Art teacher John Harris came to UT Elementary School last year to begin the Multicultural Arts program with an impressive resume. He attended Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where he studied arts education as well as painting and digital media. He went on to graduate school at Harvard. He has taught at the Performing and Visual Arts School in Houston, in a dual language program in Houston, at the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. and in Austin Independent School District.
“I see my job to expose kids to as much information about their world as possible,” says Harris. Last year his students studied China, Brazil and Egypt, learning not only about the arts of those countries but about geography, samba dancing, climate change and geometry. They made puppets, painted murals and learned to render shapes from one-point and two-point perspectives. “It’s amazing to watch second graders get basic geometry, even if they don’t know that is what they are doing,” said Harris.
“There’s an assumption that the arts are a luxury or secondary to needs of students in the classroom when in fact if they have a proper teacher with the proper background, you can give them a context for what they learn in other classes and make the learning experience richer and deeper.”