by Rita Charleston
Her love affair with art probably began when she was just a little girl sorting through her mother’s button box.
“Some might think this is weird, but I remember finding things and putting them together to form a sort of collage,” said Dr. Lisa Kay, a Mt. Airy resident who was recently honored with the Mary J. Rouse Award, given by the National Art Education Association Women’s Caucus to recognize the work of a professional who has shown potential to make significant contributions in the art education profession.
“This award is such an affirmation of your work,” Kay said. “You go to work every day without expecting to get recognition for it. So it’s really an honor and a tribute to receive this from colleagues. By seeing my name added to the lineage of art educators whose work has shaped the field of art education makes me feel truly humble.”
But awards are not what Kay works for. “In fact, I say this is my third career. I’ve been a graphic designer, practiced art therapy and am now in the position of educator.”
Today, Kay, who requested that her age not be mentioned, is assistant professor in the Tyler School of Art, Department of Art Education and Community Arts Practices, offering undergraduate and graduate degree programs in Art Education and a certificate in Community Arts. Her award followed Kay’s receiving a Fulbright Interdisciplinary Research/Teaching Fellowship to Hungary in 2010 that combined art therapy, art education and arts-based qualitative research.
As part of her Fellowship, she conducted a cross-cultural pilot study of drawings created by adolescents responding to what is beautiful and what is ugly, based on the work of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, who taught art at the Terezin concentration camp during WWII.
“Friedl taught art to refugee children in Czechoslovakia before the war,” Kay explained. “And during the war, when she was transported to Terezin, she smuggled in her art supplies because she intended to continue to teach art there. Later, when she was sent to Auschwitz, she told someone to take care of the pictures that she had accumulated, and when the camp was liberated, some 4,000 drawings were found and stored away in the basement of The Jewish Museum in Prague.”
According to Kay, Friedl had the children draw pictures of those who were dying or people they saw murdered or starving right in front of their eyes. But she tried to get them to look beyond what was going on around them and find some beauty in the world.
Kay said she was lucky enough to study the drawings in order to find the thematic approach Friedl used and go on to use them herself, not only in conjunction with her Fellowship in Hungary, but in a new curriculum she’s developing here with her research centering on troubled adolescents 15 to 17.
“Another of my courses is teaching students how to deal with people who have difficult challenges and disabilities. And just like a picture is worth a thousand words, the images they create are so powerful, they tell us a great deal about their lives and their relationships.” Originally from Memphis, Kay received a master’s degree from the University of Memphis and a doctorate from the Northern Illinois University. She moved to our area during the 2010-2011 academic year, and she insists she’s enjoying both living in Mt. Airy and her work at Temple University very much.
The Stella Elkins Tyler School of Art, also known as Tyler School of Art, is an art school at Temple University. The school was originally founded in 1935 by sculptors Stella Elkins Tyler and Boris Blai on a separate 14-acre estate in Elkins Park. It now has about 1,600 students and is located at 2001 N. 13th St. on Temple’s main campus.
For more information, call 215-777-9000 or visit www.tyler.temple.edu.