Taking the arts to the classroom
In her time at the University of Arizona, Tucson native Elizabeth Denneau found her artistic calling in art education. She’s graduating with a degree in art and visual culture education and is establishing herself as a designer and local artist.
Denneau, a non-traditional transfer from Pima Community College (PCC), has worked with youth most of her life, as a social worker and through youth programs. She ran a fashion line and small business at the same time before making her move to the UA.
She’s shown a passion for art throughout her life. When she was growing up, she remembers making her own clothes and being creative as a way to better communicate her self-expression.
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“When I was younger, I was always drawing and making things and tearing things apart,” Denneau said. “Art was that escape, and when I worked in social work with youth, it was very evident that art is therapeutic.”
After realizing that running a small business took more work than Denneau intended, she decided it was time to focus on another passion: mentoring and teaching art to youth.
Taking the PCC route was the best way to get back into the school routine and helped her adjust to the college lifestyle. Once at the UA, she became involved in the UA School of Art community.
“Being an older student made me even more nervous, knowing that most students are half my age, but the art school made me feel very welcome and helped me get to where I am today,” Denneau said.
Like most college students, she held several jobs, including barista and book store associate, and worked with art programs at the UA.
She continues to carry out her online clothing store, CandyStrike, and produces assembly art, which focuses on combining multi-medium materials on a visual platform.
Cerese Vaden, a professor of art, and Aaron Coleman, an assistant professor of art, have influenced Denneau the most while at the UA. They have made her think differently about art and about the importance of keeping her own practice while still teaching.
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“Denneau is positive, ready to learn, grow and she pushes herself and applies constructive criticism to every project,” Vaden said. “Her work is exceptionally strong, with technical skill and conceptual relevance.”
Vaden has had Denneau in several classes and enjoyed her work ethic and positive attitude, calling her ability to communicate and produce art an immense talent.
Coleman, who teaches in the 2-D division in the UA School of Art, also enjoyed having Denneau in his courses, calling her a joy to be around and a great role model for her classmates.
“Elizabeth is also a dedicated educator. I believe she will make a major impact in the lives of young people,” Coleman said.
Denneau enjoyed the print shop at the UA the most, referring to the kind community and diverse atmosphere it brought to the art school. Given her background in fashion, one of Denneau’s passions is to continue working in print-making.
With her degree, she will be the new visual arts teacher at Marana High School and is looking to give her students that expressive platform and build a strong relationship between the school and the UA.
“I’m very excited to work with high schoolers, and I enjoy working with all age groups,” Denneau said. “High schoolers are really fun because you’ve got that sassiness while also thinking on that deep level, usually about themselves.”
She wants to keep a connection between the UA and her classroom to establish a pipeline for her students to get the experience of higher education, particularly in art.
She wants people to know art education is “one of the coolest avenues” and you can be an artist and teach art to people, which can be very rewarding.
“You can have a job that pays your bills while still producing art and being in that artistic atmosphere,” Denneau said. “Being able to nerd out about art with kids is the coolest thing; it’s really rad.”
Denneau continues to inspire her peers and show her passion for art education while finishing her degree. She looks forward to working with youth and spreading her knowledge in a new creative atmosphere: the classroom.
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