May 3, 2022

Meet Our Art Education Program's Teachers

by: Ilse García Romero

In celebration of the first week of May being Teacher’s Appreciation Week, we are highlighting Art Teachers that work with Mural Arts’ Art Education program to bring art workshops to Philadelphia schools. Below are some of the people committed to making art accessible and fun for local youth!

Tai Baucom 

Photo by Caresh Toatley.

Schools taught: Tilden Middle School and Southwark Elementary
Grade: 5-7

Tai’s background with the Mural Arts Education department began with her being a student. She was a part of the program through high school after her friends convinced her to join them after school. Afterward, Tai completed the apprenticeship and internship during and after college. She has been working as a teacher for almost a year now.

“One of my favorite projects so far has been the tie-dye paper project we’ve done,” says Tai. “It gave me the opportunity to be more hands-on and work a little more closely with students. They used beautiful bright colors and I was happy with the patterns that they created with it.”

Tai Baucom (right) on field trip to zoo. Photo by Rebecca Miller.

The most rewarding part about being an art teacher is watching youth find their art styles, experiment, and break out of their comfort zones. I enjoy watching them build up confidence in their work and themselves.

- Tai Baucom

Michael Konrad 

Photo by Caresh Toatley.

School taught: Currently teaching at Northeast High School. Previously taught at Olney and Samuel Fels HS before the pandemic.
Grades: 9-12

Michael has been working as a Teaching Artist with Mural Arts since 2010; twelve years now. He was new to Philadelphia, and had no teaching experience at all. His background as an artist was in sculpture, with a primary interest in site-specific work and public art. In that regard, Michael felt like he had a common interest with painters who created murals for public space. He started working as an assistant teacher for Big Picture, and then worked as an assistant teacher with Brad Carney at a number of schools for a few years before becoming a Lead Teaching Artist himself in 2013.

“I really love the hands-on experience of working with students,” says Michael. “Especially when the entire class is collaborating on a project like a youth-designed mural. It’s really satisfying to see young people learn how a mural is made by guiding them as they actively perform every step from conceptualization, community meeting, design & review, and finally painting and installation.”

Like a lot of teaching artists, Michael didn’t set out with the intention to be a teacher. But being a teacher has informed his practice as an artist to the point where it is hard for him to imagine one without the other. The idea of self-directed learning through doing, and then practicing and sharing that knowledge, as well as collaborating with other artists has become an important philosophy of his own art making, which is truly indebted to his learned experiences as a teaching artist.

“I always remain inspired by my first summer project as a Lead Teaching artist along with Brad Carney and our students at the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym,” says Michael. “The students really got to know the neighborhood through the lenses of exploration, observational drawing, poetry, and color. The project became a lenticular mural painted on three-dimensional panels which we fabricated with the students. I was proud of that project not just as a teacher, but as an artist working with a team of like-minded collaborators.”

Michael Konrad instructing students at Northeast HS. Photo by Lamar Warren.

I was especially touched when one of the students told me he was glad that I had relocated to Philadelphia so that we had this opportunity to work together.

- Michael Konrad

Rebecca Miller 

Photo by Caresh Toatley.

Schools taught: Currently, Southwark School and Tilden Middle. In the past, Southeast x Southeast, Richard Allen, Mastery Shoemaker, Strawberry Mansion, Edison High, E3 West Center.
Grades: 5-8

Rebecca’s background is in fine art and her personal studio practice. She went to Alfred University for undergrad and focused on painting, but she also got into ceramics there. She moved to Philadelphia from West Chester PA in 2008 to do a painting MFA at PAFA. After that, she had studio space in the city and worked at a café, until her studiomate, Katie Pomerantz, mentioned they needed an assistant for a Mural Arts class where she was a visiting artist. Rebecca didn’t get the job, but it led to her starting to work in Art Ed, and she has been here since 2013, doing Lead since 2017. Her mom is also a teaching artist.

“A couple years ago we decided to do these very oversized self-portraits, that were done in I think 12-piece sections, with a grid,” says Rebecca. “I had a lot of ideas about contingencies, thinking it was unlikely students would finish them, but students really caught on to the idea and we ended up having 10 finished pieces of these huge portraits. It’s great when students connect with the project and get in the flow, and then they come in and are just eager to jump back into their project.”

Rebecca believes the most rewarding part of being an art teacher is when students gain a community and begin to make friends with the group, who they might not have come into contact with during the normal school day, or when students express delight that they can do things they didn’t think they could do.

Rebecca Miller and Tai Baucom at front center with their Summer class. Photo by Julia Lopez.

We often have students who start reluctantly, saying they can't draw or don't know anything about art, and it's especially great to see those students proud of something they've created.

- Rebecca Miller

Lamar Warren 

School taught: Northeast High School
Grade: 9-12

Lamar has been a teacher at Mural Arts since September 2021, but he has been a part of Mural Arts since he was in 8-9th grade himself. Moving through the apprenticeship and internship programs, Lamar finally became an assistant artist.

“I’ve enjoyed all of the projects we’ve done— they’re all new to me— especially being a teacher, and the students seem to enjoy them as well,” says Lamar. “Painting I think is their favorite part of the process though.”

Lamar Warren on far right in king shirt at Northeast HS. Yannick Lowery as Visiting Artist on left. Photo by Michael Konrad.

The most rewarding is helping students achieve their art goals or accomplish art skills they didn't think they could do. I'm grateful for my position as a teacher and artist and hope like the students, I can continue to learn and grow.

- Lamar Warren

Last updated: May 3, 2022

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share Your Thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *