The Art Education program has a focus on the most current concepts for using art to develop knowledge and skills in young students.

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The Art Education Program at NMU

The Art and Design Education program will enable you to be certified to teach art in the public schools, grades K-12. Students entering this program will become confident in teaching and gain competence as a practicing artist or designer. This is an opportunity to excel as an art educator and become proficient within a studio concentration.

The program is a comprehensive experience, with a focus on the most current concepts for using art to develop knowledge and skills in young students. You will become acquainted with a wide range of media, as well as a concentration in the studio area of your choice. We include full use of technology to develop effective lesson planning strategies, with integration of laptop computers, tablets, digital video cameras and projectors, and access to a large online library of world art. You will expand your knowledge of contemporary artists, explore how they create meaning in their work, and create engaging lessons that address concerns of young people in our current society. Your lessons will develop exciting and authentic experiences in art making. The skills you will teach will be important to your students’ success as creative problem solvers of the future.

Classes focus on research, writing and discussion of topics in art education, studio projects that develop and demonstrate your learning in art education, and lesson planning focused on developing visual literacy and creativity in school art programs. Importance is placed on postmodern concepts and processes in art, multicultural art forms, and contemporary visual culture. You will learn to develop multi-media computer-based presentations, and to create lessons based on meaningful themes derived from authentic art practices and artworks.

Classes at all levels include field experiences observing or teaching in local schools. You will have many chances to experience teaching in K-12 classrooms before your final student teaching experience. Additionally, you will discover the excitement of creating and exhibiting your own body of artwork as an undergraduate art and design student. We believe a successful art teacher should be an active artist or designer. You will have the same studio experiences and exhibitions as any other art and design student. You will find this to be a unique aspect of the Art Education program here at NMU.

Art Education offers an artist a career opportunity and the ability to make an important contribution to society and the lives of young people. Graduates of the NMU teacher education programs are highly regarded, both in Michigan and nationwide. We have an accomplished record of successful employment of our new teachers in public schools. Art Education graduates can also go on to become museum education directors, community art directors, art therapists, art administrators, and more.

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Art Education Provides Students with the Ability to Make an Important Contribution to Society

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Art Education Faculty

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Michael Letts

BFA Northern Michigan University
MFA The Ohio State University

Michael Letts is an Associate Professor of Art Education at Northern Michigan University. He began teaching art in 1984, as a Teaching Assistant at The Ohio State University, where he earned his MFA in painting in 1986. Beginning at NMU in 1993, Letts taught painting, drawing, printmaking, cognates, and art history. In 1994 he earned his Michigan Teaching Certificate in Art and English. For over ten years he taught Art and English in local public schools. His high school art programs undertook many large-scale public projects, developing successful grant awards and corporate partnerships, and gaining media coverage and accolades for his students and schools. Mural projects he developed with students can still be seen around the community.

Letts began teaching Art Education at NMU in 2007. His professional activities in education include articles published in state and national education research journals. He has presented research at the major National Art Education Association annual conferences in San Diego and New York City, and at state level conferences in both Art and English. He contributes to the field of Education in Michigan, working on development of state K-12 learning assessments in English, and in art as part of the innovative Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment (MAEIA) project.

As a professional artist, Letts has won multiple awards for his paintings, showing at museums and galleries at state, regional, national, and international exhibitions. His artwork is held in a number of private and public collections, including Northern Michigan University, Alma College in Alma, Michigan, and Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan.


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Michael Letts
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Michael Letts
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Art Education Courses

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AD 248 Introduction to Art Education

4 credit hours
Offered: Offered every third semester. Consult with adviser for which semester course will be offered.
Prerequisites: AD 101, AD 270, a minimum grade point average of 2.70 in the department and admission to a teacher education program. Students must have a portfolio review of previous work.

An introduction to art education and concepts of knowledge, values and skills with different media in the art classroom. Emphasis is placed on comprehensive art education, audiovisual productions, planning and organizing of an art room and writing lesson plans. A “B” or higher must be earned to take AD 302.

AD 302 Media and Methodology for Art Education

4 credit hours
Offered: Offered every third semester. Consult with adviser for which semester course will be offered.
Prerequisites: Admission into pre-methods phase of the School of Education, Leadership and Public Service, ED 201, ED 231, ED 301 and AD 248. AD 248 with a minimum grade of “B” and a minimum GPA of 2.7 in the department.

To explore a variety of media used in the art classroom and to gain knowledge, values and skills in writing comprehensive art education lessons. To implement lesson plans in the schools/museums for practical application.

AD 310 Art for the Elementary Classroom Teacher

2 credit hours
Offered: Fall, Winter
Prerequisites: Admission to teacher education

A survey of a variety of teaching strategies to implement concepts of knowledge, values and skills in the art classroom. Emphasis is placed on design, creativity, visual structures, child development, artists, art criticism, aesthetics, lesson planning, and art production using a variety of media.

AD 350 Curriculum Theory and Objectives for Art Education

4 credit hours
Offered: Fall Only
Prerequisite: Admission to the methods phase of teacher education, AD 248 and AD 302 with a minimum grade of “B” and a minimum GPA of 2.70 in the department. Transfer or post-baccalaureate students must have a portfolio of their work approved by the department.

An examination of how the history of art education influences art curricula today. Emphasis is on a written 15-week curriculum, discussion of creative problem solving, discipline, motivation, evaluation and student-teaching experience.

Note: May not be applied toward a non-teaching major or any minor in art and design. The art education courses listed above must be taken sequentially.

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Art Education FAQ

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What emphasis will I find in the Art Education Program?

We emphasize a theme-based art education curriculum. You will also find a focus on understanding current meanings in art, in order to create lessons that are fresh and relevant to today’s students. Postmodern art principles and practices, multicultural art, and visual culture, are all discussed and used to create your lesson plans.

We use design and studio-based methods, to make K-12 art classes a place to develop creative thinking skills that have value to all students, not just those who want to be artists. There is an emphasis on use of computers to present lessons, and use of digital technology to teach and create exciting projects for K-12 students.

Field experiences are also a big part of the program. You will be out observing and teaching in local K-12 schools every semester of the program.

Will I major in a specific art area like any other art major?

Yes, you will declare your choice of a studio area of concentration, such as ceramics, painting and drawing, photography, or any other area that we offer. Your classes and program in your studio area are structured just as any art major. You will go through the same art review (AD303) and will show work in the senior exhibition. It is the same program and standards as the BFA in art, with additional classes for the teacher education.

What are the prospects for employment in art education?

We have a good record of success with our students in getting public school jobs. NMU teacher education has high standards, and our graduating teachers are highly regarded across the country. Employment opportunities are always out there, but will vary in number and location from year to year. A teaching certificate is an excellent credential to have along with your art training, as it shows you are qualified to work with children, and have strong human relations skills. This credential is significant to a wide range of employers and supports opportunities in other areas; hospitals, day care centers, assisted living centers, museum education, arts administration, gallery owner, and after school or weekend art programs are a few of the many options. The certificate proclaims your “people skills” in a big way, which employers will value. And there are job openings for art teachers every year in K-12 schools. NMU graduates have been very successful in getting these jobs.

How long does it take to complete the Art Education program at NMU?

The program requires the most credits of any in Art & Design, as you need the Education classes plus the Art program. The specific requirements can be found in the course bulletin on the NMU website. The program can be completed in 4 ½ academic years (9 semesters), with the final semester being student teaching. Often, students will take 5 years, depending on their individual goals and needs.

Will I need to submit a portfolio for admission?

There is no portfolio requirement for admission into the introductory (100 and 200 level) Art and Design courses. However, a faculty led portfolio review is conducted for students at the 300 levels in order to determine continuation in the program of study.

What kind of computer do I need?

As a student in the School of Art and Design, you will be issued an Apple MacBook laptop computer. The laptop will come with the majority of the required software already loaded. There are four computer labs available for student use as well. The labs are used for instruction and in some cases when specific software is unavailable for the laptops, projects must be completed in the labs.

Are there scholarships for incoming freshman?

The school offers the High School Freshman Scholarship (four $1000 awards) that is available each year with applications due in April.

See the web for details
Scholarship Information

More Questions?
Please write Professor Michael Letts
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