Apr 24, 2024

We Love our Teaching Artists!

by: Natalie Gearin

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week (May 6-10, 2024), Mural Arts would like to highlight the outstanding efforts of our Teaching Artist team! The Art Education department is home to 20 Teaching Artists who work with youth at schools, rec centers, and more in every corner of the city all year round. Our TAs reach over 2,000 Philadelphia youth enrolled across five programs annually.

In addition to being skilled educators, our Teaching Artists have artistic practices of their own. The Art Education department is home to muralists, painters, fiber artists, cartoonists, musicians, poets, and more. Our TAs offer invaluable insight to students on what it means to nurture a creative practice and the transformative power of creative expression. We thank them for sharing their talents with Philadelphia’s young people!

Here are some of the reflections they shared from this year:

Saloua Amara 

One of my favorite memories from this past year was when we made masks around Halloween, and one of our students made an uncanny Freddy Kreuger mask. We had a hilarious time working on the project together. I really enjoy when we do textile art. I love how focused the students become.

Working as a Teaching Artist is an emotional job! You cannot effectively connect and do something that requires the passion and creativity that art does without engaging in the emotional components. We show up and take our work home with us every day.

I believe the arts are necessary to understanding our human experience.

- Brad Carney

Brad Carney 

The Advanced Program has been challenging work. We celebrated National Nutrition Month in March with our Mama Tee Community Fridge project. Students are creating four designs for this project that address food insecurity, healthy food options, and ensuring equitable access for all. Our first design was installed on a fridge at Community Partnership School. Students invited their families and friends, our advocates for the program were there, and we worked together to install the two mural designs. Our students Nunu and Nisa spoke beautifully about their experience building the design and the knowledge gained about the issues of food insecurity. That was a beautiful day.

Our students at Parkway High School have been unraveling the theme of Fairytale and Folklore through poetry and sculptural portals. These portals reflect the moments along our journey where we are presented with a choice to move forward into the unknown and veer off the path to a new experience.

I believe the arts are necessary to understanding our human experience. Art is included in every aspect of our day. When we teach what we have learned about the creative process: how to see and view, how to hear and listen, and why we feel and connect, this will bring us greater empathy for each other.

Collaborative designing with the intention of public art has always been my favorite part of class. When we find ourselves creating together with a common purpose, students explore outside their preconceived expertise and comforts to allow the project to guide what they need to learn. We are blessed with a variety of neurodivergent students who share their feelings, emotions, and artistry from their unique perspectives. We continue to learn how to create an inclusive environment for each other and grow together.

Tai Corrienté Baucom 

At this year’s Student Exhibition, I’m excited to share the self-portraits the students have been working on throughout the school year based on poems they have written.

My favorite memories have been helping students become confident with painting and watching them evolve.  It’s great to make an impact in someone’s life and help them find themselves. Watching students motivated to come in, have fun, and learn is very rewarding. My students have opened my eyes to new music and new TV shows, which I always appreciate. They have taught me about patience and connection.

I really enjoyed working on the Mama Tee Decorated Fridges project. I have enjoyed teaching mixed media projects. We are currently working on painted cardboard sculptures and an entryway for the spring show. The students seem to be excited!


Timell Floyd-Sherard 

For the Student Exhibition, I’m most excited to share the character designs made by our Tilden Middle School students. They did a really good job and had a great time creating them.

My favorite memory is probably pretty recent, where we played a word game riddle with our students and they used the entire class time to try and figure it out. The next few classes then proceeded to become filled with riddles as everyone was bringing their own to figure out.

Being a Teaching Artist is a lot of fun. When I first started, I felt very nervous about how I would assist in teaching and interacting with the students. Even to this day, I still am a bit anxious when I go out to my sites, and it’s something that I’ve been working on over time. Eventually, you start to really connect with the students, and they begin to look up to you more and have more fun with projects that we work on, and I think that feels really good. My students are slowly teaching me to talk more. Many students like to have chill conversations, and I’m a bit of a “speak when spoken to” type of person, so building that communication skill with them has helped me a lot.

I specialize in graphic design, so I haven’t had too much of a chance to teach that to students; however, I do a bit of sculpting, and I really enjoyed teaching some of the students at our Southwark site how to properly mold clay into shapes like hands. It felt really good to see one of the students improve on making a clay hand figure.


Ailisha Goodwin-Dancy 

This year I’m excited to see our “sculpture hand bookcase” from Edmonds and “Original Characters (OC) cardboard cutouts” from Northeast High School at the Student Exhibition. One of my favorite memories from the classroom this year is from NEHS when we went out into the inner courtyard and took turns drawing fun, interesting gesture drawings. The drawings that came out of the session were amazing, and I loved seeing my shy students open up more. And also, during the winter semester at Edmonds Elementary School, I really enjoyed having origami frog Olympics with the students. I didn’t win, but it’s the fun that counts!

As a Teaching Artist I get to create an environment where students feel comfortable enough to open up and share their inner artist. To me, that’s what I’m looking for in every session to make sure students feel as though this is a place of safe space that’s engaging, relaxed and fun. I am always using my attentive listening skills when working with students. I like to remind the students that I don’t know everything and that we can find out thesolutions together. My students have taught me patience and the importance of taking the time for each project.

I enjoy utilizing great energizing openers that can really help set the intention, so I’ve been pouring a lot more time into researching engaging icebreakers to help get them into a creative mindset. I also enjoy teaching people how to crochet. I’ve only taught the class once, but I’m looking forward to teaching the class again this spring. I believe everyone should learn a trade skill.

Hannah Healy 

I’m excited to share a large quantity of submissions from the Cardboard City project and Plastic-Eating Bacteria project at the Student Exhibition. Seeing them all together will have a stunning visual impact, and it will demonstrate how many students we are able to reach with our Murals on the Move program!

A recent favorite memory of mine is when a student was creating their box building for the Cardboard City project. I asked, “What type of building are you making?” The student answered, “A celebrity mansion.” I reacted, “Cool! Who is the celebrity?” And then the student exclaimed, “Me!!”

I love being able to explain that I am an artist and a teacher. So many students are excited to make art and I believe seeing that I have fun doing my job makes a lasting impression. We emphasize collaboration over competition, which is a very freeing process. By seeing the value in their peers’ contributions, students see the value in their own contribution. The ideas I see my students come up with always reminds me to think outside the box, to not overthink things and let creativity flow, and to laugh.

Sarah Kolker 

Photo by Steve Weinik.

For the Student Art Exhibition, my students have some really beautiful fairy tale-inspired tarot cards and collages that I’m looking forward to sharing.  I’m always inspired by how my students show up, especially after a break, saying they missed us teachers and Mural Arts. And I’ve learned from them the importance of continuing to show up because there is always more to learn!

As a Teaching Artist, we are sharing our craft and celebrating other artists, inspiring youth to create and make art. I love to teach the students technique of collage – it is so fun and accessible and still ties into mural making.

Nicole Rodrigues 

I’m excited to share our comfort room at this year’s Student Exhibition. We will have screen-printed bean bags, printed curtains with portal designs, audio interviews with our students, and a big map of Philly mural panels with painted houses as a border around the map. I think our comfort room will have a great vibe and energy. I’m hoping students can use this comfort room as a place to relax and unwind from the big exhibition opening.

Some of my favorite moments from our class this past year is seeing students excited about learning new skills. For example, we started doing more fiber arts like weaving and sewing projects, and watching students get excited about sewing and wanting to create more plushies on their own at home is awesome!  I enjoy teaching our students fiber arts, screen printing, and air dry clay projects.

One thing I want the public to know about being a teaching artist is that everyday is different. Sometimes, you have to go with the flow and collaborate with students on what kind of art we want to do together. It’s also so rewarding to get to know students on an individual level and be able to listen and learn from our students and get to share our different perspectives on life together. Being able to do art with youth together and provide a space for healing and open conversations.

My students have taught me about being humble, sharing feelings together, and being vulnerable. I’ve also learned how to navigate conflicts with our students and how everyone may react differently to various ways of communication.

Becky Shenk 

I am so excited to share how talented our students are at the Student Exhibition! They can be creative in any way; there are no rules to follow in art-making.

One of my favorite memories was taking a field trip with the students on my first day working as a teaching assistant.  I’d like people to know that this program is important and so are our students. I love being there, watching the excitement they share together and the trust we build together.  I always try to remember that I was once their age!

Rebecca Simon Miller 

We have been working on a repeat pattern linocut project at both sites this year, and I’m excited to see the two classes’ work come together and for the students to see how their work relates to their peers’ pieces from across the city at the Student Exhibition.

One of my favorite memories from this year was when photographer (and program manager) Robert Carter came in to photograph the students at Southwark with professional equipment.  Three of our students collaborated to represent the spirits of Day, Night, and the Galaxy, fashioning costumes out of loose fabric and creating poses that would become part of a collage.  It was great seeing them focus on their vision and gain self-confidence during this glamor shoot.

I would like people to know that the benefits of art education go much deeper than memorizing “elements” and “principles” or a list of tool competencies gained— art education gets at the ability to make mistakes and push past them to gain a greater understanding.  Students start off frustrated that their work isn’t “perfect” and say they “can’t draw.”  They make a mark, get discouraged, and crumple up their paper and toss it in the trash.  We also teach them that no artwork should start by putting “final marks” on the page.  It’s about learning through the process, working in layers, making a mark, and then changing it.  It’s about flexible thinking and being open to many ways of doing things.  It’s a class where there are a million right answers — which doesn’t mean that there’s no challenge or direction, but that there’s an openness and opportunity for different ways of thinking, for problem-solving, for questioning, and for pursuing what excites you and engages you, that students don’t always have in other environments.

We spend a lot of time on different materials and techniques in the classroom, but I always feel most at home with drawing and painting. I’ve learned a lot from my students as well – I’ve heard a lot of music I wouldn’t have heard otherwise.


Our Teaching Artists in the Classroom! 

  • Lead Teaching Artist Michael Konrad in his Kensington Health Sciences Academy class, February 15, 2023.

  • Lead Teaching Artist Jamee Grigsby in her Artrepreneurs class, April 18, 2023. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Assistant Teaching Artist Timell Floyd-Sherard and students in his summer program class, July 25, 203. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Lead Teaching Artist Nazeer Sabree and students working on WONDER (417 N 8th Street), July 31, 2023. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Lead Teaching Artist Sarah Kolker and a student in her summer program class, August 2, 2023. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Lead Teaching Artist Dom Lyner and students in his summer program class, August 3, 2023. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Assistant Teaching Artist Ailisha Goodwin-Dancy and students in her summer program class, August 8, 2023. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Assistant Teaching Artist Tai Baucom speaks at the dedication event for Pollution Infection, November 5, 2023. Photo by Arekusn.

  • Assistant Teaching Artist Carolina Gomez pictured with her Murals on the Move van wrap, November 16, 2023. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Lead Teaching Artist Rebecca Simon Miller and a student in her Tilden Middle School class, November 20, 2023. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Lead Teaching Artist Brad Carney and a student in his Advanced Program class, February 14, 2023. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Last updated: Apr 29, 2024

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