Arts in Education

Tony Day

Ed.M. AIE '05

Tony Day painting with JustineAs an artist-educator, Anthony "Tony" Day might find a more urgent desire than some to take education seriously and personally. His painting, like much adventurous work in the arts, doesn't merely show us the world as it seems to be. Rather, it depicts the accidents that happen at the intersection of the personal and the social, the private and the public, the internal world of urges and memories and the uncontrollable external forces of human and natural history. His work speaks to an education of the most profound kind.

Whether the subject of one of Tony's surrealistically folkloric narrative paintings is the dying of a sister of mercy on a Civil War battlefield, the passing of a mythical man on his back in the clouds above some boys on a hill in the country, or the hunting down of a boar by a sinuous line of bloodhounds (headed toward a river bank in almost sibilant motion on the canvas), he draws on personal experience and observation to show us a symbolic world that is both apart from and part of the mundane realities. It's a matter of " constant interpretation of the sensory overload that is daily life," he says.

A 2005 graduate of the Arts in Education Program and a native of Texas, Tony lived in Boston for about 14 years before he enrolled at HGSE. He came here in 1991, straight from spending his adolescence at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, to enroll in the BFA program that the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, offers in conjunction with Tufts University. Then, in the nine years between the end of his undergrad work and the beginning of his grad work, Tony worked as a graphic designer at a number of production houses in the Boston business world. And, as a peek at the work on his website ( will show, he painted and drew. And painted and drew some more.

But even while he worked a day job in graphic design and made art by night, Tony managed to teach a good deal as well, fulfilling an urge to infuse the magic of the arts in traditionally rather sober educational settings, and knowing that he would want to make a career of this activity, as he began to do in earnest in the fall of 2006.

Understandably for a person of his playful nature, Tony enjoyed teaching younger children especially during those intervening years in Boston. After spending his first year out of the Museum School as an ESL teacher in Mexico, he taught the use of various artistic media to kids all over the metropolitan area. In Chelsea, Newton, Brookline, Cambridge, and, Cohasset, he worked on one or another after-school or summer program, helping the young and energetic to paint, draw, and sculpt with the same childlike enthusiasm he has maintained in his own creative work all these years. " I like the busy atmosphere of a classroom art studio," he admits, " maybe in the same way that I like a lot of action in my paintings."

Now, after a post-graduation year of freelancing and part-time teaching, Tony has begun teaching full-time for the first time in his life- -at the John H. Reagan High School, in a Houston neighborhood called The Heights. He teaches older kids now, ones who can probably make more of the social and psychological insinuations of his deceptively simple work than the elementary school children might have, and who might emulate the purposefully sketchy modeling and the ironically symbolic use of imagery in his work. Kids the age he was, in other words, when he began to interpret the world through artistic visual media in earnest.

" Reagan High is based on the school-within-the-school model, with five academies- -Fine Arts, Technology, Business, Health Science, and Magnet," he explains in an email from Texas. " I teach Digital Photography, Art I, and Painting II and III.
" While the school's goals are structured in alignment with mainstream public schools" (that do not often host the arts very warmly these days), " the student body and surrounding community do support the arts," he notes.

So the setting is right for Tony to make an interesting mark with his magic- -and yet nothing is quite perfect. As in many public school settings, he admits that " the inescapable demand for good student performance" on standardized tests, together with " a lack of dialogue about the benefits of education beyond the tangible rewards of grades," poses a serious challenge. To meet it, he calls on the practical applications of his art-school training and the theoretical underpinnings of his AIE schooling.

Hopeful that his " ongoing deep interest in the learning that can be inspired through practice of the arts" will sustain him as a teacher and move his students to integrate knowledge of all kinds in their own creative work, Tony speaks fondly of his HGSE experience. " I find that my courses at HGSE inform my practice as a teacher, particularly in a large school district," he writes matter-of-factly. " Thanks to the AIE Program, I am better equipped to bridge theory and practice, and to influence the thinking of my colleagues about the arts in the classroom."

Stories are accurate at the time they are published and will not be updated to account for changes such as new jobs.