GREENFIELD — New Palestine Elementary School art teacher Clyde Gaw is all about teaching children to think outside the box and express their creativity.
It’s why Gaw is one of those educators who isn’t a fan of standardized testing for children. Such an approach, he says, stifles individualism and creativity.
He feels so passionately about education that it has carried over into his own artwork: a piece he calls “High Stakes Standardized Testing.”
The painting is one of two pieces of Gaw’s own artwork being displayed at the Creative Arts and Event Center in Greenfield during the fourth annual “Teachers as Artists” Art Show. The show closes Friday.
Gaw’s oil painting on student testing depicts students being processed through a machine and learning things from totalitarian states that imprint onto the minds of children.
The piece, which Gaw said was inspired by Michelangelo and El Greco, earned the People’s Choice award at the art show, which features artwork from 20 educators from around the state.
“With over a decade of No Child Left Behind with high-stakes testing, you have to ask yourself this question: Is it beneficial for the kids?” Gaw said, explaining the inspiration for his piece.
His answer is “no,” which prompted him to create the piece starting in 2012. He finished it shortly before the art show.
“If you work in the schools, and you see what is happening all across the country, there is a revolt going on right now,” Gaw said. “If teachers were to invent schools, they would not look like factories. Teachers know learning is multisensory.”
Eastern Hancock High School art teacher Jaydene O’Donoghue and Greenfield-Central High School art teacher Jeff Weiland also displayed their work at the show.
Weiland, who has an art studio at home, where he works on pottery, stained glass, glass fusing and photography, said this type of art show allows him to keep his creative skills sharp.
“This show… is a great middle ground between the routine of the classroom and the challenging world of marketing visual art,” he said. “There are always interesting comments from students when they find out that their art teacher can actually do quality work themselves.”
Sandy Hall, a retired art teacher from Greenfield Central Junior High School, is the driving force behind the educator art show.
“She’s more than a promoter; she’s the go-getter and a dynamic force behind teachers as artists,” Gaw said. “She’s a treasure for the art teachers around the state of Indiana.”
While most of the teachers who entered the juried show are current Indiana teachers, some are retired, Hall said. She said it is important for art teachers to be advocates for what happens in the art classroom.
“With evaluations of teachers, oftentimes the principal looks at the academic teachers who teach English, science and mathematics as the core teachers,” Hall said. “They (art teachers) sometimes feel like they are the fringe teachers who can’t make an impact.”
Hall said exhibits like this allow art teachers and other educators with art skills the chance to shine and show off their skills and the importance of having art education in schools.
Gaw said creative educational opportunities have dwindled. However, shows like this keep the importance of art alive.
“The education policy that we should have in place is one that promotes innovation and creative capacities in each and every individual child,” Gaw said. “Innovation is where the U.S. makes its mark. We should not be emulating the education systems of countries whose educational institutions produce thinkers with little capacity for innovation or creativity.”
That, he said, is what he hopes his painting depicts.
The Art Education Association of Indiana Exhibit wraps up at 2 p.m. Friday and was held in conjunction with Youth Art Month.
The Hancock County Art Educators Student Art Exhibit is set for 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 1, and Friday, May 2, at Doe Creek Middle School.