Courtnie Wolfgang, assistant professor in the Department of Art Education, was recently named the 2019 Higher Education Art Educator of the Year at the Virginia Art Education Association’s fall conference.
In her letter of recommendation, Sara Wilson McKay, chair of the VCUarts Department of Art Education, quoted a number of Wolfgang’s students who described her as “extremely kind, perceptive, inclusive, funny” and capable of creating “a classroom where people can laugh and be relaxed while also still thriving and expanding.” They consider Wolfgang a “hero,” an “extremely gifted educator,” and “the best teacher I have ever had—period.”
Nominator Melanie Buffington, associate professor of art education, added that “students continuously share how their worldviews have expanded as a result of their coursework with Courtnie.”
While the award acknowledges Wolfgang’s influence on her students, her work outside the classroom has also received recognition. She was recently awarded a VCUarts Dean’s Exploratory Grant to develop “Queering the Narrative,” an oral history project documenting the educational experience of LGBTQIA+ artists and arts educators.
The project adds to Wolfgang’s body of research and ongoing work in developing pedagogies of justice in the arts. Her scholarship was published in the Journal of Cultural Research in Art Education, where she explored white supremacy in American art education. She confronted her own whiteness and privilege; developed language for discussing related issues; and looked for opportunities for implementing actively anti-racist teaching methods in the arts.
“I hope my fellow white art educators in school, museum, and community spaces will read with open hearts and understand this not as a character assassination,” she wrote in the journal article. “Rather, this is our opportunity to acknowledge how legacies of racism and violence continue to deeply impact curriculum and pedagogy in the arts; to make space where we have failed in the past; and to reconsider pedagogy as a step toward reparation or mitigating the effects of white supremacy in Art Education on our students, our colleagues, and our communities.”