Arkansas Art Educators

Arkansas Art Educators (AAE) is a statewide organization of art teachers. The organization’s focus is to advocate for art education through supporting legislation and providing quality professional development for all art instructors in the state.

AAE began as the art section of the Arkansas State Teachers Association (ASTA), which later became the Arkansas Education Association (AEA). The art group met as early as November 1922 for the ASTA fall conference. Classroom teachers from across the state gathered to discuss how to incorporate picture study and art history into the classroom curriculum. The group continued to meet yearly to hold elections and to discuss ways to further art education in the Arkansas school system.

Members supported art education by writing articles published in the AEA’s Journal of Arkansas Education. Past presidents Mabel Jamison, who worked in the Rohwer Relocation Center, and Clara B. White of Kramer School in Little Rock (Pulaski County) were among many who wrote articles in support of art education for all students. Through the group’s efforts, art became a standalone subject at the high school level and continued to be incorporated in regular classrooms at the elementary level. By the 1950s, the art section was now called the Arkansas Art Education Association (AAEA) and held conferences each fall focusing on trends in the field of art education including art creation, art history, and expanding the role of art education in the schools. AAEA instituted its first organizational constitution in 1955, outlining the duties of the executive board and council as well as membership responsibilities, in addition to establishing state delegates to attend the regional Western Arts Association meetings and the National Art Education Association’s annual conference. AAEA functioned as a self-governing organization while affiliating with the state regional and national associations.

Major milestones in the following decades included constitutional expansion in 1967, which added the state art specialist as a permanent member of the executive board. AAEA members worked to create the first statewide elementary art curriculum, which was also published in 1967 by State Art Specialist Edwin Brewer. Former presidents Carolyn Hofmann and Joe Scott were instrumental in AAEA unifying with the National Art Education Association on April 22, 1977. The group published its first newsletter in 1984.

In 1988, the group was awarded 501(c) nonprofit status. Sometime earlier, the organization’s name had been changed to Arkansas Art Educators. AAE members continued to support art education legislation for art in junior high and were instrumental in passing Act 1506 of 2001, known as the Art in the Public Elementary Schools of Arkansas Act. Members helped write and revise the state art frameworks and support certified art teachers in the classroom. AAE annually produces a three-day conference to continue teacher dialogue and art skills and discuss current trends. AAE sponsors “Portfolio Day,” created by past president Cathy Porter in 1984, and the State Art Show, created in 1992. The AAE President’s Fund Foundation was formed to award scholarships to teachers wanting to continue their education.

For additional information:
Arkansas Art Educators. (accessed February 22, 2022).

May, Ronda R. “Art Education in Arkansas: The Organizational History of the Arkansas Art Educators from 1922 to the Present.” Master’s thesis, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, 2008.

Stinnett, T. M., and Clara B. Kennan. All This and Tomorrow Too: A History of the Arkansas Education Association. Little Rock: Arkansas Education Association, 1969.

Ronda R. May
Little Rock, Arkansas


    A large number of art teachers were hired for the 1986–87 (or 87–88) school year, which especially impacted smaller, rural schools. To graduate, high school students needed a half credit of a fine art (art, band, choir). The new law included 40 minutes a week of art and music for elementary students. This new law was created with a lot of input  and support from Hillary Clinton, at that time the governor’s wife. These teachers were hired along with a large number of other new teachers who taught music and foreign language, as well as school nurses, librarians, and counselors. (Note: The last two I believe cannot serve over 500 students, unlike art and music where no legal upper limit of students has been set.) Until the new law went into effect, only larger and better-financed schools in Arkansas had art programs. Most smaller schools could only offer basics, with little or no music and art classes. Many elementary schools implemented art, along with music, in the mid-80s to complement the new regulations that elementary teachers legally had to have 40 minutes of prep time a day. One reason this fact is important is because many teachers who were hired at that time are just now ready for teacher retirement, having reached twenty-eight to thirty years of service. This somewhat large exodus of longtime art teachers, some of whom were the trailblazing first art teacher in their school or district, means new, qualified, exciting art teachers will be stepping in to carry the banner for the arts for the next generation.

    Virginia Booth