Year Five of Art21 Educators: Becca Belleville and Eric Pugh

Two weeks ago, we introduced you to Art21 Educators Lynn Grimes and Carol Barker from New Mexico. This week, we are excited to present Becca Belleville and Eric Pugh from Baltimore, Maryland.

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Becca and her husband Eric both teach in Baltimore public high schools. Becca teaches at Maritime Industries Academy, a maritime-themed high school with naval courses and a Junior ROTC program. Eric has been teaching for four years at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, formerly an all-male engineering school that’s now open to everyone, but still focused in math and science.

As a visual art teacher, Becca remembers one of her first experiences introducing Art21 in her classroom:

“Four years ago, when I first started teaching I had no curriculum or materials of quality. I became frustrated with a lot of the teacher-created resources online that focused on dead white men who had little in common with the students I taught. I’ve always been interested in silhouettes and began to do some research on Kara Walker and came upon the Art21 Educators’ Guides which laid out contemporary artists’ work thematically. This was a revelation to me and helped shape the way I categorize and combine artists and their work. The resources that Art21 has created thus far give me the ability to make my curriculum more “big picture,” and I easily weave contemporary artists in and out of interdisciplinary themes such as the Rwandan Genocide, ecology, and our view of the term ‘community.’”

Becca uses questions raised by contemporary artists in order to help her students create their own thematic art installations. She hopes to continue this practice with Art21 artists like Cindy Sherman, Jenny Holzer, and Carrie Mae Weems. ”Whether you are a small town Midwestern grandparent or an inner city East Coast ten-year-old,” she says, “there is an artist who you have the ability to connect with in a deep and meaningful way.”

Likewise, as an English teacher, Eric taught Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns and drew inspiration from street artists including Banksy and Shepard Fairey to discuss gender issues and clothing in the Middle East. The artists’ respective pieces, How do you like your eggs? and Women in Burqas alongside images by Parisian artist Princess Hijab, created a flurry of conversation in the classroom about cultures and gender roles. “My students were engaged, bouncing ideas off one another, and participating in a high level of critical discourse,” Eric explains. By joining the Art21 Educators Program, he wants this scenario “to be the norm, not the exception.”

Check back in two weeks when we profile Art21 Educators Renee Bareno and Sara Fromboluti.


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