What's It Like To Be A Working Artist?

“Once upon an art class, we came up with a whiteboard full of famous artists’ names. We realized once it was all finished that most of the people on the list were white men and were very, very dead. We decided it was important to learn about African-American and black artists.”

So opened a presentation from a 6th grader to the entire school community. As Soundview is an inquiry-based program, where we end up at the end of a unit can be very different from where we began. Our art teacher, Melissa Schmoll, was planning to conduct a unit of study where students would research a famous artist, create a brief biography, and recreate one of their works. These pieces would then get put in a book, and this book would be added to over the years and used as a "students teach students" about art history and various artists.

After the revelation from the sixth graders about the demographics of their most familiar artists, Ms. Schmoll and her class decided to  investigate the barriers artists of color face when trying to bring their work into the mainstream. As part of this investigation - which included watching and responding to the 2007 film “Colored Frames" as well as researching and presenting on an artist of color - sixth grade students were treated to a visit from artist Aaron Hazel. Mr. Hazel has worked as a full-time artist for the past few years, painting landscapes, athletics, historical figures, and private commission work.

Aaron spoke to the students about how he became an artist, about meeting and painting many players of the Seattle Seahawks, and how he navigates the world of professional art as a person of color. After a short presentation, students were able to ask questions, and then presented Aaron with art of their own. Soundview places a priority on relevant, engaging, and enriching opportunities like this, bringing the learning that happens in our classrooms to life.