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Art Education Alums Make Headlines with Creative Online Curriculum

Published July 10, 2020
Excerpts courtesy of the Tallahassee Democrat, by Amanda Karioth Thompson

Department of Art Education alums have made local news for their ingenuity during quarantine! Recent Tallahassee Democrat articles highlighted the work of both Victoria Mendenhall (MS Art Education 2016) and Billy Penn (BS Art Education 2002).

Gilchrist art teacher Victoria Mendenhall guides a student in painting. Amanda Thompson

Victoria Mendenhall, art teacher at Gilchrist Elementary, was featured on June 23 for her online art exhibition. Originally planned as an on-site exhibition featuring artwork from all 920 students at Gilchrist, Mendenhall had to adapt quickly once schools were closed. She took it upon herself to photograph and upload all of her students’ hard work to the school website.

For Mendenhall, it’s the kids that make Gilchrist special and she has seen a whole new side to them since the pandemic:

I learned that my students are so resilient. They are succeeding in a time that is completely unprecedented, making beautiful works with what they have at home.

Second-grade students were encouraged to think about elements of art including pattern and line while practicing a resist painting technique for the background. Because students had a wide variety of materials to choose from, the resulting artworks are unique and highlight the students’ own personal taste and aesthetic preferences.

Fourth-graders were tasked with creating portraits inspired by Sandra Silberzweig, a contemporary Canadian painter. Silberzweig has a neurological condition called synesthesia where the stimulation of one sense activates another unrelated sense. In Silberzweig’s case, visual art is processed in her mind’s eye, then experienced on all sensory levels; sound, sight, touch, smell, and taste. She is attracted to colorful images and Mendenhall challenged her students to make bold color choices in their portraits.

Read the full story here and view the online exhibit here.

Billy Penn, special to the Tallahassee Democrat


Billy Penn (BS Art Education 2002) was also featured in a June 30 story. The art teacher for Killearn Lakes Elementary, he moved his lessons to YouTube during quarantine, calling them (co)VIDeos. Each video showcases Penn’s progress on a new school mural and introduces a different art activity. The videos also include a pro-tip, a bonus points segment, and clever reminders on how to stay safe and help out during the pandemic.

The (co)VIDeos asked second and third graders to explore Egyptian art while fourth and fifth graders designed a personal seal inspired by the state of Florida’s.

First grader Aasr Abdelfatteh created a Matisse-like collage while sheltering in place. Special to the Tallahassee Democrat

Kindergarteners and first graders learned how to create collages in the style of Henri Matisse. Penn reminded them to use “any scrap paper you have, old magazines or grocery labels from your recycle bin. You can cut that up and glue it together.”

Henri Matisse is an especially good artist to study during quarantine because he was often housebound due to ill health.

There’s a picture floating around of Matisse stuck in bed. He’s got a 10-foot pole and he’s drawing on the wall from his bed. He wouldn’t let a silly thing like a quarantine stop him from making art.

Read the full story here and explore his YouTube channel here.




Both articles appeared as part of COCA’s Creativity Persists collection, highlighting how area arts educators have used distance learning to teach and inspire during the COVID-19 pandemic. Amanda Karioth Thompson is the Assistant Director for the Council on Culture & Arts. COCA is the capital area’s umbrella agency for arts and culture (