Skip to main content

Sabrina Signorelli '17

Interplays of Context and Leadership: History of the Pennsylvania Art Education Association

Major: Graphic Design, Art History minor
Hometown: Oak Ridge, NJ
Project Advisor: Kristin Baxter

Briefly describe your project.

The Eberly Family Special Collections Library houses hundreds of documents compiled by PAEA board members, dating from 1917 through the present. Acting as Historians for the organization, Dr. Baxter and myself went through each of these documents to organize into a publication that states PAEA origins and evolution over the years. We went through 15 different boxes containing folders of documents, scanning and taking note of the papers we came across. We separated our research and findings into themes that reoccurred throughout the history and have articles written within our publication to show how the themes have evolved and changed. The magazine will summarize the earlier years of PAEA, as they were written into PAEA documents already, and leave a focus on 1980 to present. This magazine will then be presented at this year’s 2015 Annual PAEA Conference and then distributed to members of the Pennsylvania Art Education Association. The magazine will also be available in a digital format and downloadable for members on the PAEA website.

Why did you decide to turn your idea into a SOAR project?

Dr. Baxter serves as the Advocacy Chairperson for PAEA and came to me with the idea to write the history of PAEA. Dr. Baxter and I worked together previously as First Year Seminar Student & Faculty Advisors, therefore she knew that we could easily complete this project and collaborate effectively. The project was something brought to Dr. Baxter’s attention when the PAEA board members discussed having an “acting historian” to summarize the history now that the position of historian was removed from the organization. The previous historians, Virginia Fitzpatrick and David B. Van Dommelon, both, created works that summarized earlier years with the organization but they desperately needed someone to pick up where they left off. This is when the idea to make PAEA’s history a SOAR project became apparent. Dr. Baxter approached me with the idea and I recognized it was a great opportunity and accepted.

How did your faculty advisor guide you through your research?

Working with Dr. Baxter was nothing new to me, however the SOAR project brought forth challenges and obstacle that we had not had to deal with prior. She has shown me new insights into the art world. Since I am not an art education major, I had no idea what PAEA was or what purpose it served. With Dr. Baxter’s help she brought me to board meetings and introduced me to educators and art professionals that helped me gain more knowledge as an artist and designer. I also obtained various connections, which has led me to new design opportunities, such as serving on the organizations design & magazine committee.

What was your biggest obstacle?

Thus far, the biggest obstacle has been writing all of the articles for the publication, on top of, designing the entire magazine in addition.  It was a lot more time consuming than originally expected. I had to find ways to time manage and delegate some of the writing to other members of PAEA to assist in the topics I did not have throughout knowledge of. Furthermore, delegating jobs to others can also pose a time issue, especially since people are not always punctual with deadlines. I have had to follow up with writers to get them to send me their portions of the magazine so that we could have an ample amount of text within our publication.

What was your biggest takeaway from this experience?

The connections that I was able to make throughout this project were most likely my biggest take away. As a graphic designer, it is important to know people that could potentially utilize my skill set, therefore meeting various art professionals in need of a designer was beneficial. Also, getting all the opportunities that PAEA has brought to me has been a huge take away.  I never would have imagined being able to attend state-wide board meetings regarding my own education, as well as, being able to create and design for two different magazines before graduating. This type of hands on personal experience is the most beneficial as a Graphic Designer since it’s the exact type of work I plan to gain a career in.

What was the result of your project? Was it congruent with your hypothesis?

The result of my project was a publication that is filled with content regarding the origins, history and the evolution of PAEA and themes congruent with the organization. Originally, Dr. Baxter and I planned on creating a website and an article for Art Education, a peer reviewed scholarly journal. As we began our project we found that with my skill set as a graphic designer that a website was not the most efficient way to organize the data we collected, especially since the organization already had a website. Our magazine organizes the research we did according to department and then according to themes within PAEA. Some include: advocacy, the history and its origins.

Will you expand on your research after this summer is over? If so, where would you like to see it go?

Continuing on updating PAEA’s history as the years continue can extend the research. Dr. Baxter and I discussed, now that I have a PAEA membership as a student, about attending board meetings together and perhaps making the magazine a key historical document for the organization. We plan to try and get it archived at the Eberly Special Collections library to serve as a summary of PAEA’s origins to the new millennium and onward. We also discussed creating an article for Art Education, a scholarly peer reviewed journal for art educators. If the article is published, I would be a published scholarly author before I even graduate (a huge honor!). We want to see first if the PAEA board members enjoy the publication we have created at Conference before moving forward and see if anyone has an interest in us pushing the history of art education in Pennsylvania further.