museums, and communities. This gave me confidence this program would offer a more well-rounded and interdisciplinary approach to art education.
What is your research focus?
BF: For the last year I have been completing my graduate thesis on mindfulness and its applications for teaching artists. This thesis is an action-based research project during which I conducted research on my teaching practice and myself as teaching artist. In summer 2014, I completed an eight-week training with Mindful Schools, an organization out of the Bay Area that offers instruction for educators on how to develop a personal mindfulness practice and how to implement mindfulness into your curriculum. Throughout this training, I kept extensive journals with writing and art responses to the process. In fall 2014, I developed an art and mindfulness pilot program called “Mindful Making” and realized three lessons at an afterschool program with Creative Action.
During my time at UT Austin, I also completed the requirements for the portfolio program in Arts and Cultural Management and Entrepreneurship, a joint effort of the College of Fine Arts and the LBJ School of Public Affairs.
You have been working at the VAC this past year, how has that informed your research?
BF: As a community-based teaching artist, it is important to me to connect to my immediate community. During my time at the VAC, I was able to meet a wider array of students, faculty, and administrators in the Department of Art and Art History and make invaluable connections, both personal and professional.
Beyond the immediate academic community, the VAC was fortunate to host visitors of all ages from all over the state this year, enabling me to hone my skills conducting tours and engaging visitors in conversation about works of art. I also played a key role in the planning and implementation of this year’s Explore UT event, during which we had several hundred visitors come through our space and participate in gallery activities I planned with my colleagues.
BF: This summer, I will spend a lot of time in coffee shops completing the written portion of my thesis. I am spending my second summer teaching several weeks of art camps with the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum — a painting & drawing camp and a sculpture camp, both set in the lush garden environment. At the end of the summer, I am returning to Richmond, Virginia to live with my partner and our four cats. I hope to gain employment with one of the many wonderful arts-based non-profit organizations in the city.
Rising sophomores look back on their first year at UT Austin
Wed. May 20, 2015
"My favorite thing about UT Austin thus far is the size of the Department of Art and Art History. By the end of the year, all the freshmen faces become recognizable, and it begins to feel like a small Twin Peaks-esque town."
— Guneez Ibrahim (BFA candidate in Design)
"My favorite experience from this year has definitely been going on the Holy Week trip to Antigua, Guatemala. On our second day there, we were on a walking tour of the town, and we walked past a shop playing Livin' On A Prayer by Bon Jovi.
I said, "Bon Jovi?"
Jason Urban turned around and said, "That's basically our life this week."
So, even though his comment didn't make perfect sense to everyone that heard him, one of the themes of our week became livin' on a prayer for sure."
— Kendall Bradley (BFA candidate in Studio Art)
"My favorite experience during my first year at UT Austin was visiting the BOT Greenhouse with my drawing foundations class to sketch. The light was really beautiful in the early spring, and it was nice to discover a new part of campus."
— Abbie Weller (BA candidate in Art History)
“One of the best things about coming to UT Austin is being able to interact with people in all disciplines. It really helps you to approach your own studies from a unique perspective.”
— Seth Murchison (BFA candidate in Studio Art)
"Probably my weirdest, yet funniest, experience during my first year was when I was walking back to my dorm late at night and came upon two guys trying to film a skate video in a street intersection. The guy being filmed was very slowly going across the intersection while the other guy was clumsily skating in front of him and filming. Both of them were wearing sunglasses, khaki shorts, weird hats, dress shirts, and ties — and looked barely conscious."
— Madalin Beavers (BFA candidate in Visual Art Studies)
Leslie Moody Castro, curator-in-residence, at CentralTrak presents I Should Have Been a Pop Star
Fri. May 1, 2015
Leslie Moody Castro (MA in Art Education, 2010) presents I Should Have Been a Pop Star: Evaluating Value as curator-in-residence at CentralTrak. Castro's residency will take place April 18 – May 16, 2015.
The press release states:
The exhibition will exist within the conceptual framework of a series of articles in The Dallas Observer titled "I Should Have Been a Pop Star: Evaluating Value." In these weekly articles she will reveal her own struggles with value in the industry, as well as interview pertinent characters and voices that can offer insights into visual culture and how it is valued.
Students showcase products, art, and arguments during Research Week
Thu. April 30, 2015
From community-based social design to art exhibitions, symposia, and ethics in art education, department undergraduate students demonstrate the importance of research in Art Education, Art History, Design, and Studio Art.
Students presented projects and artwork during Research Week alongside colleagues across campus. Events included an exhibition of visual art for the duration of the week, presentations at the Longhorn Research Bazaar, and the Undergraduate Art History Research Symposium.
Third year Design students Alexandra Mann and Cassidy Reynolds presented sparkbuddy, a website that enables children to set health goals and connect with other children with similar goals.
“We probably spent around 75% of the semester researching and 25% of the semester formally designing,” described Alexandra Mann. “Good design is well informed within the context of each project. Its not possible to go through the full design process without gaining an in depth understanding of the ‘who, what, where, when, and how’ of your project.”
Natalie Gomez, Visual Art Studies undergraduate, presented a group research project entitled, Speak up! Should artistic expression in art education receive the same degree of legal protection as other types of freedom of expression?
When asked about the impetus for the research topic, Natalie Gomez explained, “It was an issue that we felt would be extremely beneficial to us and our peers as artists and future art educators.”
On Friday, April 24, seven Art History seniors presented their honors theses papers at the third annual Undergraduate Art History Research Symposium. The event celebrated the end of an intense semester spent writing a thesis paper alongside the students’ normal coursework. Art History senior Tracey Borders presented a paper entitled, Urbi et Orbi: Politics and Patronage in the Papacy of Boniface VIII.
“This process has helped me grow as an art historian and as a person,” said Tracey Borders. “It has been one of the most challenging experiences but entirely worth it. I hope to get involved in government after graduation, and the tools I have acquired through the research and writing of my thesis will be extremely useful for the career path I hope to pursue in Texas politics.”
The university’s Office of Undergraduate Research organizes Research Week every year with the School of Undergraduate Studies and the Senate of College Councils. Each year, Department of Art and Art History students participate in this university event and proudly present work resulting from hours spent in the studio, library, and in the community.
“There is no ‘education’ without research,” Natalie Gomez remarked. “Research is essentially a thorough inquiry and that skill is required of all students entering any profession.”
Juliet Whitsett talks about fighting cancer, raising children, and attending graduate school at UT Austin
Wed. April 29, 2015
Juliet Whitsett is a graduate student in Art Education and is writing her thesis on the principles that guide and motivate those who direct the Public Programs at the Friends of the High Line in New York. She is investigating how the recognition of these principles contributes to understandings regarding the development of art education in a community.
Whitsett received a BA in Art Education and certificate in Art in Special Education from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is proud to call herself as a teacher, public program coordinator, community arts educator, Salsa and Texas Swing dance instructor, plant lover, traveler, cancer survivor, stepmother to 13-year-old Kai, and mother to 3-year-old twin girls, Fischer and Sequoia.
She answered questions from Professor Paul Bolin by email.
Paul Bolin: Tell us about your background and what led you to the Art Education program at UT Austin.
Juliet Whitsett: When I was finishing my bachelor’s degree in Art Education, I told myself "There's no way I am applying for a job as an art teacher after graduation. I want to have some more adventures first.” So that’s what I did.
I moved from Madison to Austin and became an AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer teaching gardening to children. VISTA really shaped my life. I made contacts in the environmental education world, and I took a position as an Environmental Educator at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. I infused the arts into my entire curriculum, and I saw how they could be used to teach about the natural world.
After the Wildflower Center, I took a job as a guide with an international organization that leads trips for young adults to various parts of the world. Journeys focused on adventure travel, volunteerism, and language study. My work with them took me to the South Pacific and Central and South America. I landed in Mexico, where I lived for two years polishing up my Spanish and learning how to teach Salsa, and directing an art, dance, and Spanish camp for U.S. teens.
In 2009, I moved back to Austin. While working for a high-end landscape business, I discovered I had cancer. I spent six months in chemotherapy and one month undergoing radiation.
One day after a chemo session, I was listening to a piece on the radio about John Cage, and something about it made me reflect on creativity in a new and different way. I marveled at how he was so rewarded for his divergent thinking and how he followed so many visions. Hearing that flipped a switch and rekindled an interest in returning to my roots as an art educator. I took the GRE while undergoing radiation. A few months after I completed treatment, I began the Art Education program in the fall of 2010!
PB: What were the most challenging parts of the program, and conversely, the most rewarding?
JW: In the summer of 2011, I wanted to find an incredible internship. I wanted to work for the High Line in New York; however, the Public Programs Department of The Friends of the High Line did not have an internship program. I was fairly persistent and, recognizing that my experience with both art education and environmental education was the perfect fit, they accepted me as their first summer intern.
A few weeks before leaving for New York, I found out I was pregnant — with twins! Determined to fulfill my dream of living in New York for a summer, I spent the first three months of my pregnancy away from home, writing curriculum and executing public programs.
I encourage graduate students to find an internship that they really want. I learned so much and gained incredible contacts. I ended up working for Friends of the High Line the following year, writing some of their summer curriculum — Babies in Tote — from Austin. Eventually, the High Line's public programs became the subject of my thesis.
It is now 2015 and most of my classmates graduated in the spring of 2012. It has been a long haul. Writing a thesis while juggling sweet and inquisitive twins — now preschoolers — and a tween stepson, as well as working full-time and writing a thesis is challenging.
Now that I am in the throes of my final thesis edits and my last classes are wrapping up, it's starting to sink in that I really did this! I couldn't have done it without my loving husband's support or without the patience and confidence of you, my faculty adviser.
PB: Do you have plans once you finish the program?
JW: I’m going to do is celebrate my master's degree with my family and friends! I will continue to contribute to the world in a creative way, and right now, I’m enjoying teaching art and gardening at Austin Discovery School. In my younger years, I avoided Art Education in search of adventure. I'll be 40 this year and I have had my fair share of adventures, so I’m excited to embrace this next step.