Junction Summer Program Helps Art Educators Achieve Their Dreams

The Junction Summer Program is Texas Tech’s hidden gem which enables full-time professional arts educators to fulfill their dreams of getting Master of Art Education (MAE) degrees at their own pace.  Directed by Future Akins-Tillett, Coordinator of the MAE program and associate professor in visual studies, the summer art community is focused on developing a deeper, more meaningful relationship to the arts through production, critique, discussion and open exchange.  This year two MAE candidates completed their work toward their degrees.  Below are their stories.

Julie Lynn Freedman began her MAE at Texas Tech University in the fall of 2007. As an abstract painter living in Austin, Texas while teaching high school Spanish and art in Texas public schools, Ms. Freedman sought an artistic and intellectual challenge to study art and produce works that incorporated language, symbolism and figuration within her color fields of abstractions.

Freedman’s sojourns in Spain and in Brazil, where she has at times lived and worked, have influenced her life aspirations and her work. The symbolism prevalent in Julie Freedman’s current artwork starts with feminine contours that evoke sensuality and as well as a suggestion of ambiguous space to render a complex, colorful and somewhat rhetorical composition.  Other nascent imagery in her abstract environments includes male shadows, vases and vessels, and architectural structures. Her paintings acknowledge a balance and interdependence between abstraction and imagery.

Freeman paintings, on left " mujer y pez" on the right, "hombre cara roja"

For her MAE thesis exhibition she created a new body of work which is on gallery display at the Junction Center Gallery in Junction, Texas and can be seen until July 30th.  To see more of her artwork, click to link to her personal website.

Dana Miller, a high school teacher at Elysian Fields High School in Elysian Fields, Texas, was quickly approaching fifty years of age and began to realize that her own life could be cut short like her mother’s. She knew that she should stop postponing the desires of her heart and to pursue her dream of obtaining an advanced degree and to return to being a practicing artist. Plans to go to Junction were underway.  As the capstone for her MAE, Miller chose to complete a paper and professional project entitled “The Artistic Journey toward Healing and Recovery in My Own Life and in the Lives of My Students.” The focus of the project dealt with the healing power of art. Dana’s own mother’s battle with cancer and her experiences with the MAE program became the catalysts for her to become more keenly aware of the emotional pain that many of her students endured daily.

The paper was the result of a project she had worked on with her students at her school.  Dana discussed with her students the process of creating three nature-themed murals in a barren courtyard outside their classroom at their school, and how the completion of the work might benefit them as well as others by providing solace from painful life experiences.  Dana’s students made the decision to use a tree motif as the central theme in their mural. The feature wall would include trees created from glass mosaic, concrete backer board, and latex exterior paint. After working for nine months on the project, the panels were complete and installed.  Texas Tech grad student Ryan Harbert, a landscape architect, worked collaboratively with Dana to create the garden area of the project. The garden would become an ongoing project for all students and an outdoor classroom for all students who wanted to access the area.  The courtyard had been transformed into a remarkable place of beauty and restoration, and healing. In her heart, Dana knew that art would continue to touch the lives of all who took the time to visit here.

Completed mural on left and students working on project at right.

In her own life, Dana realized that the road to Junction was her own journey to emotional healing. There she found a way to rejuvenate her inner being and to find a balance between pouring out so much of herself and having her own vessel filled to the brim. She was more positive than ever that art had made a remarkable impact on her students and on their teacher.

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