FEATURED MEMBERS

Welcome to the Women's Caucus Featured Members page! It showcases our diverse members — from K-12 art educators to college professors — who demonstrate exemplary teaching, service, and research.

All featured members are asked to respond to the following questions:

• In what ways does feminism impact your practice?

• Who has been influential to you in your practice?

• How do you work towards empowering yourself, and others?

Current Featuring Member

Amy Brook Snider, Ph.D

Professor Emerita, Art and Design Education
Pratt Institute

Resume: amybrooksnider.com
Contact: amy@amybrooksnider.com 

Amy Snider

• In what ways does feminism impact your practice?

Both in my teaching and position as Director of Pratt’s Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC), I would use the structure of theconsciousness-raising groups, spawned by the Women’s Liberation Movement during the 1970s, to facilitate discussions. About WAC’sJournal Project, I wrote:

The idea that teaching and learning are related activities and cannot be separated in a true educational community [consisting of students and faculty] was to be the central focus of The Journal Project...The meetings were lively. For each two-hour session, two or three journal writers were asked to pick an excerpt and make copies for all the members of the group. The excerpt was often about an [assigned problem] related to teaching or learning... A writer would read his or her excerpt aloud and... afterwards, the reader would first elaborate on the excerpt and the subject was open for discussion. No matter what the issue, it was clear that professors of [art, design]... or liberal arts were all fundamentally connected to each other through their teaching... Students would provide the teachers with the "other side" of a topic and vice versa; teachers from widely different disciplines gave each other fresh perspectives. It was a novel experience in the context of college teaching where few professors consult each other about what they do in the classroom and studio or discuss their teaching with their students (Snider and Williams,  2002, p. 4).

When I left Pratt Institute in 2014, my speech at my retirement party centered on another feminist value. 

While I hadn’t yet read Nel Noddings in those early days, I was already applying what she called her “feminine approach to ethics and moral education.” Thus, caring relationships were at the core of our department’s values. As our spaces grew with each new location, the green velvet couch and table and chairs in the ADE computer lab, dedicated classroom with its circular arrangement of chairs, and the round table in my office, were places where such caring relationships were nurtured. My office came to resemble my childhood living room where the shared ideas, plans, failed projects, available jobs, teacher-student conflicts, and personal problems were either resolved or abled for further discussion (Leaving HomePratt Institute, Dec. 2014).  

The following excerpts from my memoir in process exemplify my core values and reflect feminist principles.

  • It was in my office-cum-living room that I got to know my students and faculty through long and interesting conversations that often caused a bottleneck in the small outer office waiting area. For example, when I interviewed applicants for our two graduate programs, I always began the encounter with how did you get here and why now? The stories were fascinating and reminded me of Mary Catherine Bateson’s book, Composing a Life (1989) in which she describes how our lives are not the predictable linear progressions envisioned by children, planning what they wanted to be when they grew up. Increasingly, Bateson suggests, lives are improvisational as we respond to unplanned, random events with imagination and courage. 

  • Repeatedly, I would hear a variety of reasons why these young, and not so young, applicants had first rejected the idea of becoming a teacher, although having a teaching parent was cited frequently. And yet many of them returned to their original dream of a life in teaching. Next, I would present them with the difficulties of that life to test their resolve. These conversations were often very personal and became the basis for some lasting relationships between several of the applicants who decided to enter the program, and me. 

  • If we maintain a strictly “professional” stance toward our students, we make it difficult for them to relate to us as people. We are strangers in their world and they in ours and the classroom community remains an “us and them” situation. ‘Breaking out’ of the classroom and school walls as well as the traditional role of teacher and student whenever I could manage it, was an early strategy of mine. 

  • I was increasingly involved in the art projects I designed for my students—not actually working with them but developing activities that were engaging to me. I was like the contemporary artists who make the plans for a fabricator or the conceptual artists who describe their works in texts on gallery walls without making them. The artist-teacher becomes a collaborator in the projects—either through designing the problem and its specific limitations or sometimes through a kind of marginal participation in the project itself.

  • I was using what I had learned from my experience in psychoanalysis and our consciousness raising group. In the process of analysis, lying on a couch with the analyst behind you and rarely commenting, I learned to listen to myself—I could almost visualize the words in front of me. And, in our group, I learned to listen closely to the other women, since one of the rules of consciousness raising is that there is no discussion until everyone takes her turn to comment on a topic. This kind of listening to oneself and another person closely is an important component of empathy, a quality that is essential in all human relationships. Then too, I learned that by being observed or listened to, one becomes more self-conscious and critical—a "reflective practitioner" (Schön, 1983). Producing that kind of teacher was one of the aims of our programs.

• Who has been influential to you in your practice? 

The writers Herbert Kohl, Phillip Lopate, Jonathan Kozol, Eliot Wigginton, Robert Coles, Denise Levertov, and Vivian Paley; The late High School of Music and Art art teacher and friend, Sylvia Milgram; Art educators Brent and Marjorie Wilson, Terry Barrett, Ken Marantz, Marilyn Zurmuehlen, George Szekely, Harold Pearse, Cynthia Taylor, and Jodi Kushins, and several others.

• How do you work towards empowering yourself, and others?

As noted previously, during the gestation period of my development as a teacher of art in the NYC public schools and later, in my 36 years at Pratt Institute as an administrator and instructor, I’ve worked to empower the students and faculty both in the Art and Design Education Department and in the programs, I’ve developed or in which I’ve been involved.

Upon “retirement” in 2014, I chose not to retire but to reinvent myself using the broader lens of the art of teaching rather than art education. Thus, I have conducted professional development workshops for teachers in all disciplines and levels. And, for the past two years, the participants in Amy’s Salon for educators, who come from a variety of teaching and learning situations, have reinforced the efficacy of that perspective. This past year I initiated a group, Women in Retirement. During our first meeting where discussed issues related to retirement with a focus on the relationship between meaningful work and gender identity.

Finally, I am volunteering for the American Civil Liberties Union, an organization which I believe will empower individuals and organizations through its work in the courts. I am also planning to volunteer for Democratic New York State Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in her campaign for reelection, to ensure that women are better represented in the Congress.

Past Featured Member- Jim Sanders

Jim Sanders, Associate Professor

Department of Arts Administration, Education and Policy
The Ohio State University – Columbus, OHIO

James Sanders Photo by Dr. Bill Nieberding

James H Sanders III, Ph. D. (Jim) is an associate professor in the Arts Administration, Education and Policy Program at The Ohio State University.  Author and Founding Principal of the Arts-Based Elementary (NC Charter) School, Sanders came to academe after 26 years in non-profit arts administration. Sanders earned his Ph.D. in Education (Curriculum and Instruction) at the University of North Carolina Greensboro (1999), MFA at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale (1976), and BFA from Arkansas State University (1974).  His research explores a tangle of topics including educational policy, material and visual culture, artful inquiry in the visual and performing arts, community cultural practices, and sexualities theories. Sanders was a founding trustee of the International Curriculum and Pedagogy Group, an engaged trustee of Ohio Citizens for the Arts, and has served as an InSEA Executive (Treasurer) since 2008.

Sanders writings have been published in peer-reviewed publications, including Qualitative Studies in Education (1999), Studies in Art Education (2006, 2008, 2013, 2014), The Journal of Cultural Research in Art Education (2009, 2013, 2014), The International Journal of LGBT Issues in Education (2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012), Journal of Social Theory in Art Education (2003, 2005, 2010, 2013, 2014), Visual Arts Research (2006, 2007), the International Journal of Art and Design Education (UK with Kim Cosier, 2007), and International Journal of Education through Art (with Christine Ballengee-Morris, 2009), other journals and numerous book chapters. Sanders has delivered papers in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa in eleven national contexts.

• In what ways does feminism impact your practice?

  • As an arts educator feminism is embodied by creating dialogical learning spaces where open exchange nurtures collaborative, ongoing inquiries; By arranging classroom seating in circular form, students are reminded they can reshape the environments that discipline their dialogues.  Dissembling hierarchies and an honoring of our collective voices our rehearsals of caring exchange take form

  • The above addresses an embrace of equitable exchange of personal testimonies and distributions of leadership roles that encourage all class participants’ engagement – at times this includes sharing edibles as a signifier of nurturance.

  • Soliciting not only student insights and their shared personal testimonies, I aim to attend to their physical health and comfort with pleasure—acknowledging forms of communication and creativity too frequently ignored in academe.

  • In nurturing shared consciousness raising practices first wave feminist performed pedagogical, political and personal form of self-empowerment are experienced as we collectively develop new ways of embracing exchanges of caring, nurturance and honoring those foremothers who have birthed our practices.

  • In honoring those women who shaped my pedagogical practices and world views (many listed below) my simple psalms sing their praises and reaffirm a love for the lessons they’ve so generously shared.

• Who has been influential to you in your practice? 

  • From my earliest formative years I recall wise women shaping my grasp of being in the world; from my maternal grandmother Virgie James (b. 1899) whose environmental concerns and reverent appreciation of beauty inform my sustained activism.  My paternal grandmother Mable Bowman Sanders' appreciation of ethnic diversity, demonstrated political savvy and erotic self-empowerment inspired my subsequent research into embodied pleasures.  My many aunts (Clara Cossey, Lucille James, Aunt Miggs Stanley, Connie Rose) were all strong women who worked in an outside the home—efficiently and creatively running forms, offices, and businesses they taught their children to honor those foremothers who shaped the world, a strong valuing of ethical behavior and mindfulness to hearth and hearts of those they touched.

  • In High School, Drama teacher Diane Noblitt, introduced me to the works by Gertrude Stein, Thornton Wilder, Ionesco and Jean Genet; nurturing the gay man I was becoming and nonjudgmentally hearing my first pronouncements of sexual identifications (this being 1966-1968 in a Northwest Chicago suburb).

  • I was also blessed to be surrounded by gay and lesbian role models, and especially the working class lesbian community in our All-American City (Woodstock, Illinois) that taught me to work with horses, ride a motorcycle, and live openly when one could do so safely, and when that was impossible, valuing the larger community of women and gay men who introduced me to new worlds in which we could collectively thrive and learn.  

  • As an undergraduate at Arkansas State University, Dr. Sylvia Richards (who danced with Charles Weidman and was married to the Art Department Chair), taught me to listen to my body, to honor its sacred powers, and value how its mindfully moving form could be considered powerful art forces that in the USA were founded by brilliant women (especially Ruth St. Dennis, Loie Fuller, Doris Humphrey, and Martha Graham). Attending Arkansas’ first feminist conference in Pine Bluff in the early 1970s, I was inspired by tales told by Marcia Tucker, and the experiences inciting her founding of the New Museum in New York City.

  • Mrs. Jones, from whom I rented a shotgun apartment in Jonesboro, taught me to compost, and to thrive with/in a living planet, and shared her skills in gardening, knowledge of companion planting, and rigorous record keeping; listening to the environment, the seasons, its cycles and creatures that share our sacred planet

  • In Graduate School studying fibers with M. Joan Lintault, I gained an appreciation for “women’s work” practiced across many cultures. She introduced our MFA cohort to work by California feminist artists of Woman’s House, and with the art department hosted a Judy Chicago residency.  Later I learned of Faith Ringgold’s practice, and appreciation for the performance work of Carolee Schneeman among others advancing self-determined forms of inquiry that honored personal aesthetic direction that engaged and worked through the body.

  • While pursuing my second terminal degree (a Ph.D. in Education as a Cultural Study at UNC-Greensboro) my mentor Wanda Pillow, introduced me to hers, Patti Lather who guided her doctoral studies at OSU.  Wanda encouraged my study of post-structural feminist thought, shared works by Trinh T. Minh ha, Linda Singer, Judith Butler and Deborah Britzman among other brilliant scholars.  Concurrently another doctoral mentor, Kathleen Casey, introduced me to rituals of speaking (see Linda Alcoff), taught me to honor Black Feminist Thought (see Patricia Hill Collins), and approaches to narrative research that embodied valuing of personal testimony and appreciation for consciousness raising (reading and subsequently interacting with George Noblitt, Madeleine Grumet and Bill Pinar).

• How do you work towards empowering yourself, and others?

Working with/in communities of strong women at The Ohio State University, especially those in the Department of Arts Administration, Education and Policy (especially Christine Ballengee-Morris, Vesta Daniel, Margaret Wyszomirski, Debbie Smith-Shank, Karen Hutzel and Candace Stout) and feminist-friendly male colleagues Mike Parsons and Terry Barrett, I gratefully accept their guidance, mentorship, and support. Working with an even larger community of colleagues (Kim Cosier and Pat Stuhr in Wisconsin,  Elizabeth Garber in Arizona, Laurel Lampela in New Mexico, Jill Vexler, in New York, Nick Cave in Chicago, and Karen Keifer Boyd in Pennsylvania) all having generously read and responded to works in progress, and challenged my clearer articulating of positions.  Christine, Debbie and Karen have co-authored articles with me, and shared their approaches to administrative leadership, teaching and mentorship.  I daily attempt to embody many of the practices each of these colleagues so exquisitely embody on a daily basis, and in their footsteps I hope to move through my work in this field.

Other co-working artists and women in the course of my professional career have empowered, inspired and guided my development. Here I speak their names as leaders I recognize have helped shape me – from the brilliant ceramic artistry of Patti Warishina, to the fearless beadwork of Joyce Scott; the brilliance of my late friend and colleague, Merry Moor Winnett; the effervescent arts advocacy work, entrepreneurial practices and weaving skills of Tomi Melson and B. Jane Doub; the community arts leadership wisely practiced by Paula Berg Owen (Southwest School of Art and Craft, San Antonio, TX), and founder of Women and their Work (Austin, TX), Pat Land.  I have been empowered by many of the women and men Pat looked up to, including Liz Lehrman, Linda Burnham, and dancers Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane (respectively reminding me that the personal is political,  and haunting my mindfulness that our practices in repeatedly-becoming, must be engaged and entangled in everyday practices that remind us of those sacred fields in which we labor (here also referencing my dearly beloved Celeste Snowber, and sister Canadians Rita Irwin and Kit Grauer).

Sharing stories of the works advanced by the many feminists arts leaders, educators, artists and theorists inform my practice. Moving forward I am encouraged and inspired by the new trails being blazed by students with whom I’ve worked, from Connie DeJong to Jessica Hey.  I am humbled by the accomplishments and leadership shared by Jorie Emory, Amanda Alexander, Mindi Rhoades, Courtnie Wolfgang, and Manisha Sharma among others I look forward to following in the future.  These are women I’m confident will continue to advance feminist thought, theories of sexualities, attention to craft and ethical concerns and new pedagogical practices yet to be imagined. Theirs is work that speaks to the value and import of personal experiences that both inform one’s being in the world and the significance of lived forms of wisdom that are deserving of respect and honoring.

I hope to sustain the vitality of work each of the aforementioned feminists have brought into the world, and humbly recognize their practices serve as sources of my inspiration that continue to shape my teaching, my administrative standpoints and my commitment to sociopolitical activism and advancing of feminist thought.

James Sanders
Jim with Grandkids James (V) Tyler, Kristine Ariel and Sarah Jayne at Hoover Dam July 3, 2015

Past Featured Member- Caryl Rae Church

Caryl Rae Church, M.A.

K-5 art educator in Perry Schools, Lake County, OH

Caryl Church

• In what ways does feminism impact your practice?

Feminism has taught me the value of questioning power relationships and equity in my classroom. Feminism has also led me to collaborate with a range of people who have given me opportunities to grow and challenged my thinking. I have embodied that in my teaching and pass it on to my students. The meaning and purpose of teaching is to empower and liberate my students so that they can unfold into themselves without the restrictive conditions of society. Feminism has provided the basis of research and knowledge that supports that work. When students know they are valued by others and feel valuable inside themselves, they blossom. This is what teaches empathy, appreciation and understanding of each other’s differences. Feminism is the lens through which I view the world and the negotiated space where theory and praxis overlap. 

• Who has been influential to you in your practice? 

I have been blessed to know, study, and collaborate with many wonderful educators, feminists, and artists. Each has given me a piece of inspiration for living and practicing art education. Most influential in my practice would be my students. They teach me so much about fairness and challenge my comfort zones. Their perseverance inspires me to keep working for equity. My professors Dr. Linda Hoeptner-Poling, Dr. Scott Sherer, and Dr. Anninna Souminen, educators and friends Debbi Mayo and Anne Ondrey and wise women Helen Baith and Erin Gannon have been very influential in the development and continuous refinement of my practice.

• How do you work towards empowering yourself, and others?

Empowerment happens when people feel able to choose. Therefore, I take a lot of care in creating a space where choice is honored. Decision-making involves discernment. Discernment implies wisdom behind a judgment. In regards to both mine and my students’ empowerment, I think that a mixture of wisdom, knowledge, curiosity, courage, and freedom is necessary. I make my students feel safe, knowledgeable and capable to follow their curiosity enabling them make decisions based on their truth. I strive to inspire them to create that for others. I also spend a lot of time teaching kids how to listen. Not just to listen for instructions, but the deeper listening that leads to awareness of what is happening inside themselves and in nature. Waking up to your own wisdom, accessing the wisdom of your surroundings is the doorway to empowerment. What my students and I create with that wisdom is valuable, even if that is not the majority’s opinion. Additionally, how students share the responsibility of caring for one another’s right and freedom of choice is a lesson that can transcend art. Holding space is simply part of the experience of being an artist. That is the space of empowerment.