‘It’s a whole different world’: Art education students engage in service and field work


Madison Carter

Artwork produced by elementary school students under supervision of WKU “Art2Dream” art education students.

Madison Carter, News reporter

It wasn’t until Leigh Ann Young nearly completed her major in calculus that she discovered she wanted to be an art teacher.

Pressure from teachers and family made her doubt her future as a teacher, and she struggled to find her own path. 

When she finally decided to sign up for an art class, her trajectory changed. 

“I threw myself into a random art class, and I fell in love immediately,” Young said. “I never felt like I had a place I belonged until I was in that class. Art was always something I wanted to do.”

She wasn’t alone. Students in the art education program say the major is different from other majors on campus. 

For Caitlyn Hollon, a junior art education major, the art program is like a family, and the support from professors and peers is unique. 

Hollon attributed her love of the program to a specific professor: Miwon Choe. 

“I have lupus, so I have been extremely sick,” Hollon said. “Two semesters I had to take off or half finish, and Miwon has been there to support me the entire way. She is the major.”

Miwon Choe, art education professor and Art2Dream coordinator, says the program is different because it requires students to prioritize service. 

The term “Art2Dream” became the program’s mantra and title, Choe said. Students use the term to encompass the program and the work they do in the community. 

The goal of the program is to teach students to use art to help others succeed, Choe said. The phrase represents the ability of art to engage, teach and transform students. 

“It’s our catchphrase,” Hollon said. “Instead of saying we’re WKU art education majors, we will say we’re Art2Dream.”

In the 2022 fall semester, the students in Choe’s Art Methods 1 and 2 class worked with Natcher Elementary and led the 4H art club at the Warren County extension office. 

Having classroom experience is critical for students who want to be art teachers, Choe said. Classrooms are where student teachers learn how to use their gift to help others. 

“A lot of art education programs do not let you out in the field until it’s your student teaching or observation hours,” Hollon said. “Miwon’s goal is to give you the experiences now that will make it easier when you transition to your own classroom. She will give us ideas for lessons, but it’s up to us what we do and how we do it.”

Art produced by elementary school students as part of a program led by WKU “Art2Dream” students. (Madison Carter)

At the extension office, the art students worked with 4-H groups K-12, Julie Brown, 4-H youth development agent, said.

“The art students were very excited to be there and help these students,” Brown said. “They all worked with the students great and they kept coming back. Some of the youth that attended were regular 4-H members, and some were youth we’ve never reached in 4H before, so that’s what made it more exciting.”

Brown said she is looking forward to seeing Art2Dream lead the art club again this spring. The spring 4-H art club will meet from 5 to 7 p.m. on March 2, 9, 23 and 30 at the Warren County extension office. 

“I think art is a way they can provide an outlet for their expressions,” Brown said. “For kids that may not be comfortable standing up and speaking in front of others, they can express their interest and talk to others through their forms of art.”

During her time at Natcher Elementary, Hollon taught third graders. 

Hollon’s group worked on art inspired by Frank Stella, an artist from the ’80s whose works incorporated geometry, Hollon said. The lesson focused on teaching students about overlapping, composition and pattern.

At the extension office, Hollon worked with 4-H members on a project themed “Albert Einstein in Monet’s Garden.”

“The first activity was a space theme and it was a lesson on water color and color mixing,” Hollon said. “In the end we did a recap for the parents and had a showcase for the children’s artwork.”

Hollon said the experience at Natcher Elementary and the 4-H program in the fall showed her the value of being a teacher. 

“You would probably think that there’s not much that goes into being an art teacher,” Hollon said.  “You might think we get to have fun and do crafts all day, but there is so much that goes into it. Our goal as teachers is to make well rounded students who are emotionally stable and self regulated. Our goal is to make functional and happy humans.”

Choe said students in the program start to recognize the value of their work the more they are in the classroom interacting with children. 

“The longer you are in the field and doing what you believe is right, that gives you the assurance and the confidence to continue,” Choe said. 

Field experience also gives students the opportunity to learn how to work with children, Choe said. 

“Students are not all coming to you ready to learn,” Choe said.  “You develop that intuitiveness so you know how to address that. Once you start building that relationship of trust with your students, then you can teach.”

Brittany Bradshaw, junior art education major, dreams of working as an elementary school art teacher in the future. 

Working with kids one on one was a completely different experience than simply observing, Bradshaw said.

“I’ve gone into schools a couple times before this semester, but being part of this program has really helped me see what my future is going to be like,” Bradshaw said. “When I graduate, this semester is going to be what I look back on.”

A poster describing the “Art2Dream” program and its work with elementary school students. (Madison Carter)

Bradshaw worked with students from kindergarten to third grade while she was at Natcher Elementary. 

“They have a lot of energy and excitement,” Bradshaw said. “They’re at that age where they are still learning the world around them, and what better way to express it when they are still learning words than just put something on a page.”

Bradshaw was able to incorporate her musical talents into activities with the children at Natcher and 4-H. 

“They were always really excited to get into the music,” Bradshaw said. “There was one day where we were having our kids make paper lanterns, and we talked about the tradition of paper lanterns and played the song ‘I See the Light’ from ‘Tangled.’ All of the kids just started singing, and it was a really beautiful sight to see these kids who are all from different walks of life just come together and sing.”

The “Art of Creative Resilience: The Walls turned Sideways, ARE Bridges!” was an exhibition at SKyPAC that showcased the P-12 outreach work Art2Dream completed in the past three years, including work from Natcher Elementary and the 4-H Extension Office. 

The exhibit was on display for the month of February and showed student-made paper lanterns, fantasy space art and haiku books. 

According to Young, although the program is very tough, it is an essential part of becoming a good teacher. 

“I will not sugar coat it, this class has been difficult,” Young said. “It will make you work hard, but the most rewarding part has been seeing the students’ faces. I stress myself out by planning and making everything perfect, but when I present to the class and see them actually doing the task it’s a whole different world.”

In the fall, Young was working on a final project of a self portrait about what she struggles with. 

“What I struggle with is carrying this weight of carrying the world,” Young said “As a teacher, you are told that you are in charge of the future people of the world, and that’s true. We carry the weight of all these students that come through to us and we want the best for them.” 

For Young, art is a way to ease anxiety and find a solution to the things she struggles with.

“I think a lot of people can say that art is a safe space,” Young said. “I find art to be very relaxing because when everything seems to be going upside down and I’m in a very hard place, art has been the way out.”

News reporter Madison Carter can be reached at [email protected].