Everyartist Local Champion: Marnie McLaughlin, Middle School Art Maven

Pat: Marnie, could you tell Everyartist a little about yourself?

Marnie:  I teach middle school art at Rippowam Cisqua, a private school in Bedford, NY. I've been teaching there for nearly 20 years!

In all that time there have been many memorable events, but a truly magical classroom moment for me was when an entire group was immersed in making a massive mess while silkscreen printing; the students were so engaged and excited about their work.

We also take trips to see and involve ourselves in art. My entire class and I went to see Everyartist’s founder, Brendan O’Connell, in his barn studio on a field trip. Since I am aware that many of the students I teach may never take a studio art class again after middle school, I strive to make art accessible to all while providing rich studio experiences. 

Brendan's studio.jpg

Pat: Is your school a STEAM or a STEM school?

Marnie: Our school is a STEAM school. We have an Innovation Program that is distinct from the Art Program. Students take classes in both. I embrace STEAM by teaching current art technologies, such as digital imaging, and working video into curriculum and by emphasizing the Math we come across in making Art.  In our Innovation program, students work on collaborative interdisciplinary projects in a Makerspace.

Students in studio1.jpg
8th grade screeen print portraits.jpg

Pat: Are there particular strategies, or practices you use to spark Creativity in you classroom environments?

Marnie: I think the best way to spark creativity is to give students both structure and choice. Provide a material to explore, teach them a few techniques, and give them an open ended prompt that allows for divergent thinking.

For example, after learning about color schemes and practicing acrylic painting, I ask students to explore the idea of camouflage in nature and to design their own camo pattern, hiding something in the design.

Another creativity stretcher is making letters to a word with each letter designed/ decorated like something that begins with that letter, sounds like the letter or is in the shape of the letter.

I try to encourage students to generate multiple ideas around a theme before diving in.

9th mural.jpg

Pat: What is the single most-restrictive influence on student creativity? 

Marnie: I think being afraid to risk and fail most often blocks creativity. I emphasize practice, experimentation and trial and error. If a student seems blocked on a particular project, I ask them questions about their interests and see if something they are enthusiastic about can be explored through the process or connected to a theme. Bringing familiar ideas in often frees up the students to then think creatively.

students screenprinting.jpg

Pat: Do you feel it is important to make art in every classroom?

Marnie: I feel that every child should have art making experiences in school and that art can be made in any classroom space. The subject does not define where art can be made.

Pat:  We all wish for “What ifs”...If you had a magic wand, what would be your wish?

Marnie: If I had a magic wand I'd create more time between classes to gather my breath and prep for the next group.  I'd make more spaces to show student artwork. Currently, I show lots of it on my classroom Instagram page: Rippartuc

 Pat: If you and your students have participated in Everyartist Live!, tell us about the event, student participation, valuable outcomes for school and students, plans for future involvement, etc….

 Marnie: Last year my students drew inventions based on the Everyartist Live prompt, but unfortunately we were past deadline so we didn't post. But they came up with awesome ideas and drawings. We'll try again this year! I love the website!