PATRICIA (PAT) FRANKLIN
The following interview was conducted on April 13, 2016, by Amanda Barbee, a graduate student in the Department of Art Education at Virginia Commonwealth University. This interview is part of the Virginia Art Education Association Distinguished Fellows’ Legends and Legacies Project, a project intended to preserve the histories of prominent Virginia art educators for posterity.
Pat Franklin was interviewed on her career accomplishments and philosophies on leadership. Mrs. Franklin is an active member in the art education field, and is currently the President of the National Art Education Association. She also has leadership experience with the Virginia Art Education Association, and is currently the Supervisor of the Visual and Performing Arts in Newport News, Virginia.
AB: This may be a fairly typical question but one of my favorite things to hear: What led you to have a moment of “this is excellent, this is wonderful, I’m so excited? A sense of purpose and placement in our field experienced?
PF: Okay, then everything has been a “now” moment. Yeah, really! I have taught every single grade level that there is (laughs) and people have asked me which one is my favorite. Quite frankly, it’s whichever one I’m teaching at that moment that is my favorite. But, I just have always been drawn to the arts, and teaching the arts, and sharing that joy. It’s always been a “now” moment.
AB: I love that! That’s so great! Now with your current position, and where you’ve come to making things happen in your field, what is the most fulfilling for you right now? In your role, in your district?
PF: In my district, being able to maintain the high standards and quality of instruction for students, and making sure that our teachers have all the resources that they need to be able to do their very best. That’s always a struggle for our teachers, you know, having the resources.
AB: Absolutely. Where have you been successful in those efforts? What are some examples of getting those resources to them?
PF: Being able to offer transportation for field trips to the local arts center. We don’t have an art museum per se in Newport News, but we do have the Peninsula Fine Arts Center. We also have sculptures placed around the city, and I’ve been able to secure transportation for the kids to be able to go to take bus tours to view the sculptures.
AB: Oh, that’s so cool. I’ve seen few of those!
PF: We’re adding more and more in the city all the time. I think that has been part of it. For the consumable supplies, I have been able to make sure, and ensure that there is equity. We have about 47 schools. So there is equity across the board, across the entire school district. For funding and for supplies, there is equity.
AB: Is that typical? I know that it’s not for the counties that I’ve worked for.
PF: It’s not typical, it is something that we’ve worked on. I think technically it is site based for most other districts. We have been able to maintain it as an administratively based oversight. That oversight comes through me.
AB: That is really neat. I like that!
PF: I do too! It makes certain that all of the teachers have that same basis to start with. There are some schools that have a Parent-Teacher Association that may contribute, and some teachers apply for many grants, but that is of their own initiative and adds to what they already have. Nobody is without the basics.
AB: That’s awesome. You mentioned getting buses out to the community. Do you have any other community connections that you’re especially proud of your district right now in the arts?
PF: The one Newport News Public Arts Foundation, which is the foundation that is installing the sculptures around the city, I’m actually a member of their board. So when they started doing the sculptures we began interviewing the artists themselves. I’ve been able to arrange for them to be able to go into the schools, and the local area where the sculptures will be positioned. Those artists are able to go into the schools, meet with our students, do joint projects, and the students are able to be involved in the placement of the piece. Then after that, we interviewed the sculptors. Now we have it set up so that when you do a bus tour to see these sculptures, you can actually get on your smartphone and hear the artists talking about their conception for the artwork, how it was placed, and it’s connection to the community.
AB: Oh, that is super cool!
PF: Yeah, it is one of the things that I’m going to incorporate in some of the publications that I do for State Association presentations in the coming year. And as an NAEA presentation.
AB: That was a gorgeous segue.
PF: Yeah, it was a wonderful project.
AB: It sounds like it, I’ll have to come back through and check those out again.
PF: Now, this is something that the foundation did, and applied and received a grant for it. I have been a part of this on both ends as a part of the foundation but also as a part of the school system being able to make those connections to our local partners.
AB: That’s wonderful, that would be something I would be excited to see happening as well, and you’re making sure that the teachers know about it. That seems to be, sometimes, the thing that gets lost in the shuffle.
PF: it does, and sometimes they don’t have the means to get out with their students for field trip, especially at the elementary level. We help that.
AB: Now you mentioned just a second ago being the NAEA President. I wanted to ask you, going back to where you were in time and space when you first realized “Hey, this is an option! I could do this!” Can you tell me about that mental preparation, that career consideration, just, knowing that it is hindsight now – how did that ball get rolling in your mind?
PF: (laughs) That is a really good question, a good one!
AB: It seems sometimes leadership just falls right in front of you, but that’s a big one to have fall.
PF: It just falls in place! Yeah! I never actively sought, while unattractively pushed myself to be a leader in any of the organizations, but the opportunities seem to just present themselves and I just chose to walk through the door.
AB: Wow, that’s powerful. So you say that in a general sense, that makes me think that maybe you’ve had other opportunities that felt similar?
PF: Well, the work that I did with VAEA felt similar, yeah. And I guess that because I expect the best from myself that I always look for opportunities, you know? Opportunities to develop for the teachers, opportunities to develop for myself, I’ve never stopped growing professionally or personally.
AB: That’s wonderful. Now outside of leadership, where have you taken effort to continue to grow?
PF: International travel! When I was in college, I had my first textbook which was the humongous old Jansen Art History textbook. There were all of these places and things in there. Actually, not so much places because they didn’t really include much outside of the Western traditions. But the artworks in there. So they were fascinating to me, because it came from a really small town and didn’t have a museum of any kind. So the Art History really, really touched a spark and me. Then when I began teaching, I started also teaching a night course and Art History for a local community college. The opportunity came up, we were talking about French Art History, the Impressionists to be exact. Because with a night class, most of my students, were retirees. One of them said “We should just go there!” So we did! I arranged it, and the college approved it, and we all went to France and we went to the Louvre, and d’Orsay, and l’Orangerie. When we came back, they did projects, and that started it. And I started doing international travel groups with students and with teachers. Offering it for my teachers, and I have my old textbook that I have been diligently checking off the artwork, and the cultures in it and I have been able to actually see a lot.
AB: Oh, that is just terrific. Actually, I would love it if you could send me a picture of one of those pages with a check mark. I would just love to see that.
PF: My son actually has it right now. But I will get it from him because it has the notes that I made when I was in college, and the check offs. Now the check offs of the cultures outside of the European Art tradition, I’ve had to do that with a newer textbook, and they weren’t even in the older textbooks! And also the women artists. I believe the old Jansen didn’t have any, it may have had one woman artist in it. If that, and they may not have had any back in the 60s.
AB: That makes me curious. I may have to look back and see that.
PF: Honestly, I’m not sure that any are. It may have had one of the French Impressionists like Cassatt.
AB: I’m sure that by the next time we talk, one of us will have looked this up and know for certain.
PF: Oh yeah, one of us will have looked it up.
AB: That’s one of the ways the you have continued to grow, that’s amazing. So, what are some of the ways that you would say you know that you were teaching or even how you feel in your space in a classroom, with your students, how has that changed over time?
PF: I think that I include more Art History than I did when I first started teaching. Now, this is the first year that I have not taught at all. Being the president of the NAEA on top of now also having music, art, and theater under me, because I’m supervisor of all three now, this is the first year that I’ve really had to give up teaching. Up until now, I have still continued to teach Advanced Placement Art History, and Art History at higher levels. But, this year I just couldn’t do it.
AB: I didn’t realize that. I realized that you had several different responsibilities, but I did not realize that you had to stop teaching. It only makes sense though.
PF: Right, right. Well, I was teaching virtually, Advanced Placement Art History, for the Department of Education out of Richmond, and I have been doing that for about 10 years. I taught that course at night for them. That way students in the Western part of the state and in areas where they did not have enough students to hire a full-time art education teacher, would be able to take it.
AB: Actually, I don’t know if we’ve ever talked about that before, but my husband teaches online AP world history for North Carolina virtual public schools. He teaches that after the traditional face-to-face school day as well.
PF: Okay, and I do that here for Virginia. Or did. Yeah, I actually started the course for Virtual Virginia. It is interesting.
AB: What was it like to start? You don’t get to talk to a lot of people about their online courses, but that area has just had so much development of the past few years, a lot of people are just now catching up to it.
PF: It definitely has changed a lot over time, of course, the core of information did not change, but the format of presenting it has changed.
AB: Now, for your experience, has it become more in sync with your students, or a little bit less involved?
PF: Most of the students that take AP Art History are going to be more advanced students and they are really driven to excel. So, I don’t think that the students in that have changed so much. Virtual Virginia is a little bit different from the other virtual public schools because we have more contact with the students on an individual basis than some others. Through phone, and Skype, and Blackboard. You know, other collaborative methods that I know some of the other virtual schools do. I think that may be a little bit different as far as Virginia’s Virtual classes.
AB: Was it ever a synchronous class, or has always been asynchronous?
PF: My course for Virtual Virginia has always been asynchronous. The only time that is different are in the evenings occasionally we will have a Blackboard session where we could, but they were not required for students. Write, review preparation, and so on.
AB: I still have never taken a class online it was that collaborative, Just turn it in and get a response, through emails. That was all the interaction I ever got.
PF: We’re definitely not that way. Right! It definitely has changed in ten years. But there are more venues, you know there are more ways to connect now than there were 10 years ago.
AB: Absolutely. Now with so much of your NAEA presidency, what do you see the tail end of that looking like, without really coming to the end?
PF: There’s no tail end! (laughs).
AB: There is no tail end for people like you, that’s correct; but when you look at the tail end of the responsibilities of active presidency, I know there are still other responsibilities and commitments even after your active presidency, what are you looking forward to?
PF: Let’s see: I have one more year as the active president, because it really is a three headed presidency. We have six years. So I have one more year as the voice of the organization. Then I have my two years where I am the head of the finance committee, as past president. And then after that I may be looking into doing some other things with the Retired Division. I have some things on the back burner, but I don’t know that I want to go into them now.
AB: That will be lovely, but fair enough. I knew that you had things, I figured you did. That is exciting. I know that RAEA would be lucky to have you, they are so great to preservice. They have always been so good to us.
PF: That and the (NAEF) Foundation.
AB: I love hearing you say that things on the back burner that tickles me, that would always be a humdinger of an ending for this interview.
PF: I always have things on the back burner.
AB: Is there anything that you are thinking you were sure I was going to ask you about that I didn’t even bring up?
PF: No, I can’t. But I will share a piece of information with you. It is not specifically linked to visual art, but rather in performing art. We’ve just been named one of the best communities for Music Education in the United States.
AB: Oh wonderful, tell me all about that. When did that happen?
PF: it does, but you know I don’t think you want it in this particular article.
AB: No that’s okay, I do. You know there is such a strong integrated arts background, and I have such a passion for it personally, Tell me about it!
PF: I have approached being the supervisor for music and performing arts the same way as I did when I was dedicated to being the supervisor for the visual arts only. So I have made sure that they have what they need just like I have for the other arts. So we have music from kindergarten right on up through high school. The Newport News School District was “named the best community for music education district as a best community. The National Association of Music Merchants Foundation, one of the 476 school districts across the country, we have been recognized for music education programs.” So we are one of only two on the peninsula of Virginia.
AB: All that is wonderful! Congratulations!
PF: Thank you. It recognizes outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students and community members who have worked together to ensure access to music learning for all students as part of the school curriculum.
AB: That must be wonderful for all of your music staff, I bet they are just tickled.
PF: They are. They are just very pleased. And once again I make sure that they have the money to do the field trips, and the competitions that they need as well as the instruments that they need. Because we supply instruments for students that a lot of school districts don’t, and we have our own rental system at the high schools. That’s middle and high school levels we have them at, and the students are able to rent their instruments for pennies practically.
AB: That’s wonderful. Now is that something that you started up?
PF: Oh, no, that’s something that was already in place before I came.
AB: That’s unbelievable. How long has that been going on?
PF: As long as...I have no idea! I have just been able to maintain it, but I certainly didn’t start it! (Laugh) but we have been able to maintain them for our students.
AB: That’s absolutely wonderful. I’m sure that that’s made everyone really happy right now. Now for your performing arts, this is your legend here, I want to know about the other stuff you’ve done as well. For performing arts what are some of the connections or accomplishments that you’ve enjoyed with movement or theater?
PF: We just recently updated this stage, the lighting and sound for the high schools, and of course the curtains. So we have updated the facilities quite a bit.
AB: So how many of your schools are receiving theater?
PF: Well we have five high schools, and all of our high schools have theaters. Some are more active than others, but they all have a program. Our middle schools do as well.
AB: I’m very glad that I asked about that, because that’s definitely something that should be included in your accomplishments. Keeping in mind that this is your full legend, we can discuss all of the arts, not just visual art education. Adding that on here. Is there anything that you skipped over?
PF: Now in the summer, it will be really unique to us, we have the summer Institute for art. Which is what I told you about at the very beginning of our phone call. It’s an intensive six-week program with dance, theater arts, and visual art for rising 8th grade through 12th grade students and it’s the students who are adjudicated to get in. They apply, they audition, and then we give one honors high school credit to those who complete the program. It also was going on before I got here. I’m not sure how long, possibly 20 some odd years? I don’t know the exact number of years.
AB: What a legacy for your district. So about how many applicants do you get a year for that? And how many get accepted? I’m sure that that varies…
PF: It does vary from year to year, and I have just been going to those applications so it’s probably ever 200. And we usually accept about 150.
AB: Do your local teachers generally instruct this? Do they get to participate?
PF: Yes, now we also bring in local artists and performers to do workshops for the students.
So they get to actually perform with practicing artists and performers. We also have a government school around locally, on the peninsula as well. Also one in Virginia Beach. But this program is a little bit different, it’s not a Governor’s School, it is also including the younger students as well, the middle school kids.
AB: That is great that they get to cut their teeth on this.
PF: Now you can look this up on our website as well.
AB: it’s really just about what you’re proud of and what you’ve done, and what your perspective is on your career, so I just wanted to ask questions that I had not necessarily come across and other stuff that I’ve read. So this is great, I just wanted a snapshot of what you’re doing now and am excited by it, it’s wonderful. I look at your career in the trajectory that you have taken and it’s very inspiring. I very much excited to name professionally and personally.
PF: (laughs) The school I started off at, it was a K-12 school I taught every grade level there, it was such a small school. I was teaching Earth Science as well. In fact, the first presentation I ever did for a convention, and it was a Virginia art education Association convention, was done on the integration of art and science. That was the very first presentation I ever did at a convention.
AB: I have not found that one yet. What year was that you remember?
PF: Good Lord, no, I don’t. Art and I did that together, and I have no clue what year that would have been.
AB: Okay, well, then tell me this this is a totally small question that I want to know, what is your favorite subject to tie into art? When you do integrated subjects?
PF: Other subjects you mean? Oh. science, definitely.
AB: Me too! Social Studies is a close second, but yes, the same with science!
PF: Well, social studies is a close second, but I like the scientific parts of it as well, especially when you’re talking about habitats and biomes. Yeah, I enjoy making those connections between art and science.
AB: Well this is been so much fun, thank you so much for letting me interview you. I appreciate the time have a wonderful rest of your weekend, Congratulations on your recent accolade for your music department, that is just wonderful. And you sound great for just having wrapped up national convention.
PF: I was lucky I came back and worked a week and a half and then we had our spring break which are really really needed.
Though this interview was short, to the point, and much more a scope of her current work than her long-term accomplishments and larger life-moments, I believe it served as a view of Pat the best way possible. She always has something “on the back burner” and lives in the moment with the work at hand in mind. It did not appear, at this time, that Pat was interested in a long look back, but more in offering a substantial perspective of how work as it is and as it stands currently. She is an amazingly inspirational personality, and it was a pleasure to get to speak with her one-on-one for the first time to this degree.