An Arts Based Approach to Literacy

    Five years ago, I snuck into a crowded room in a Baltimore hotel, unknowing that my ideas about education would be forever changed. Researcher Beth Olshansky became one of my heros, as she introduced me to a constructivist model of education.  I wished someone would have taught me writing and reading in such an exciting and low pressure way.


   Beth Olshanky created a book called “The Arts Based Approach to Literacy”  based on her years of research at The University of New Hampshire. She observed children who had minds filled with vibrant imaginings and stories, but who did not like writing and reading.


   This arts based literacy program integrates children’s visual imagery into every stage of the writing process. Classes study the illustrations of famous authors and are introduced to art materials from the first day of class. Unlike traditional methods, this gives students a chance to tap into visual, kinesthetic and verbal modes of thinking. Many children who have a hard time writing in other classes, find that words come to them as they create art pieces for their books.


    Children are motivated to finish the entire writing process so they can then create handbound books, complete with their own photographs on an author’s page. Each finished book is presented to the class, and the learner is invited to share their work in an author’s circle.


    Research has shown that the learners in the arts-based literacy program display fuller expression than students in the control groups.  Personally, I have used this model to teach camps over the last several years, and I have been amazed with the results. Parents and students are often astonished by the quality of work produced in this program.


   Four Seasons Community School and The Austin Artery are excited to announce Austin’s very first arts-based literacy program beginning at Four Seasons Community School this fall.  The Kindergarten and First Grade students will spend their Tuesday and Thursday afternoons splitting time between a quiet writing space and the Art Studio as they produce their own hard bound books and plays. There will even be an option for a limited number of homeschool students (grades K - 2) to join teachers Heidi Miller Lowell and Jen Bradley.

    For more information on arts based literacy programs you might want to check out “The Power of Pictures: Creating Pathways to Literacy through Art.”   You may also contact Heidi Miller Lowell at The Austin Artery for more information.

Visual Memoirs - The Creative Journey


Visual Memoirs - A Creative’s Journey


 Every single religion has a creation story. You are wired to create and connect. Is it your birthright. Claim it.

 This spring I will teach an e-course called Visual Memoirs : The Creative Journey.  In this class we will explore our own creative process and path. Brene Brown said that “Owning our story and loving ourselves through the Process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.” I agree, and I think that the act of writing and painting are some of the most powerful ways we can own our stories. I believe that storytelling gives meaning to our lives.

 Our tribe will create, connect and finds deeper meaning in their daily lives. We will learn about techniques as we walk daily along the creative path together.  Each week the lessons will include video interview writers, artists, and a multitude of other creatives about their own creative journey. This is not just a painting class, it is a class about finding more meaning in our day to day lives through the development of a creative practice.

Each one of us is made up of our experiences and relationships.  Much of the  spiritual work I’ve done healing from post traumatic stress and postpartum depression informs my work.  In my struggles, I have felt completely alone and terrified on some days. Sharing stories and art in a safe space with other creatives has given my life color and depth that was not previously present.

In fact, research is beginning to show that community and connection can change us on a genetic level. (   I would not be surprised if the same is found about art sometime in the future.

This class is loosely based on the framework of The Hero’s Journey, by Joseph Campbell.  This journey, the creative journey, is an invitation to honor your past, be present, and building the future you want. Own your story. Change it. Re-envision yourself through storytelling and art.

Registration is now open at  Class begins on April 18th, with the new moon.


You may have heard of STEM schools, which focus on Science Technology Engineering and Math. However, researchers and educators alike are beginning to realize that innovation is best nurtured through the arts. Therefore, many schools and organizations are evolving from STEM curriculum to STEAM curriculum as they embrace the arts.

In Mr. Boatright’s 5th grade class at Blackshear Elementary we have been working on logo design.  Blackshear is Austin's first fine arts magnet elementary.  We are partnering the study of art and math to strengthen our understanding of both realms. We spent time studying many famous logos and came to the conclusion that often time successful logos use simple geometric shapes that have rotational symmetry, reflection symmetry or simple translation. The students began the semester by sketching simple geometric logos that incorporated at least one type of symmetry.

Later, we discussed the psychology of color and students had a chance to create more designs as they reflected on their use of color in their design. Right now, the students are planning to designs logos for a variety of school organizations. We are hoping to have the best designs printed. Keep your eyes open for the great work coming from Mr. Boatright’s fifth grade class!


If you are in Austin we'd like to invite you to come stop by and see us at Little East. Here is the flier: 

Nurturing Your Creative Spirit Through Art & Storytelling

Nurturing Your Creative Spirit Through Art & Storytelling

The Artery’s curriculum transforms “mistakes” from stumbling blocks into pathways to new opportunities. You cannot make the wrong choice. We use story prompts with a variety of media to create layered art pieces. These layers and lessons are metaphors for our life. Some psychologists believe that the stories and art we make, even when fictitious, create parallels to our life and provide opportunities for problem solving. Furthermore, X-rays show that Leonardo da Vinci painted 30 layers on the Mona Lisa. When we continue to explore with a variety of media and add layers to our art pieces, we develop persistence. The stories and art pieces can be more touching and stunning than anything we had initially envisioned.


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