Katie Seastrand was hired by the Art Museum of Utah to travel and teach K-12 classrooms throughout Utah, but much of her work has been redesigned as COVID-19 complicated things. On Saturday, Seastrand received a high honor for this work. (Ashley Fredde, KSL.com)
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SALT LAKE CITY – The ambiguity of the Mona Lisa’s smile has been examined by art historians for centuries. Sitting among other works of art Tuesday at the Art Museum of Utah, Katie Seastrand’s smile contained no ambiguity — it was on as she talked about the art around her.
Seastrand is the Director of School Programs and Teachers at the Salt Lake City Museum of Fine Arts. She can create captivating and wonderful stories behind works of art; but when the subject changed from art to itself, that smile became modest.
“The idea of working in education really struck me — about how we can bring museum and art to people across the state and how we can really work to find those connections for people. I can share my passion for art with someone else so maybe they can find their own passion for art,” Seastrand said. “I also love talking about art.
Seastrand was named the Utah Museum Educator of the Year at the Utah Art Education Association Spring Conference on Saturday. She called the honor “surprising” and “lovely” before quickly focusing on the teachers she works with.
“I feel so incredibly honored to work with art educators from Utah and just educators from across the state. It has truly been an amazing experience,” Seastrand said.
Seastrand was hired in September 2019 to travel and teach K-12 classrooms throughout Utah. Much of Seastrand’s work has been revamped as COVID-19 complicates museum outreach and engagement. Immediately, Seastrand sought to meet the needs of educators and students.
The first project included art kits of supplies and images of several works of art from the museum. The kits began when students in the Granite School District struggled to meet requirements during the 2020 Salt Lake Valley earthquake and the COVID-19 pandemic. The art kits were created as easy projects that students could complete for credit with minimal supervision from educators.
And while the art kits were initially created to meet educational requirements, Seastrand thinks they’ve gone above and beyond.
“I think the importance of creating art is that it’s about having that experience. I think art can be very cathartic; it can be a stress reliever; it can be a lot of different things. for different people, and especially students,” Seastrand said. .
The art kits “were born out of a need for students to have materials and things, but also just the recognition that creating art is important,” she said.
Seastrand and his colleagues distributed 1,500 art kits to Salt Lake area schools and Whitehorse High School in Montezuma Creek, San Juan County. From there, Seastrand expanded the museum’s distance learning efforts into five new programs that brought virtual tours and education to more than 6,000 students and 550 teachers statewide.
I think the importance of creating art is that it’s about having that experience. I think art can be very cathartic; it can be a stress reliever; it can be a lot of different things for different people, and especially students.
–Katie Seastrand, Utah Museum Educator of the Year
As virtual learning and exploration became a feature of the pandemic, Seastrand was always looking for ways for students to physically engage in art.
“We have two boards that are really good for walkthroughs because one is very structured and the other is very loose,” Seastrand said.
From the different paintings, Seastrand invites students to participate in a structured activity and then an open activity. The contrast allows for engagement with students on two different levels, she said. Doing this kind of activity is one of his favorite activities.
“It’s really fun to use art as this form of exploration and creativity – it’s kind of that kind of thing where I realized it was actually work and you could work in your happy place.”
Despite being surrounded by artwork, Seastrand said she would be the first to admit she wasn’t an amazing artist. In fact, she encourages anyone without an experienced artistic background to feel comfortable in mediocrity.
“Art can really have that intimidating side where it’s supposed to be the most liberating,” she said. “Once you release the pressure to create something beautiful and perfect and ready to be exhibited, you can really step into the true importance of creating art, which is self-expression. It’s exploring your own ideas and feelings about something.”