Olga Tsoudis incorporates art as much as she can into her classroom.
The Estrella Mountain Community College sociology professor said she does this because “those are the things that students remember.”
“As learners, we tend to remember the hands-on, more unique projects that we did in school,” she said.
Tsoudis, who can often be found on campus hammering a stake into the ground to display her students’ work, has been on sabbatical to complete a project called “A Sociologist, Some Glue, A Camera, A Bucket of Paint: Social Awareness Through Art.”
Although she’s included art projects in her classes before, she said she took a sabbatical to do something more formal and better educate herself.
Part of that involved taking some courses.
“I don’t have that much of an art background,” she said. “I have an interest in art and creativity and doing things with my students, but I had never done anything more formally like classes or workshops.”
During her leave, she’s taken four online classes. Two, through Duke University, were about art and social change; and the others, through the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, focused on incorporating art into the classroom. She’s also taken some workshops in the Valley.
Another element of her sabbatical required her to create a resource manual to give Maricopa Community College District educators ideas on how to integrate art into their classrooms.
“You can do this in any class,” she said. “In any curriculum, you can do something with your students.”
A community art exhibit was another piece of the project. Her artwork, which focuses on social issues using mixed media, will be on display April 1 to 27 at Fair Trade Cafe, 1020 N. First Ave., in downtown Phoenix. She plans on moving the exhibit to the Plaza Gallery on campus for a week or so just before the fall semester starts and she returns to her classroom.
Two receptions will be held for Tsoudis at Fair Trade: 5 to 9 p.m. April 5 and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 13. Guests are asked to RSVP to Tsoudis at [email protected].
Tsoudis stressed that she’s not an expert in a specific media, and that her students don’t need to be, either, to create pieces that raise social awareness about certain topics.
“You don’t have to be an expert in using your camera, you don’t have to be an expert in painting, you can pull together different supplies and have an idea and still create something with a message,” she said.
Volunteerism also played a part in her project, with Tsoudis donating her time to Ben’s Bells and the Phoenix Art Museum, which is holding its first ever “College Night at the Phoenix Art Museum” event from 6 to 9 p.m. March 27 at 1625 N. Central Ave.
Tsoudis said College Night is a great opportunity for students to showcase their work. Students will also have the opportunity to lead an activity for their peers.
“This can be a fun activity for a class, as well as a student club,” Tsoudis said. “Creativity is encouraged.”
Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) students who show their student IDs are admitted free of charge.