ES art teacher featured in Little Rock exhibit

Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Eureka Springs art teacher Shannon Haney created a mixed media mask that was displayed in November at the Arkansas Art Teacher Exhibition in Little Rock. (Photo by Tavi Ellis/Carroll County News)

"There's a saying that those who can't do teach," Shannon Haney says, her voice rising with passion. "But it's not even about that."

She would know. Haney, who teaches K-8 art at the Eureka Springs School District, was chosen in October to have her art displayed at the Arkansas Art Teacher Exhibition in Little Rock. Haney's piece will be exhibited until the end of November.

Haney described the piece, saying she made a mask using mixed media. The mixed media includes feathers, driftwood and her own hair. The idea behind the mask, she said, is that no one should be caged.

"I went through a divorce, and I did this very personal piece on that. I cleaned my hair out of my hairbrush and put it in my garden, and we had a little bird that made a nest out of it," Haney said.

After combining the hair nest, feathers and driftwood, Haney stained the piece with teabags. This piece, she noted, is the only mask exhibited at the show. Haney recalled visiting the exhibit while at an art conference earlier this month, saying she felt overwhelmed by all the artistry.

Of the 35 pieces featured at the show, Haney said her mask and one other piece deviated from the standard painting.

"The other one was like an altar. I was really impressed," Haney said.

She didn't list the mask for sale. In fact, Haney noted, this is the first time she's ever put her work out for public consumption in this way. In the past, she said she's focused more on making art for herself and her students.

"I've always made art for myself, just to share my passion for it with my kids to let them know there are many different ways to create art. You don't have to be a Michelangelo or Da Vinci to create art," Haney said.

The piece she created for the show, Haney explained, correlates to the student artwork she supervises at Eureka Springs. Right now, Haney said her students are working on several mixed media pieces. She described how her middle school students are collecting small appliances and taking them apart to see how they work.

"There's a steampunk movement where you see the inside workings, like the gears. We're taking things apart and putting them back together," Haney said.

Mixed media projects she has done with elementary students, Haney noted, involve layering items like feathers, driftwood and paper burlap to create new textures.

"It just depends on the project. I try to give them options in whichever direction they want to go," Haney said.

Usually, Haney said she begins class by lecturing for 15 to 20 minutes. After that, she explains the activity for that day and demonstrates how to do it. Haney pointed out the importance of letting the students come up with their own ideas, saying she encourages independent thinking as long as it relates to the project at hand.

"We need creators, those people who can think outside of the box. That's what I tell my kids: 'Independent thinkers past this door,' " Haney said.

This is Haney's seventh year teaching at Eureka Springs. Before teaching, she was a pharmacy technician. Haney said she decided to go back to school to pursue her passion for art, working in Hot Springs to finish up her education. When she began applying for teaching positions, Haney said it was difficult at first.

"I had applied everywhere in the state, and my ex-husband told me to send a resume to Eureka Springs. I was like, 'There are so many artsy people up there. It would be unbelievable if I got the chance.' Two weeks later, they called me for an interview," Haney said. "It all just fell into place."

Hiring Haney, Eureka Springs Middle School principal Cindy Holt said, was the best decision to help the art program grow. Holt noted that Haney strengthens the program, saying Haney's art being displayed in Little Rock is indicative of that.

"It means that she is recognized by her peers and can bring a level of expertise to our kids as they are experimenting with their own artistic endeavors. To me, one of the greatest benefits is that enthusiasm she brings," Holt said.

Eureka Springs Elementary School principal Clare Lesieur agreed, describing the way Haney works with students.

"Any art activities she does with the students in the classroom she actually models by creating her own piece of art. They watch her and that's how they learn," Lesieur said. "The kids really enjoy art. I think she inspires them to continue with their art."

In the future, Haney said she hopes to have an art show in Eureka Springs. She is trying to build up her body of work in the meantime. Her work, Haney remarked, is darker than the more colorful art created by many Eurekans.

"I like charcoal. I've been working on a series where I took a bunch of pictures of the inside pieces of flowers and then I used charcoal," Haney said.

She wants to show her art in Eureka Springs, Haney said, because it would be closer to her students.

"Most of my kids live right in town, and they could walk over and see me. I would love to do that," Haney said.

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