Art Teachers Bring Real World Experiences Into Classroom

Many people complain that teachers have no real-world experience with what they teach. This may be the case for some, but art teachers Mr.  Domenic Frunzi and Mr. Tom Dareneau are exceptions.

Both are involved with Art 21, New York-based chronicler of contemporary art and artists through its Peabody Award-winning biennial television series, Art in the Twenty-First Century. Art 21 also provides art materials and programs to teachers. Through the program, Mr. Dareneau and Mr. Frunzi meet monthly online with cross-curricular educators to discuss teaching strategies and best practices.

“We now have a direct line to the heart of contemporary art we get to see what is happening in real time,” Mr. Dareneau said. “By looking at contemporary artists, our students are able to see how the definition of art is changing daily.”

He said students are able to see artists creating with a purpose and use multiple methods to approach subject matter.

“We may watch five film segments to see how five different artist explore loneliness, conservation or identity,” he said.  “We use the series to explore themes and how to send a message.”

Through Art 21, students also have learned and communicated with Oliver Herring, a German artist living in New York who uses his art as a way to meet new people, and looked at artists Cai Guo-Qiang, Vic Muniz, and Phil Hansen.

“Since starting with Art 21, we have noticed a huge change in our students and the classroom environment,” Mr. Dareneau said. “Students are engaging outside of class far more than previous years and there is a much stronger sense of community and critical thinking.”

In addition to his connection with Art 21, Mr. Frunzi has worked in Philadelphia as a mural painter on an internship and currently is a work-exchange employee at The Clay Studio in Old City Philadelphia.

The Clay Studio was founded in 1974 by five artists in need of workspace, giving students just out of art school an affordable studio space and shared equipment, according to its website. The studio has grown, though, to a community art center, promoting the importance of the ceramic arts and bringing them to more people.

“Today, the Studio’s programs are geared toward promoting access to the ceramic arts, at all levels of interest and proficiency, from practicing professionals to disenfranchised children of the inner city to art enthusiasts, students and collectors,” according to the website.

Mr. Dareneau said art is about someone having integrity in trying to capture “something you’re looking for”.  He says he never realized he wanted to teach art until graduate school and has no natural abilities as an artist; nonetheless, he says he learned to be a good artist with practice, as can anyone. “It’s a matter of blood and tears,” he says.

According to Mr. Frunzi, being an artist is all about having “a strong point of view and having craftsmanship put into the final product”. He said he tries to get his students to work together, saying art is collaborative, and ideas generate from other ideas.