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Art exhibit focuses on self-realization, identity of educators

The transformative power of STEM/STEAM education will be on display at the Jessye Norman School of the Arts throughout the month of December.

“Unbroken: Life, Learning, Mandala,” is a 2D and 3D art exhibition showcasing the work of more than 40 teachers from Jefferson, Richmond, Columbia and McDuffie counties. Local, professional artists, Chase Lanier and Tina Goldsmith also created works for this exhibition.

The exhibition is part of Augusta University’s College of Education STEM/STEAM endorsement. Participating teachers are involved in a series of three classes, and after completing the courses will receive a STEM/STEAM endorsement. “Unbroken” is the culmination of work done in the first course of the endorsement.

Most of the teachers in this program are science, social studies, and math teachers. So, an art exhibition represented a step outside their comfort zones.

“Only a fraction of their students will ever be scientists,” said Dr. Ashley Gess, professor of education. “If teachers can learn to incorporate art in the classroom and allow students to realize their knowledge in the context of arts, they’ll improve the likelihood that students will persist in that discipline. But in order to get their students to do it, the teachers must also do it.”

Gess used the mandala theme of the exhibition as an opportunity for teachers to reflect on their identities as educators.

“The mandala is helping them realize themselves and who they’re becoming as a transformed educator,” she said.

Each art work depicts a door, which symbolizes who the teacher was as an educator prior to this course. The door of each piece then opens to reveal a mandala.

“The mandala is used by Buddhist monks to show a process of change,” Gess said. “This tells a story about STEM/STEAM education in its purest form, and how the teachers see it realized in themselves, their classroom, their school, community and beyond.”

She encourages the community to attend and support these 44 educators.

“Teachers so rarely get recognition, and as a community, it’s important to back the teachers that are willing to put themselves out there,” she said. “We need to support them in an intentional and explicit way. One way we can do that is by showing up to this exhibition, shaking hands and recognizing our educators.”

“Unbroken: Life, Learning, Mandala,” will be on display at the Jessye Norman School of the Arts from Dec. 1 through 27. The opening reception is Friday, Dec. 1 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. For more information, email Ashley Gess or call 706-737-1496.

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Written by
Brennan Meagher

Brennan Meagher is a communications coordinator at Augusta University. Contact her at 706-446-4806 or

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woman smiling Written by Brennan Meagher

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