Explore AOPS

Teacher Spotlight: Inspiring Through Art

1 year ago


From graffiti-style portraits to exhibitions, Madison Blyler uses art to help students find and develop their voices. Here’s what she had to say about building community through St. Laurence School’s thriving art program.


What inspired you to make the jump from being an artist to an art teacher?

I was inspired by my high school teachers and their ability to reach every student’s needs, interests, and abilities. I never had a clear idea of what kind of art medium I wanted to focus on in college, but I realized I would always love learning new techniques, and I wanted to share these findings with students.


Your students’ graffiti portraits draw from art history and local mural art. What’s the typical portrait process?

We spend a full day learning the history of graffiti, from ancient Rome to American graffiti. We discuss the legality of graffiti on the streets and shift to graffiti artists who are now established studio professionals. We also discuss the local murals we’ve seen and the expression we gain from them.

Students sketch a simple portrait, then make a list of 10 words describing their personalities and interests with different typography styles. We focus on composition and scale to fit their graffiti into their portraits, using an “ombre” effect that mimics spray paint techniques.


How have you seen the arts program strengthen the sense of community and collaboration at St. Laurence School?

Our Art Club gives students of all skill sets a chance to collaborate, volunteer at events, and create installations for the school. We have two big art shows per year, as well as collaborations with the Moore College of Art and Design and the Barnes Foundation. And our Spring Arts and Crafts Festival brings together churches, families, students, and local artists to raise money for the school.


What’s your favorite part of being an art teacher at an AOPS school?

The values that come from faith-based learning reveal a positive path for making artwork that is both personal and meaningful. Our small school size allows me to create a classroom atmosphere that encourages an open line of communication between my students and me. And our principal, Sister MaryAnne Bolger, supports every ambition I have to help the department progress.


What are you most excited about for the future of St. Laurence School’s art program?

I’m excited to watch my students grow in their love for the arts. It is rare that you work in a school where so many students stay from Pre-K all the way to 8th grade. I look forward to collaborating more with art teachers in the AOPS and nationwide. The possibilities for art-making are endless, and I know that I will be learning as much as my students.