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Parents Teach Art, Part 2: Making it Happen

Sep 5, 2008

by EyePopArt handmade and vintage goods

In my recent article Parents Teach Art I shared information about Duniway Elementary School in Portland, Oregon, and its award-winning, parent-led art program. Now I’ll go into more detail about how to make a program like this work at your child’s school. 

[Second grade "Paint and Poetry" lesson]

The Art Committee
If you are lucky enough to have your school’s support, and you have a strong force of willing parent volunteers, form an Art Committee. At Duniway, we found that the program runs smoothly with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, such as:

  • Chairperson or Co-Chairs – Runs committee meetings, assigns tasks, follows up on action items, liaison to school administration and PTA.
  • Art Room "Mom" (or Dad!) – If you have a designated art room, this person keeps it clean and organized.
  • Art Show Coordinator – Manages volunteer crew for set-up and take-down of student art show. 
  • Curriculum Master – Develops lessons, leads training sessions, maintains overall art curriculum.
  • Kiln Master – Maintains clay and kiln-related supplies, develops kiln use schedule, provides kiln support.
  • Publicity Coordinator – Creates and distributes promotional materials for art show, writes press releases, etc.
  • Scheduling Coordinator – Develops master schedule for art room and individual schedules for each class based on classroom teachers’ input.
  • Supply Master/Treasurer – Orders and maintains supplies, responsible for budgeting and cash flow, seeks donations.
  • Web Master – Maintains a website or blog to post lesson plans, showcase student art, and keep parents informed.
  • Volunteer Coordinator – Maintains volunteer database, recruits Classroom Art Coordinators, makes phone calls, etc. to enlist help!

It’s also great to have at-large committee members who can assist where needed. Of course, you might not need to fill all of these positions — remember to start small! 

[Kindergarten "Basic Bugs" lesson]

Getting Ready
Now that you have a framework in place, it’s time to start making it happen! 

Develop an "art year calendar" outlining deadlines and important dates. At Duniway, art is a twelve-week program that begins in January and ends in April, with a student art show in May. (But the art committee works all year long.) You can expect to put in 1-3 hours a week volunteering, so be sure you have the time before making the commitment. 

Come up with a theme. Duniway holds a poster contest and incorporates the theme at the art show: for "Art Rocks," we held a silent auction of kid-decorated musical instruments; for "Art á La Mode," we sold pie and ice cream, etc.

[Guitars decorated by kids for the "Art Rocks" silent auction]

In the fall, work on developing curriculum, creating schedules, soliciting donations, recruiting volunteers and inventorying supplies. Try to get all your supplies in stock by mid-December. Hold information and training sessions for parents so they’ll be ready to start teaching in January. Provide copies of lesson plans, show samples and demonstrate techniques. 

Build a library of prints, posters, slides, books and music to help enhance the kids’ art experience. Slide presentations are amazing, but even walking around showing pictures from a book will be inspiring. An alternative is to go digital and project images from the web; try Artcyclopedia for a vast library of masterpieces.

Appoint a Classroom Art Coordinator for each classroom who will make sure parents sign up to teach and assist with every class. The Coordinator also creates portfolios for storing finished work and meets with each child at the end of the program to select and title pieces for the art show.

[Young designer at work in one of my mandala classes]

Teaching Art
You’re standing at the front of the class with 24 pairs of bright eyes expectantly fixed on you. Don’t panic! Here are some tips to help you out:

  • Allow adequate time for set-up and clean-up.
  • Set ground rules, like: raise your hand, keep a positive attitude and turn mistakes into "happy accidents" by finding a way to make it work instead of erasing or starting over. 
  • Be prepared. Study the lesson plan and check supplies in advance.
  • Explain that examples are for inspiration, not copying.
  • Demonstrate the technique, but keep it short and sweet! Kids will grasp the concept quickly, and you don’t want to bore them. Explain the lesson, then get out of the way!
  • Have free-drawing materials available for those who finish early.
  • To get kids’ attention, clap your hands and have them put down their materials and clap back in the same rhythm, such as "clap, clap, clap-clap-clap." Dimming the lights also helps.
  • Never, ever tell them they’ve done it "wrong." Encourage free expression — each child’s artwork is unique and special.

Do you have more teaching tips? Post them in the comments below!

[Second graders’ abstract paintings, based on the work of Joan Miro, hanging at the Duniway Student Art Show]

Putting on a Student Art Show
Just one 2-D piece and one 3-D piece from each child provides enough art to transform two gyms and two hallways into an incredible art gallery. 

[A parent volunteer arranges mounted artwork to hang]

At Duniway, we made banners of black vinyl which are attached to long poles. The selected artwork is mounted, labeled, laid out and attached to the banners with removable putty. Then, with the help of tall ladders, the poles are suspended from the metal window screens and basketball backboards in the gym using chains with hooks. 

[Hanging art is fun!]

A student art show is a wonderful time to celebrate art with the community. Duniway makes it exciting with student musicians, student portrait artists, a pizza dinner and a hands-on art station for little ones.We’ve even had a mini-tattoo parlor featuring temporary tattoos made from children’s artwork! Silent auctions of classroom art projects, raffle prizes, and the sale of children’s art note cards and custom t-shirts can also help raise funds for the program.

[The South Gym is transformed into the South Gallery for the evening]

Do What You Can
I hope these articles have been inspiring. If you can’t find a way to work art into the school day, consider after-school classes such as those offered by Portland’s SUN (Schools Uniting Neighborhoods) program. Even if you just teach one class, you will have touched young lives in a way that will make a difference. Keep asking for more art, and don’t be afraid to do it yourself.  

Further Resources:
Duniway Art Lesson Plans:
Artcyclopedia — Art image library and search engine:

Please see Part One of this article for more resources.

About the author: Christine Claringbold, aka EyePopArt, has been in business since 2003. She is also a mom, an art teacher and a back-up singer in a punk rock band. Her designs have been published in Tattoo Flash Magazine, and her record products have been reviewed by Venus Zine, National Geographic Traveler, Brainstorm Northwest magazine, and blogs including Great Green Goods and Wickedly Chic. She is a proud member of Trillium Artisans, Etsy Trashion, PDX Etsy and Eco Etsy. Check out her blog at

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  • JeweledAmbrosia

    JeweledAmbrosia said 9 years ago

    I love this article, great ideas!

  • Hatdiva

    Hatdiva said 9 years ago

    I find it amazing that this school has so many resources! I mentioned this concept to the yard duty teacher at my nearby school and she blew me off. Hmmmm. I'll have to do something about that!

  • EyePopArt

    EyePopArt said 9 years ago

    Hatdiva - She blew you off? That's really sad. You should do something about it!

  • DinnerTimeChimes

    DinnerTimeChimes said 9 years ago

    Another great article!

  • haddy2dogs

    haddy2dogs said 9 years ago

    This is awesome! I am going to pitch it to my daughters school, thank you.

  • jared Admin

    jared said 9 years ago

    Is it just me, or does that kid in the drum collage photo look like a young Rob Kalin? :)

  • thepairabirds

    thepairabirds said 9 years ago

    Great article! That opening picture is wonderful. And, yeah Jared, I thought that was Rob K as a youngster, too :)

  • EyePopArt

    EyePopArt said 9 years ago

    OMG, you're right! That is hilarious!

  • bellabub

    bellabub said 9 years ago

    this is sooooo awesome and close to my heart! kids and art are both precious gifts, combine the two and you get AMAZING! love love love it!

  • SeaSideSupply

    SeaSideSupply said 9 years ago

    Every fall my children's art teach has "Twilight Art Night" It's open to the entire town and it brings a huge crowd! The kids love it!! Great article!! I'm sorry.... I thought that was Rob!! You know it is!

  • SweetLollipopShop

    SweetLollipopShop said 9 years ago

    What a fabulous idea, this is definately getting forwarded to my daughters school.

  • jamieribisi

    jamieribisi said 9 years ago

    This is so inspirational!!!!

  • ThreeBySea

    ThreeBySea said 9 years ago

    This sounds like such a great school! I can only hope my son ends up in a place this great. If not, I guess I'll have to work to make it this great! Regarding tips for teaching kids, I find that kids, especially the younger ones, love to give their opinions and talk about themselves. So ask them questions about their work- what is it? how did you come up with that idea? why did you decide to do X?

  • pogoshop

    pogoshop said 9 years ago

    Fantastic! I hope these great ideas spread like wildfire. Even schools with art teachers could use some of these suggestions and an awesome group of volunteers like the ones at Duniway. I love the gym displays. Another idea is to incorporate language by having the students write "artist statements" by their creations or a brief "About the Artist" bio. Thanks for highlighting this great group!

  • alankarshilpa

    alankarshilpa said 9 years ago

    So inspiring.We need more people like you. Keep up the good work

  • roseandrosa

    roseandrosa said 9 years ago

    great way to get kids into the arts and away from tv and video games. nice work

  • GemmaBeads

    GemmaBeads said 9 years ago

    Kids want to be creative. It's naturally in them. Parents need to be more appreciative of what good it is and what good it does for their kids. I love these articles!

  • OliveSomeday

    OliveSomeday said 9 years ago

    This is Great!!! I am a second year art educator in Pa and I was hoping for an Art show this Spring. Thanks for this inspiring article with RESOURCES! xo

  • eliwill

    eliwill said 9 years ago

    this is such a wonderful supplement to an art education program with an art specialist. the children that attend this school are so fortunate and so if the art teacher!

  • DogboneArt

    DogboneArt said 9 years ago

    enjoyed part two as well..great work again eyepopart! i'll definitely be checking out the lessons for my own classroom.

  • EyePopArt

    EyePopArt said 9 years ago

    eliwill, actually there is no art teacher or art specialist at this school - the art program is coordinated and taught entirely by parent volunteers!

  • PearlyGrey

    PearlyGrey said 9 years ago

    Great article Christine! You are an inspiration to us all.

  • PDXfabricdeli

    PDXfabricdeli said 9 years ago

    My kids had an art program very similar to this one in their schools. I even volunteered to take my turn as "picture person" and taught art. It connected into writing, math and science, a fabulous program. I encourage everyone to get such a program at their shools going.

  • purplesmurple

    purplesmurple said 9 years ago

    My children's school, has a program called Meet the Masters. We are in South Florida, but it looks like a very popular program. The cool thing is, its the parents who teach it. We have assigned Master Works we persent to the class, and teach the kids different elements of art and how to critique a painting. The kids are so intuitive, they amaze me and teach me something new everytime I go. Then we let them create their own pieces of art inspired by the artists. Super cool!!

  • pandoraslocker

    pandoraslocker said 9 years ago

    Awesome article! When I was in school, the parents came in and taught music/music history. When I become a teacher (in a year and a half :)) I hope the parents of my future school will be involved in their kids learning as well, makes the job easier :)

  • funkeyfinds

    funkeyfinds said 8 years ago

    looove it!! keep the art in schools!

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