Converse Professor Named Art Educator of the Year

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The South Carolina Art Education Association (SCAEA) has named Dianne Bagnal as the 2012 South Carolina Art Educator of the Year. Bagnal is coordinator of the Art Education program at Converse College. In presenting the award, SCAEA President Steven Bailey praised, "Dianne Rash Bagnal worked for many years as a public school art teacher before her move to work at Converse. She has guided many students to success in art careers, and we are honored to have her represent the South Carolina Art Education Association as the 2012 Art Educator of the Year." The SCAEA also honored Bagnal in 2003 as Higher Education Art Educator of the Year.

"The relationship between creativity and general intelligence is well known...Today's art teachers prepare students to think creatively, work collaboratively, and develop complex forms of problem solving."

Bagnal was nominated by longtime colleague and friend, Susanne Floyd Gunter, who directs the graduate art education program at Converse. "I have known Dianne for most of my teaching career. She is a person who cannot stop giving to the field of art education," said Gunter. "Dianne revolutionized the art education coursework at Converse College, developing two masters programs to meet the needs of the flourishing art community in the Upstate. Under her leadership, the number of art education majors has grown significantly. She is preparing teachers to face the real world."

Bagnal was thrilled to receive accolades for doing a job she has always loved. "Receiving the Art Educator of the Year award is definitely one of the highlights of my career," she said. "Susanne really surprised me with the award nomination. We both have seen tremendous change in our field over the years—you might say we are the 'history' of art education in South Carolina."

Bagnal has been a member of the faculty at Converse for the past 11 years. She teaches and advises art education majors, teaches art classes for general education majors, and established the college's student chapter of the National Art Education Association. Her greatest Converse legacy is developing both the Master of Education and the Master in the Art of Teaching degrees in art education. Prior to coming to Converse, she taught art for nearly 30 years in K-12 schools, gaining a wealth of experience that has been vital to her success at the higher education level.

"I have always been passionate about teaching art and driven to be a part of the process to make it available to every student," said Bagnal. "My college students often ask my fondest memory as an art educator. There are many, but one stands out that took a little bit of 'creative problem solving.' I had a very small budget to buy art supplies for my classes at one school. My students were working on portraits in watercolor and I had bought the supplies needed out of my pocket (you have to have good watercolor paper to make good paintings). I decided to ask the principal to be our model, so every day during 5th period he'd show up and put on a hat and other props to pose. Long story short, he got to see my teaching in action and the end results of the students' portraits. The next year I had a satisfactory budget and an administrator who really appreciated art."

Bagnal says the field of art education has evolved tremendously in recent decades, with today's teachers understanding the important role art plays in fostering creative thinking skills that transfer across disciplines. "The relationship between creativity and general intelligence is well known. Neurological and mental processes associated with creativity are needed to meet the needs of the 21st century. Today's art teachers prepare students to think creatively, work collaboratively, and develop complex forms of problem solving."

Bagnal has played a significant role in this evolution for South Carolina's K-12 schools. As a board member for the SCAEA, she helped write the Framework for the Arts in South Carolina. She also helped to write Spartanburg School District Seven's secondary level art curricula and helped design Greenville County School District's Elementary Art program. "Today in South Carolina, every child has the opportunity to study art. Early in my career many school districts were just beginning to add art in the elementary and middle school. Art programs have often taken a back seat to other areas," she said.

Looking to the future for the art education field, Bagnal notes, "A large number of art teachers nationwide are approaching retirement age. Those jobs will need to be filled with highly skilled art teachers new to the work force." She says this outlook makes Converse's art education program critical for South Carolina. "My goal at Converse has been to make the undergraduate program competitive with art education programs throughout the nation. And I believe it is. Converse College is a place where young women can grow in an environment conducive for learning guided by outstanding professionals. Working here as an artist and art educator has let me pass on my love of teaching art to students who will be future art teachers."

Teresa Prater, chair of the Department of Art and Design, has worked alongside Bagnal for many years and witnessed the results of her leadership. "Since she took the reins of our art education program, it has blossomed to become one of the very best in the South. Our graduates teach across the state and region, and over the years we have consistently received calls from schools inquiring about upcoming art education graduates for teaching opportunities," she said.

Beyond providing positive experiences for future practitioners, Bagnal has worked to elevate public awareness for the value of art education. Under her leadership, Converse has sponsored several regional invitational exhibitions for art educators and high school art students. She has served as a board member and as Western Region Coordinator for the SCAEA, as president of the Spartanburg Artist Guild, and as guest speaker for civic organizations on the topic of art education. She was also an invited representative to the J. Paul Getty Conference on Technology and the Arts.

Bagnal holds a B.S. degree from East Carolina University in Art Education, an M.Ed. in Gifted and Talented with a concentration in art from Converse, and earned 30 hours above her Master's degree in art and education. An award-winning painter who works primarily in acrylics and watercolors, she was included in the recent Hub City Press publication, Artists Among Us: 100 Faces of Art in Spartanburg.

"Dianne is a treasure to us in the world of arts education for quietly going about the day-to-day work as an art professional as she makes her mark on the next thirty years of art education," reflects Gunter. "It is a great honor to have her as a colleague and friend."