Tesni Stephen, MAE Art Education
Student at VCU: 2014-2016
Current Employment: Education Manager at The Visual Arts Center of Richmond, Artist Mentor at Milk River Arts
What was one of your best experiences while you were part of the Department of Art Education?
Meeting my cohort and my professors and all the wonderful experiences we had together. I can’t pick just one but I loved presenting at conferences about things I learned and cared about, writing papers with faculty and submitting them for publication (and having it published!), writing publicly accessible curricula for Art 180, participating in the Art of Nursing program, and all the classes I got to take that worked with the Richmond City Justice Center. (To name a few!)
How did the Department of Art Education prepare you for your job now?
I feel like a much better writer and researcher. I was afraid of these processes before because I had gone to an art school and didn’t have much confidence in these areas. This has made me believe that I can research, write, and communicate my ideas in written and oral ways. I may even think it’s fun now!
What do you most enjoy about being an art educator?
I was an educator in community settings for 8 years before going back to school to study it. Now I work mostly behind the scenes. I love both aspects in that with teaching I get to have fun, be myself, come up with my own curricula (with the help of students and their interests!) and really help and see people grow and have a great time while doing it. I have also enjoyed the behind the scenes work in my current job, as I get to see how to make programs happen in a community center. There is creativity in this as well. I value both sides of the job and hope to have a healthy balance one day!
What role does your art making practice play in your teaching?
I get to make art and then teach classes (or make programs) about fun things that I get inspired by. I make work that makes people happy- costumes, gifts, parties, etc. Soon I’ll be teaching a soft sculpture class to Adults at VisArts. I’ve only taught this class to kids and it’s one of the best things I teach because we learn solid patternmaking skills and create hilarious soft sculptures. I can’t wait to do it with adults! I am always inspired to teach what makes me happy, because it usually makes other people happy!
What advice would you give to someone that wants to teach art?
Go find avenues to try it! Volunteer at schools or at community centers. Teachers always need help and what a fun way to try it! If you’re thinking about going to school for it, talk and meet with professors at those programs. The people I was taught by were the most influential. VCU has amazing professors who exposed me to so many beautiful things and pushed me to do things I was uncomfortable with in a very supportive way.