This past summer, K-5 visual arts chair Gerry-louise Robinson and middle school art teacher Sofie Siegmann traveled to Thailand to learn more about the country’s art, culture and history and how they can be integrated into Harker’s visual arts programs. The trip was part of the Raju and Bala Vegesna Teacher Excellence Program, which supports teachers seeking exciting professional development opportunities.
“Thailand is a rich melting pot of art and culture that has embraced traits from all the countries that border it,” said Robinson. “There are so many visible connections with India and East Asia, cultures that are part of our Harker community.”
The excursion began with a three-day stint at the University of Fine Arts in Bangkok, where they gave a presentation and participated in a project with the university’s teachers and students. “We got to explore the many disciplines that the college has to offer and chatted with many professors who are practicing artists in their own right,” said Robinson.
“It was the most rewarding experience, because it brought everybody together,” said Siegmann “The students worked at home, and in the end we all created a wall with over 500 pieces!”
They then visited temples in the northern and southern regions of the country, admiring and analyzing the many different techniques that made each of the temples unique. The trek also included stops at places where locals were creating ceramics in a variety of styles, as well as visits to art studios to meet with and learn from local artists. During the several workshops they attended, Robinson and Siegmann took part in soap carving, paper making and mask painting.
Robinson said she hopes to use the striking scenes she experienced in Thailand’s floating markets into her instruction, in addition paper making projects and works involving elephants, which are icons of Thai culture. Siegmann said she planned to integrate at least two pieces inspired by what she learned in Thailand into every one of her classes, including paper making, soap carving and printmaking.
The teachers thanked global education director Jennifer Walrod for organizing the trip. “Jennifer Walrod did an outstanding job in putting this trip to Thailand together,” said Siegmann Everything she said was true and it all worked out. It was such a smooth, adventuresome experience.” Sakchai Boon-Intr, a professor at the University of Fine Arts, was also instrumental in making the experience so worthwhile. “He did so much to enable us to be at the college and engage with the students and staff,” Robinson. Finally, they thanked the Vegesnas whose endowment granted this unique opportunity.
“Thank you to the Vegesna family for making this possible,” Siegmann said. “What an opportunity!”