Art professor and student smiling during a studio session

Many students interested in the fine arts feel funneled into three distinct career paths: They can be teachers, researchers, or professional artists. With this in mind, Associate Professor of Art Education Delane Ingalls Vanada created a new graduate program last year to show students they don’t have to choose and they can be all three.

“Most programs out there are going to focus on research and teaching. And that’s odd to me,” said Ingalls Vanada. “Our program is focused on being more balanced in training the artist, the researcher, and the teacher.”

The Master of Arts in Art Education at the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, Drama, and Art is designed around Ingalls Vanada’s belief that the best educators are active artists conducting research advancing understanding of the power of creativity to transform lives. Her goal is to invest in students’ artistic growth so they can better assist others in a variety of settings, including art therapy and community development.

Ingalls Vanada said each of the students shares a passion for art as a way to address social, political, and cultural challenges across the world. The program has grown from two to 12 students since last year’s launch. She credits the success in part to the flexibility, as students can complete their degree on a part-time basis in as little as 15 months.

“I designed this program for working professionals, so that they can keep their full-time jobs and still pursue their dream,” she said.

Each summer, students come to campus for one to two weeks for studio intensives where they create artwork together and visit the world-class art museums in Washington, D.C., for inspiration. The rest of the year, their classes are online with weekly virtual livestreamed classes.

“This way, they build connections and experiences with others working toward the same goal, which deepens commitment and learning when they are apart,” said Ingalls Vanada.

She said the students gain a global perspective by participating in an international study of art education models in the U.S., Norway, and Brazil. Ingalls Vanada said her collaborators have developed online learning modules that are incorporated into the coursework to foster intercultural dialogue

“Brazil and Norway focus on incorporating design and craft into teacher training,” said Ingalls Vanada. “I’m looking forward to the students learning about how each of the countries shapes the next generation.”

A four-year MADit (Mobility in Art and Design Teacher Training) grant from the government of Norway includes an exchange program with Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, starting with two students in spring 2024. The cultural exchanges are expected to continue with Brazil’s Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul even after the grant ends.

“Our common research interest is in exploring the role of art and design education … to prepare globally-minded citizens who will go on to teach future agents of change,” said Ingalls Vanada. These goals are core to her own artistic formation that drives the art education program.

“In the U.S. we separate art and design, but I’ve always had my feet in both worlds,” she said. By connecting different disciplines across continents, Ingalls Vanada hopes to expand the worlds of each of her students. — M.B.