West Liberty University hosts West Virginia Art Education Conference

West Liberty University hosted the WVAEA Fall 2021 conference on Friday, Oct. 22 and Saturday, Oct. 23.

West Liberty University (WLU) hosted the annual West Virginia Art Education Association (WVAEA) Conference last weekend, Oct. 22 through Oct. 23. Dr. Jeffery Grubbs, associate professor of art education and WVAEA president elect, stated that nearly 50 practicing West Virginia K-12 art teachers and 20 pre-service student art education majors from WLU and West Virginia University (WVU) were present at the conference. The conference was held face to face with a virtual option; however, those chosen to speak had to present on WLU’s campus. All presentations were recorded through Zoom and are linked on the WVAEA website.

The two-day conference hosted in five separate WLU buildings included various presentations. According to WVAEA’s website, the conference utilized WLU’s “arts facilities such as the mac computer lab, printmaking room, painting and drawing room, ceramic room, art therapy room, photo lab, and other general lecture rooms.” All the presentations were hands-on, demonstrated or lectured.

The Nutting Gallery hosted a short exhibit during the conference and showcased the artwork of the West Virginia art educators’ who attended. On Friday, Oct. 22 after the conclusion of presentations for the day, a charter bus from the Wilson Lodge Oglebay Resort took attendees to the Warhol Art Museum in Pittsburgh.

On Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, keynote speaker, Victoria Browning Wyeth, discussed the work of her grandfather, Andrew Wyeth, a renowned American artist, at the catered luncheon paid for by WLU. Ms. Wyeth’s lecture titled, “I Paint My Life”, examined the subject matter, context, technique and fun family stories behind her grandfather’s paintings, according to the WVAEA conference website.

A presentation by a professional outside of the art education field was given by Dr. Danielle Mehlman-Brightwell, assistant professor of communication and director of The Trumpet. Mehlman-Brightwell discussed how to utilize teaching tools and increase student engagement both in-person and remotely. According to Mehlman-Brightwell, “On Sat, Oct. 23, I presented “Teaching Tools: Increase Student Engagement in-person or remote” at the WVAEA conference. I presented strategies of how to increase students’ engagement through the use of teaching tools—Google Docs and Google Forms. I have found these tools to be useful in my in-person and Zoom classes. These tools have helped in students’ learning accountability, collaborative discussions and monitoring content mastery.”
“After Saturday’s great speaker presentations, we headed over to Oglebay’s Wilson Lodge and Resort for our Awards Banquet Dinner followed by the Art Auction and dress-up dance party,” shared Grubbs. Conference schedule available on WVAEA.com/conferences.

During the dinner banquet, seven awards were given to categories of art educators for best art teacher. One individual in the following categories was selected for an award: elementary, secondary, middle school, high school, higher education, retiree, West Virginia Art Teacher of the Year and a person outside of the field who has helped and served the arts. According to Grubbs, alumni of WLU and West Liberty State College received awards listed above. The four alumni are Ellen Culler, Hannah Eller, Emma Romanowski and Sarah Gaughenbaugh. Culler received the elementary art educator award, Eller received the middle school art educator award, Romanowski received the secondary school art educator award and Gaughenbaugh received the retired art educator award.

The conferences’ main goal was “all about trying to help art teachers improve their knowledge, strengthen advocacy through community and networking, building a tighter network, creating a community of relationships and to have a good time,” according to Grubbs.

Grubbs continually talked about the importance of networking and providing teachers with the opportunity to grow in knowledge through attendance of this conference. “A lot of times an art teacher in the school is the only art teacher in school; therefore, they are tremendously isolated. This can lead to a feeling of loneliness. This (conference) is an opportunity to train and grow in their knowledge but also a place to get revitalized, build relationships and talk with other colleagues,” explained Grubbs.

As mentioned earlier, the conference also hosted a two-day exhibit in WLU’s nutting gallery where art educators in attendance were able to pick two to three pieces they have made between 2018 to present day to showcase. Grubbs commented, “Art teachers rarely get to show their work, or get to exhibit it. The Nutting Gallery allowed them to do this during the conference.” Saying he was “certainly proud” that WLU hosted this years’ annual WVAEA conference, Grubs thinks it also helped art teachers make connections and strengthen the art department brand. “We want as a university to strengthen art education. Being central is a good thing. It helps students and teachers get really solid content,” said Grubbs.

The purpose of the WVAEA “is to advance West Virginia Art Education and promote the arts as essential elements in education programs,” according to the associations “Who Are We” page. For more information about this year’s 2021 Fall Conference hosted by WLU, please visit wvaea.com/conferences.