Nicole O

As a daughter of underprivileged Irish widow the importance of education was always emphasized in our home in Ireland. As education in any form is “your ticket out of poverty” my Mother would say repeatedly with her pronounced Irish lilt. My mother was a practical survivor that had our best interest at heart. For her to subsist alone with three children she had to be pragmatic but she was also incredibly creative. I don’t remember a restricted bleak home that accentuated our misfortune. I remember a comfortable, colorful home that encouraged diligence but also imaginative play and creativity. It is an ethos I have kept with me and have applied to my family.

After I was married and moved to New York City, I stayed home as to raise my son, in an incredibly creative environment until he was school going age. I soon realized that I was destined for a career in the arts; this was when I decided that I wanted to peruse a career in Interior Design. We both went back to school together so to speak, he to grade school and I completed an intense four year Bachelor’s Degree from the New York School of Interior Design specializing in Kitchen and Bath Design. I worked in the field for five demanding yet rewarding years; creating incredible spaces that satisfied my artistic vision and the client’s desires within the confines of budget and time constraints. It was to completely understand the needs of my clients and to develop designs that are imaginative and aesthetically pleasing and to be able to communicate effectively with clients and others. During this time I was also volunteering my time introducing children to master works of art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I felt very comfortable in this position; a position of instruction, encouragement and leadership which inspired me to pursue a Master’s Degree in Art Education from the School of Visual Arts.

Later I worked in the New York public school system as an Art Teacher, sometimes in the challenging position of being the only Art Teacher in an extremely large school teaching all of the students from kindergarten to twelfth grade. This experience exposed me to the many and varied obstacles that Teachers, Art Teacher especially are faced with every day due to budget cuts and a lack luster attitude towards the value and importance of art in our public schools. Challenges include a lack of permanent support, lack of space, poor quality materials, and a lack of trained personnel that are equipped to handle children with behavioral issues or special needs. I knew I had to be very creative to succeed in this environment. But thinking creative thoughts is not being creative. There must be an action, a product, some work done. Sitting and dreaming is fine, for it’s often where ideas come from, but action is what creates.

Taking matters into my own hands and come up with creative solutions to solve as many problems as I could; such as finding manufacturing warehouses that were willing to donate discarded safe materials that made incredible sculptures. Having the students participate in fundraising events that raised funds for the art room, such as having them each prepare a piece of art work that could be donated to the art supply fund. I also took it upon myself to educate myself of the premise of Assertive Discipline for problematic students. Assertive discipline is an approach to classroom management developed by Lee and Marlene Canter. It involves a high level of teacher control in the class. It is also called the “take-control” approach to teaching, as the teacher controls their classroom in a firm but positive manner. This greatly improved my classroom management skills and created a more productive classroom environment. My expectance as an Art Teacher truly gave me an insight to obstacles that have to overcome every day; I was up for the task and the rewards far out-weighed the challenges as I had the extraordinary task of introducing children of all ages to Art Education.

However, life can sometimes take interesting and unexpected turns. A move to Santa Fe, New Mexico afforded me the opportunity to become a Furniture Designer and Store Manager of an Import Furniture Store. This position was very different and difficult to maneuver in the beginning, nonetheless as a creative person I see every problem is an opportunity; every obstacle a new challenge. I believe that the more difficult the situation, the greater the opportunity to grow and greater the reward at the end. I used this time as an opportunity to work with people of all ages and all walks of life on a daily basis in the capacity of a Sales Person, Designer and Store Manager, this position has allowed me to further develop my creative skills but also further understand the administrative aspects of a company. This position allowed me to develop a basic understanding of management; an understanding that I would very much like to refine and apply to a potential business or institution in the arts. Based upon my background and experience; a Doctorate Degree in Management and Leadership in my opinion is the next most logical and gratifying step in my career. However, the immense expense of post graduate school is overwhelming for my family, so once again I must take matters into my own hands; and I ask for your support to fulfill a burning desire to obtain a Doctorate Degree and attain a position of higher education and leadership in an institution that will promote the essential element of a child’s development which is Art Education.

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