Alicia Gray Named Higher Ed Art Educator of the Year

November 8, 2023

Montserrat’s Interim Art Education Director Alicia Gray has been awarded Higher Education Art Educator of the Year by the Massachusetts Art Education Association.

Every year, the MAEA—a subsidiary of the National Art Education Association—grants the MAEA Awards to honor excellence in Art education. Recipients of the award “exemplify highly qualified individuals active in the field of art education today.”

Gray started her position full-time with Montserrat in January of 2023. In one short year, her hard work on behalf of the Montserrat students has been an enormous boon to Montserrat’s Art Education department and to our community as a whole. The recognition is well deserved!

In her role as Interim Art Ed Director, Gray has prioritized experiential learning, offering our students opportunities to observe real classrooms on-site and opportunities to speak directly to working art educators. For additional hands-on experience, Gray organized a free Saturday Art workshop for students in grades K-8 that were taught by Montserrat students. She intends to expand that workshop into a new course on developing a Culturally Responsive and Equitable Art Education Curriculum.

Asked to describe her philosophy as an educator, Gray said this:

“All students are artists and deserve to engage in the artistic process authentically. As an artist, I have firsthand experience with the power of art-making. Art has always been an inquiry process, a space to explore my identity, emotions, and aspirations. Art allows individuals to express themselves in ways that words often cannot. Visual arts classrooms provide students essential learning, modes of expression, and enriched support.

“Engagement and participation in high-quality arts education is a fundamental right for all students. The art room can provide a space for students to reflect and explore areas of interest, learn about their identities, give back to their communities, and develop a sense of pride and empowerment. The art room provides students a safe, supportive, and healing environment. The ability of art to support the needs of all learners, especially neuro-diverse students, and students who’ve experienced trauma, makes it an essential discipline for all students. I believe in the transformative power of education, and my goal is for students to feel empowered, valued, and respected in my classroom. As an educator, I must ensure I am constantly learning and growing. I actively engage in action research, reflexivity, and scholarship to learn how to support my students best. I hope students leave my art studio as change agents – empowered to create and engage in art-making that makes a difference in the world.”

In addition to her classroom work, Gray is a PhD Candidate at Lesley University. Her research focuses on the intersection of student-driven visual arts curriculum and trauma, exploring educational equity and the development of trauma-sensitive schools. Her personal research focuses on building trauma-sensitive art education programs. Her work will be included in the upcoming Davis Publications’ book Restorative Practices in Education Through Art.