students on stage

Sunny Spillane

Sunny Spillane
School of Art/Art Education

When did you begin teaching at UNCG?


What attracted you to the position? Why this university/program? Describe the moment you knew UNCG/CVPA/School was a great fit for you.

I am an artist and an art educator, so I was excited that this position was in the School of Art and that most of my colleagues would be artists. Because my teaching and research are focused on social justice and educational equity, I am thrilled to work in a minority-serving public university that is affordable and accessible to regular working students and families. I knew the School of Art was a great fit for me during my campus interview, when the faculty laughed at my jokes and asked questions me how I planned to make my anti-racist art education research make a meaningful impact.

Favorite course or subject matter to teach and why?

My favorite class to teach is ARE 260 Art Education and Social Practice, which I developed with my colleague Lee Walton. I love how creative my students and I can be in conceptualizing teaching as a creative practice, and creative practice as teaching. My two favorite assignments in this class are the student podcast series and the semester-long journal project focused on developing creative methodologies for displacing whiteness in art and art education.

What makes UNCG, CVPA or your School special? Why do you think students should choose us?

Our students make UNCG, CVPA and the School of Art special. As a queer faculty member, I can also say UNCG is a welcoming place for LGBTQ+ folks. I feel very comfortable being out on campus, and with my colleagues and students in the CVPA and the School of Art.

Favorite memory at UNCG?

I have a lot of great memories at UNCG, and it’s hard to pick a favorite. A really special memory is graduation for the first cohort of student teachers I supervised in Spring 2014. I am still so proud of them (and all my student teachers!).

Advice for future students who want to be successful?

Take care of yourselves and your mental health first and foremost. Follow your heart- pick a major that will help you do work you love. Celebrate your accomplishments and don’t dwell on your mistakes or bad grades (or tough critiques!). Ask for help when you need it! Be proactive and communicate with your professors when you first start to fall behind. Go to their office hours. Minimize your student debt and only borrow what you absolutely need. Set yourself up for financial success as well as career success. Love yourself – you are magical and perfect. <3

If you were a student in your program now, what would you do differently from your actual undergraduate experience or what might you pursue that you didn’t?

I would major in art education. 🙂

Most proud career moment or experience:

Chairing my first MFA thesis committee working with grad student billy dee, class of 2021.

If you have an intriguing research, collaboration or community-based project you want to share about, please do so in this space.

I am beginning a study of the anti-racist teaching and learning community my students and I created together in my Fall 2020 section of ARE 260 Art Education and Social Practice. This study examines data (course structure, assignments, instructor communications and interactions with students, student work products, online discussions, etc) collected throughout the semester. Guiding research questions are still developing, and include the following: (1) what does anti-racist pedagogy look like in this class? (2) in what ways does this class center whiteness and decenter whiteness in anti-racist pedagogy? (3) how are public (online discussion) and private (personal journal) forums used individually and in relation to one another to develop creative methodologies for displacing whiteness in art/art education? (4) what is the role of and relationship between risk-taking and relationship-building in the teaching and learning community of this class?

Is there anything else you believe is important and would like to share with prospective students?

UNCG’s Art Education BFA Licensure program is especially interested in recruiting and supporting BIPOC students and increasing teacher diversity in art education. Our program has a nearly 100% job placement rate and a growing network of BIPOC alumni who work with current students. We are committed to anti-racist and multicultural art education and to nurturing teachers’ creative spirits.

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