written by AAC Education Intern Andrew Cheek
and Marketing and Development Intern Erica Sobers
What makes art classes at AAC so special? We could say it’s because our students get to go into the galleries and learn directly from the art on view, and that’d be true.
It would also be true if we said it’s because our students are learning not just about art-making techniques, but also about the importance of art in our everyday lives.
But really, it’s the people who make our classes special! Every student at AAC has the opportunity to learn from professional artists and highly qualified arts instructors.
Sharing your love and knowledge of art isn’t easy, it takes a lot of energy and dedication.
And since fall classes are starting next week, we thought this would be the perfect time to introduce to you the indefatigable, always kind and generous, highly skilled instructor: Michelle Williams!
Michelle first came to AAC in 2013 and has since taken on the role of volunteer, blog writer, and art instructor. You may remember her as one of our team leads keeping AAC’s 600+ campers safe and engaged during summer art camps earlier this year.
Michelle earned her BA in art history with a minor in German as well as an MA in art history with a museum studies certificate. She teaches at AAC, and leads our after-school enrichment classes in Alexandria and Fairfax.
She is an awesome part of our community, and today we’d like to share with you what makes her a great instructor and friend to AAC!
AAC: When did your relationship with AAC begin?
Michelle: We first moved to the area in late 2012 from Memphis, Tennessee where I worked in the education department as an arts educator at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. So, after getting settled here in Arlington, I looked for a visual arts organization where I could volunteer and contacted AAC – I was missing my work! During those first few months at AAC, I also got to paint gallery walls, write blogs, and assist AAC Instructors Becca Kallem and Jennifer Penick in their kids art classes and loved their teaching methods and knew that this was where I wanted to commit my time. I fell in love with AAC and its commitment to bringing the arts to Arlington and the surrounding communities!
“I have never been as fulfilled as I am now, because working as an arts educator allows me to incorporate visual arts and design into one profession.”
AAC: Do you make art yourself? If so, tell us about your work:
Michelle: I have created art in some form or fashion since I was in elementary school. When I was a child I used to look at my coloring books and draw what I saw and then color my own drawing.
Most of the drawings that I do now, have to do with the human form, especially the face. I love trying to capture the human face with charcoal pencil or chalk pastel on paper. I also have a fascination with textiles, which developed growing up and helping my mom in her drapery workroom.
While working with my mom, I met and was really inspired by many talented interior designers and artists. At one time, I even worked as a freelance interior designer. But, I have never been as fulfilled as I am now, because working as an arts educator allows me to incorporate visual arts and design into one profession.
With AAC staff Michelle helped launch a new class for toddlers and their caregivers.
AAC: What inspired you to start My 1st Portfolio?
Michelle: AAC had been wanting to start a class for this age group for awhile, so when they asked me to help get it started, I jumped at the chance! I wanted to help build a unique class that offered a different experience than anywhere else.
Instead of the class being geared only towards the children, I wanted it to also be a creative outlet for the adults who accompany them.
While children are busy building social and fine motor skills through art, adults are also getting a chance to be creative. I truly believe that creativity is in us all. Many people just don’t realize it because they haven’t had the opportunity to explore.
AAC: What do you hope your students will gain?
Michelle: My biggest goal for my classes is that my students and their families gain a love for creating and appreciating art. All of my classes, including My 1st Portfolio, begin with inspiration from an artist or art style.
I take great care in developing lesson plans for all of my classes, because I know 2-3 year-olds, along with helpful guidance from myself and the child’s caregiver, are capable of creating more than the typical crafts projects that are so often expected at this age.
Although the ultimate goal for this age group is not always a completed project, many times families get to take home an absolutely stunning piece of artwork that was created collaboratively by their child and the caregiver (not to mention some great phone video footage of their little artist talking about their artwork!).
“I truly believe that creativity is in us all. Many people just don’t realize it because they haven’t had the opportunity to explore.”
AAC: What is your favorite part about teaching at AAC?
Michelle: I love the staff of AAC – they are wonderful to work with and I absolutely feel at home as soon as I drive into the parking lot. When we first moved here for my husband’s job, I had left a promising career in the arts.
I was hoping to find somewhere that I could contribute in some way to Arlington’s art scene and work with children and families. I am so blessed that AAC immediately took me under their wing – to me, it is a magical place.
AAC: Tell us what you would want us to remember about you:
Michelle: I truly have a love for people and families. I want to make a difference in a child’s life and I believe that my gift as an arts educator allows me to use my skills to do this.