As art educators from across the state come to Wichita for a professional development conference, many are loading up their own works for the road. They’ll be unpacked Friday evening at the annual Kansas Art Educators’ Suitcase Sale at Rock Island Studios in Old Town.
The art and craft fair is a chance for the community to shop for handcrafted items created by Kansas art teachers. It’s also putting into practice the theme of this year’s Kansas Art Education Association fall conference: creating vibrant communities through art and design.
“What makes this unique is that everyone exhibiting work is an art teacher,” said Tina Murano, conference co-chairwoman. “They are both a teacher of art and an artist themselves in their own right. We call it a suitcase sale because it’s made up of small works that they could bring in a small container or a suitcase.”
This will be the first time the event is open to the public. Though it’s long been a part of the conference, it previously has been a members-only sale. Murano said the strength of the popular Final Friday art crawl made them want to open this up so that visiting teachers could see how rich and vibrant the local arts scene is in Wichita.
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More than 300 Kansas teachers are expected to attend the three-day conference, which began Thursday. This is the first time in 10 years that it’s been held in Wichita. Proceeds from the sale will go toward professional development grants and help offset the cost for many of the attendees.
“It’s professional development that relates directly to what they are doing,” Murano said of the conference. “A lot of it is teachers sharing with each other concepts and lessons or ideas that work in their classrooms. The sale that we do in conjunction is a way to support art teachers, as well as local art. You’re helping that art teacher pay their way to go to this conference to increase their learning so they have something valuable to bring back to their classroom to enrich their students. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
More than 20 art teachers will exhibit and sell works at the sale. There will be a variety of art and craft items, including handmade books, altered books and journals, recycled jewelry, enameled jewelry, polymer clay jewelry, pottery, paintings, drawings and prints. Organizers estimate somewhere between 500 to 1,000 pieces will be for sale.
“I think the public will have a great time seeing all the fun things that our teachers create,” co-chairwoman Marcia Scurfield said. “Prices tend to be very reasonable. Kansas art teachers utilize a wide variety of materials and create unique and meaningful designs. As a part of Final Friday, it’s just a natural fit.”
Next door to the sale from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday will be an exhibit at CityArts, 334 N. Mead, that Murano said compliments the core message of the workshop and suitcase exhibition. Also part of the conference, it’s an exhibit featuring USD 259 art teachers showing a work alongside a current or former art student. An artist statement crafted by teacher and student will explain the value of art education in their lives and what they have learned from each other in the classroom. Around two dozen pairs will be on display.
“It will be a neat show and powerful because art is so present in their lives,” Murano said.
Scurfield, an art teacher at Wichita’s Seltzer Elementary School, has personal experience in the dual roles of being an artist and an educator.
“Every year, teachers are charged with setting professional development goals for themselves. Several years ago, I included becoming more closely involved with the art scene in Wichita as one of my goals. I was taking printmaking at the (Wichita) Center for the Arts. As a beginner, I felt like a kindergarten printmaker, which was a very valuable experience for me as a teacher to know how it feels to learn a new art process. Now I have original artwork to submit to exhibitions and donate to art auctions. I have received several awards and had some sales of my work. This has informed my teaching tremendously.”