Art Teacher News

This is an art news blog of the Incredible Art Department.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Student Sues Wisconsin School After Getting a Zero for Religious Drawing

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

MADISON, Wis. — A Tomah High School student has filed a federal lawsuit alleging his art teacher censored his drawing because it featured a cross and a biblical reference.

The lawsuit alleges other students were allowed to draw "demonic" images and asks a judge to declare a class policy prohibiting religion in art unconstitutional.

"We hear so much today about tolerance," said David Cortman, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal advocacy group representing the student. "But where is the tolerance for religious beliefs? The whole purpose of art is to reflect your own personal experience. To tell a student his religious beliefs can legally be censored sends the wrong message."

Tomah School District Business Manager Greg Gaarder said the district hadn't seen the lawsuit and declined to comment.

According to the lawsuit, the student's art teacher asked his class in February to draw landscapes. The student, a senior identified in the lawsuit by the initials A.P., added a cross and the words "John 3:16 A sign of love" in his drawing.

His teacher, Julie Millin, asked him to remove the reference to the Bible, saying students were making remarks about it. He refused, and she gave him a zero on the project.

Millin showed the student a policy for the class that prohibited any violence, blood, sexual connotations or religious beliefs in artwork. The lawsuit claims Millin told the boy he had signed away his constitutional rights when he signed the policy at the beginning of the semester.

The boy tore the policy up in front of Millin, who kicked him out of class. Later that day, assistant principal Cale Jackson told the boy his religious expression infringed on other students' rights.

Jackson told the boy, his stepfather and his pastor at a meeting a week later that religious expression could be legally censored in class assignments. Millin stated at the meeting the cross in the drawing also infringed on other students' rights.

The boy received two detentions for tearing up the policy. Jackson referred questions about the lawsuit to Gaarder.

Sometime after that meeting, the boy's metals teacher rejected his idea to build a chain-mail cross, telling him it was religious and could offend someone, the lawsuit claims. The boy decided in March to shelve plans to make a pin with the words "pray" and "praise" on it because he was afraid he'd get a zero for a grade.

The lawsuit also alleges school officials allow other religious items and artwork to be displayed on campus.

A Buddha and Hindu figurines are on display in a social studies classroom, the lawsuit claims, adding the teacher passionately teaches Hindu principles to students.

In addition, a replica of Michaelangelo's "The Creation of Man" is displayed at the school's entrance, a picture of a six-limbed Hindu deity is in the school's hallway and a drawing of a robed sorcerer hangs on a hallway bulletin board.

Drawings of Medusa, the Grim Reaper with a scythe and a being with a horned head and protruding tongue hang in the art room and demonic masks are displayed in the metals room, the lawsuit alleges.

A.P. suffered unequal treatment because of his religion even though student expression is protected by the First Amendment, according to the lawsuit, which was filed Friday.

"Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate," the lawsuit said. "No compelling state interest exists to justify the censorship of A.P.'s religious expression."

Monday, August 13, 2007

Hungry for a Car Kebab?

Monday, August 13, 2007
By Sara Bonisteel

Is suburban Chicago's "car kebab" going to that junkyard in the sky?

That's what locals are wondering now that a giant spike of eight speared automobiles in a Berwyn, Ill., shopping-center parking lot faces an uncertain future.

The sculpture, "Spindle" by Dustin Shuler, is scheduled to be removed within 60 days to make way for a drug store. And whether or not it will return remains to be seen.

"It is an extremely iconic piece," said Jon Fey, chairman of the Berwyn Arts Council. "Berwyn is, like it or not, known for that 'Spindle.'"

Fans of the artwork learned only last month that the managers of Cermak Plaza planned to relocate the sculpture to make way for a new Walgreens. Tentative plans would move the 1989 piece 300 feet west of the new building.

Hampering the move is a hefty price tag. Michael Flight, the president of Concordia Realty Management Inc., the company that manages Cermak Plaza, estimates it will take around $350,000 to move "Spindle" to its new location.

An even bigger stumbling block, locals say, is the artist's unwillingness to budge when it comes to letting the plaza use the piece to promote the shopping center and the city of Berwyn. While Shuler sold the one-off sculpture to the plaza in 1989, he retained the copyright, meaning he can control how the piece is marketed.

It's a claim California-based Shuler denies.

"It's a work of art and of course I have the copyright — to protect its integrity — otherwise God knows what they'd do in marketing it," Shuler said. "But no, they could have always used it to promote the plaza, and it did promote the plaza. People knew about it around the world."

"Spindle" is the centerpiece of a sculpture menagerie at Cermak Plaza, assembled by the late David Bermant, a managing partner of the development. His old BMW is the car just below the Volkswagen Beetle that tops "Spindle."

"This is there strictly to give pleasure in addition to taking care of the shopping needs of my customers," Bermant said of the sculpture in remarks, made before his death, now posted on his foundation's Web site. "We want our customers to a have pleasant time while they're shopping, and I notice that they barely, rarely even look at the art, but I guess they look at it enough to find it worth coming to."

"Spindle," whose notoriety was aided by a brief appearance in the movie "Wayne's World," has garnered a full-blown cult following.

"That's our little claim to fame," said Maggie Ragaisis, a co-founder of

Some 700 people have signed a petition for the "Spindle" and nearly 2,000 bikers rode from a Picasso sculpture in downtown Chicago to Shuler's piece on July 27 — a few even sported "Spindle" tattoos.

At the state level, a senator proposed a resolution urging the city and Concordia Realty Management to keep the sculpture.

"There's a lot of people who don't like it, and they think it's just a bunch of rusty cars on a stick," Ragaisis said. "We respect that. Everybody doesn't like everything; there are some people that say the Mona Lisa isn't pretty either."

Former Illinois treasurer Judy Baar Topinka called the piece the "pipe dream of a gentleman who felt he could impose his taste in art on others" in an Aug. 3 editorial in the Chicago Tribune.

Those who dislike the sculpture are, for the most part, keeping mum about their opinions, Fey said.

"We're trying to get across that it's more than just personal taste — about whether you like it or not — it's a symbol and a landmark in our town and we're really known for it," Ragaisis said. "And if it were to go away, we think it would be detrimental to the town both culturally and economically."

Regardless of the Walgreens construction, a renovation of the sculpture was needed in the next two years to combat nearly two decades of weather decay and pigeon droppings, Flight said.

"We've had it cleaned, and the fire department has gone out there and used it for practice to blast the stuff off, but it doesn't work," Flight said.

If organizers can reach their fundraising goal — they've raised $1,000 thus far — Shuler anticipates he'll be there to orchestrate the "Spindle" renovation which, depending on damage, could include different cars, he said.

"There's only one'Spindle,' I've never tried to do a second one," Shuler said. "Of course, if that one's destroyed, then I would be open to a second one."

Fans hope that the first "Spindle" is good enough.

"I certainly hope we can find a way to save the 'Spindle' and honor the artist's rights, but make it more useful for the community," Fey said. "I think it's a great piece of art."

Monday, July 16, 2007

Editorial cartoonist Doug Marlette passed away at the age of 57 on July 10, 2007. He died in a pickup truck accident when the truck hydroplaned and struck a tree in Mississippi.

Doug drew cartoons for four decades and his work appeared in most newspapers across the country. He was an equal opportunity cartoonist in that he slammed politicians from all parties and walks of life. Doug Marlette's website has many of his cartoons on display.

Doug's nephew, Andy Marlette, is also a talented cartoonist and has a memorial cartoon he created below:

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Artist Charley Harper dies

Noted Cincinnati wildlife artist Charley Harper, 84, died Sunday. He had been battling pneumonia off and on for the past few months, said son, Brett.

Harper was born in West Virginia in 1922. He arrived in Cincinnati to attend the Art Academy of Cincinnati and never left. He met wife, Edie, also an artist, at the Academy and the two married in 1947 after graduating. They traveled cross country on their honeymoon, using money Charley had won when he was awarded the academy’s first Stephen H. Wilder Traveling Scholarship, which was earmarked for post-graduate travel.

They worked from their Roselawn and later, Finneytown, homes. Brett, their only child, also became an artist and joined them to form Harper Studios.

Harper is best known for his pared-down, minimalist depictions of nature, especially birds, which became a signature for him. His work appeared in books and magazines, on posters and prints, in paintings and mosaics, and on an array of merchandise from mugs and Christmas ornaments to aprons and dinnerware.

He illustrated “The Golden Book of Biology” and “Betty Crocker’s Dinner for Two Cookbook,” created a series of posters for the National Park Service depicting the nation’s National Parks, as well as posters for the Cincinnati and Hamilton County park districts, the National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology and other nature-related organizations.

Harper exhibited widely locally. His work is in the collection of the Cincinnati Art Museum, which will open an exhibit of his and Edie’s work Aug. 18. Botanical works by all the Harpers also are on exhibit now at the Lloyd Library, downtown.

Harper’s work was the subject of the books “Birds and Words,” (1974), “Beguiled by the Wild” (1995) and the new career-retrospective “Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life” (AMMO Books, $200 standard edition, $400 limited edition with silkscreen print) by designer Todd Oldham.

Oldham was in town last week for an appearance at the Contemporary Arts Center, whose Graphic Content exhibit he designed and which featured the work of Charley when it opened in December and now includes work by Edie. Oldham said he visited with the Harpers and gave Charley one of the first copies of the book to come off the presses.

“His work just blew me away,” said Oldham. He has been collecting Harper prints and paintings for decades, used Harper prints on fabric for his La-Z-Boy line and included Harper in his book “Handmade Modern.”

“Most artists slow down and create less complicated work as they get older, they don’t have the energy to do more and more. But not Charley. It almost looks like he worked in reverse, doing bigger and more complicated work.”

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Arts Help Retain Information

Edgar Dale has come up with what he calls the "Cone of Learning." As you can see by the illustration below, reading and hearing words are the lowest forms of retention. Seeing, viewing exhibits and demonstrations, dramatic presentations, etc. greatly increase retention.

This is another fact that you can use when defending the arts in your community. Research shows that schools with strong arts programs also do well on standardized tests.

Cone of Learning Illustration

Sunday, April 22, 2007

More Cartoonists Pass Away

The year 2007 seems to be a sad year for cartoon lovers. On April 15, cartoonist Brant Parker passed away at the age of 87. Brant was the cartoonist for the Wizard of Id. Coincidently, the writer of the same comic strip, Johnny Hart, died about a week earlier. Below is a picture and short biography of Brant.

Brant Parker's son, Jeff, continues drawing the strip as his father retired a decade ago. "My father will be dearly missed," said Jeff Parker. "Sharing the passion of cartooning with my father was a great gift. It has been a privilege to pass this joy along to others as we continue 'The Wizard of ID.'"

"Brant was a truly innovative mind in the comics world," said Creators Syndicate President Richard S. Newcombe. "The artistry he displayed in 'The Wizard of Id' was remarkable for its consistency and creativity. I join millions of 'Wizard' fans in giving thanks to Brant for being an inspiration to comic strip artists around the world for so many years."

Brant and his longtime friend and collaborator Johnny Hart started "The Wizard of Id" in 1964, and Brant won the National Cartoonists Society's (NCS) Best Humor Strip award a record five times, including back-to-back years in 1982-83. In 1984, he also won The Reuben Award, which is the NCS's highest honor.

In 1987, Brant's son Jeff Parker began working with Brant on the strip, serving under his tutelage for the next decade. In 1997, Brant passed the torch to Jeff, who took over production of "The Wizard of Id" full time. Jeff has been entertaining "Wizard" fans with his own wit and artistic flair ever since.


The Creators Syndicate family mourns the passing of Brant Parker on Sunday at the Privette Home in Lynchburg, Va. Parker joined fellow cartoonist Johnny Hart on the groundbreaking comic strip "The Wizard of Id" and was its artist for many years, before his retirement a decade ago.

In addition to Jeff, Brant is survived by his wife, Mary Lou, and his other children, James Parker, Julie Shackleton, Laurie Tannenbaum and Kathie Borkowski, his brother, John Parker, 13 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his brother Ted, and two grandchildren, Amy Clemens and Patrick Borkowski.

A memorial service is planned for Wednesday, April 18, at 11 a.m., at St. Mark's Catholic Church in Vienna, Va.

Johnny Hart's Passing

As I mentioned earlier, Johnny passed away a little over a week before Brant on April 7 at the age of 76. In addition to writing the Wizard of Id strip, he was the artist and writer of B.C. As a Christian, Johnny became controversial because he shared his faith and religious beliefs in the strip. Johnny upset the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, among others. The liberal Los Angeles Times has refused to run his cartoons with an explicitly Christian message the past four years.


ALBANY, New York (AP) -- Cartoonist Johnny Hart, whose award-winning "B.C." comic strip appeared in more than 1,300 newspapers worldwide, died Saturday while working at his home in Endicott, New York. He was 76.

"He had a stroke," Hart's wife, Bobby, said Sunday. "He died at his storyboard."

"B.C.," populated by prehistoric cavemen and dinosaurs, was launched in 1958 and eventually appeared in more than 1,300 newspapers with an audience of 100 million, according to Creators Syndicate Inc., which distributes it.

"He was generally regarded as one of the best cartoonists we've ever had," Hart's friend Mell Lazarus, creator of the "Momma" and "Miss Peach" comic strips, said from his California home. "He was totally original. 'B.C.' broke ground and led the way for a number of imitators, none of which ever came close."

After he graduated from Union-Endicott High School, Hart met Brant Parker, a young cartoonist who became a prime influence and co-creator with Hart of the "Wizard of Id" comic strip.

Hart enlisted in the Air Force and began producing cartoons for Pacific Stars and Stripes. He sold his first freelance cartoon to the Saturday Evening Post after his discharge from the military in 1954.

Later in his career, some of Hart's cartoons had religious themes, a reflection of his own Christian faith. That sometimes led to controversy.

A strip published on Easter Sunday in 2001 drew protests from Jewish groups and led several newspapers to drop the strip. The cartoon depicted a menorah transforming into a cross, with accompanying text quoting some of Jesus Christ's dying words. Critics said it implied that Christianity supersedes Judaism.

Hart said he intended the strip as a tribute to both faiths.

A November 2003 strip featuring an outhouse and several crescent moons was seen as an attack on Islam. Hart denied the accusation, telling the Washington Post that the strip was nothing more than a "silly" bathroom joke.

His color strip published Sunday, the day after he died, featured dialogue from the Bible.

"He had such an emphasis on kindness, generosity, and patience," said Richard Newcombe, founder and president of Creators Syndicate in Los Angeles.

Newcombe said Hart was the first cartoonist to sign on when the syndicate was created 20 years ago.

"Traditionally, comic strips were owned by syndicates," Newcombe said. "We were different because we allowed cartoonists to own their own work. It was ... Johnny's commitment to this idea that made us a success."

Besides his wife, Hart is survived by two daughters, Patti and Perri. He was a native of Endicott, about 135 miles northwest of New York City, and drew his comic strip at a studio in his home there until the day he died.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Picture of Catherine Davis HayesCatherine Davis Hayes was named TEACHER OF THE YEAR 2007, for the State of Rhode Island. She is an elementary art teacher at Oakland Beach Elementary School in Warwick, R. I. This is the first time an art teacher has ever received this award in Rhode Island. Kudos to her for her outstanding achievement! You can congratulate her here.

You can view websites that illustrate her devotion here:

Art teacher named RI teacher of year

WARWICK -- A Warwick art teacher has been named Rhode Island's 2007 Teacher of the Year.

Catherine Davis-Hayes, who teaches art at the Oakland Beach Elementary School, was surprised with the honors in a ceremony this morning that included Governor Carcieri and Education Commissioner Peter McWalters.

Officials honored the veteran teacher for her commitment to arts at a time when state mandates can make elective subjects like this one take a back seat to test preparation.

Davis-Hayes is an 11-year veteran of the school, which has in recent years climbed back from low-performing status.

In a statement, Carcieri praised Davis-Hayes' efforts.

“Cathy’s energy and dedication to the arts and to her students has earned her this important distinction," Carcieri said. "She believes in the power of the arts to help students make connections between ideas from throughout all their areas of study. Rhode Island is very fortunate to have teachers of Cathy's experience, ability, and commitment."