Middle and high school Art Subject Expert Teacher Ms. Rowland sees unlimited possibilities in art for her students, no matter their level of artistic skill. One of her favorite tactics is to remove all erasers from the classroom so students have to think outside their box and see an accidental line as more than a mistake. In Ms. Rowland’s class, students learn that art teaches problem solving, finding a new perspective, and resilience, all while discovering more about themselves.
We sat down with Ms. Rowland to learn more about why art education is important, what makes an artist, her own artistic passions, and how she guides students to —as Tim Gunn says— “make it work.” Read her full bio here.
What do you love about art?
Art teaches people to really look, to analyze, to make a mistake, and to figure out how to make it work. Art teaches people to be open to critiques and open to failure that can be resolved by a new challenge or perspective. Not all art is going to speak to all people, so there is an individuality about what and how you connect with the art you are making or seeing.
What’s your personal artistic focus?
My dedicated art time is in the glass studio. I work with stained and fused glass, a medium I was not exposed to until after college. I design my own patterns and pick out the glass based on color and texture for each panel. Most are inspired by landscapes, patch works (like quilts), or works of art I have seen in museums.
My latest stained glass (pictured) was inspired by Ad Reinhardt’s Red (1952) after a trip to the Virginia’s Fine Arts Museum. This piece has heavy textured clear glass with blue and burgundy accent pieces that trick the eye into seeing depth and perspective with the use of lines and angles.
Why are art and art education important?
Art is important because I believe inventors emanate in the art room. Rather than feeling like you have failed to create what you envisioned, you can take the chance to find a new perspective, even if the project you had in mind did not turn out the way you intended. Art teaches that there are so many answers to the same question. As long as you learned something from the process, you have succeeded. It’s all about how you perceive the final outcome.
A “failed” design is the first step to a great design, product, or innovation. Students should understand that there are numerous versions of every product before it goes to market. They learn that it's ok to fail and they can try again to find the part that worked, move ahead, and not give up. Sometimes the unplanned makes a piece better. Art helps students find this resilience.
Let kids be creative and watch them take over the world. They will be the inventors who change the world in ways we have yet to imagine.
What is the art curriculum at BASIS Independent McLean?
All PreK–grade 4 students take art once a week with Ms. Mauri. I start teaching the grade 5 students, who also have art three times a week. In grade 6, students choose one fine art—music, performing art, or visual art—to take that meets daily. In grades 7–12, art is an optional elective that students can choose.
My goal is to spread the love of art and creating to all students—personal expression does not have to be museum quality art.
In high school, can students take AP Art? If they take art, does it have to be AP?
AP Art is available to high school students who have shown an interest in art and performed at a high level. For now, AP Art students can focus on drawing or 2D design, which includes submitting 24 pieces of art. Most students will make many more than 24 pieces and pick their best ones. Not all kids who love art are going to be AP kids and that’s OK. You can make art for yourself and no one else has to like it.
What’s the best part about teaching middle and high school students?
The best part is when students connect with the subject and I see the light go on. To see the creativity flow, to have kids who get so focused on their creation that they get into the zone and lose themselves in the process is a joy.
I get to see a side of the students that some teachers never get to see. Their art expresses parts of them that words don’t. There are a lot of very talented artist in this school. I love giving them the opportunity to find their own art style that speaks to them.
What’s your favorite thing to teach during class?
I love finding ways to help students connect different subjects. Using art as a bridge can reinforce a concept at a higher level. Science and art go hand in hand; mixing colors is about waves of light hitting an object. Math also is used all the time in my classroom. Also, I love doing self-portraits—those always tell me so much about each kid.
What do you enjoy doing outside of teaching?
Other than breaking glass, I am a swimmer and a coach. I hang out at the pool, and in the summer you will find me in the pool teaching swim lessons. I have coached for J and M Swim since 2007. When I have time, I enjoy cooking, searching for good finds at estate sales, squeezing in a weekly Pilates class, and finding time to go to Wednesday afternoon figure drawing workshops.