Maria Simon: School Programs and Artist’s Residencies in the Schools

Maria Simon has been a professional studio artist and arts educator for over 30 years. She has taught adults and children, first at the Chicago Art Institute; Portland Public Schools TAG program; and then through Regional Arts and Culture Council and Young Audiences for the past 19 years.

About her chosen profession she says: “In my own work, I‘ve discovered over and again that I learn by seeing by and doing. I am a visual/kinesthetic learner: I learn by seeing and doing. This is my essential nature. I explore and connect to the world in this sensate way. Through keen observation, creative problem-solving, experimentation, and applying careful technical skills, I have crafted a life as an artist. I find that this strategy leads me into a much broader world of learning. The world is my oyster!“

Growing up with and going through school with dyslexia, she had the good fortune to have arts education as part of her daily life in school. And she had a family who supported her artistic expression and encouraged her to cultivate her creative self. Without that, she would have been bereft as a student.

Maria believes that no matter what kind of learning style or proclivity he/she has, each and every child has a creative side that needs
to be nurtured and developed. Art and creativity are essential components of our humanity, and how we learn about and communicate our culture.

She brings this joyfulness and conviction to her work in the schools, with a personal mission to bring Arts education to every child in every school.

What Maria Simon does in the classroom…

Maria creates a learning environment in the classoom/studio that encourages students to observe, experiment, play (not a 4-letter word word here!) with the medium and their ideas, and problem-solve in 3-Dimensions.

Students learn new technical skills on a daily basis, building on what happened the day before. They will learn to reinforce their ideas through form, structure, color, and design as they move through a project.

Through the materials and techniques, Maria supports students to find their own unique voice in interpreting what they see, what they are learning, and what they want to express.

It is important to point out here that a child who explores rigorously may not end up with the most stellar product. But he or she may have had the richest learning experience. Process more than product is the adventure.

The children will be encouraged to stop and consider what they are learning on a frequent basis. We will wind up the project with an opportunity to engage in reflection and articulation of what has been learned. This is what the Benchmarks in the Arts are all about.

The goal here is for each child to be an explorer, to learn by active doing, and to build his/her Self-esteem and confidence to be a life-long learner.

How Maria Simon works with teachers…

Maria works closely with teachers to creat a good fit: a project that will help them teach curriculum through the modality of hands-on art. She asks that teachers help students with any classroom preparation, discussion, or research, and gathering of materials that will allow students quick-entry into the process of making art. Artist and Teachers become collaborators.

She will furnish a written list of materials, supplies, request for Parent volunteers, for teachers to have ready for our adventure.

More importantly, she asks that teachers actively learn and work alongside the children, participating as helpers and art-makers, so that they will ultimately become more comfortable and adept with carrying on arts in the classroom as a joyful way of teaching and learning curriculum content.

Maria’s projects, workshops and curriculum…

With clay as our medium, students, along with their teachers, will learn basic handbuilding techniques—pinch, coil, slab, model, carve, score-and-slip joinery— to give form to their ideas, and enhance their investigation of chosen curriculum content, and exploration of the medium, itself.

During each learning session, Maria demonstrates techniques appropriate to the project. It is here, in the context of careful observation close-up, that questions arise for the children to problem-solve, e.g.

  • How do I make this stand up… or balance?
  • How do I get this to stay together so it won‘t break apart?
  • How do I show motion?
  • What do I actually see when I make a profile?

Maria works closely with teachers during planning sessions to augment existing classroom curricula through this art form: ceramics and sculpture.

Maria has been providing quality artist’s residencies in the Metro area schools for the past 18 years, through Young Audiences, Regional Arts and Culture Council, and as an independent contractor. She teaches ceramic hand building and sculpture techniques, and basic glazing and decorating methods. She works closely with teachers during planning sessions to augment existing classroom curriculum through her art form. She has also worked with over 15 schools to produce permanent ceramic tile murals of student work. She hopes to continue this work in schools with the support of parent volunteers. In addition, she provides teacher workshops for schools wishing to train staff in applying the arts in their classrooms, and training in the loading and firing of a kiln.

Shown are some pictures from past residencies which have included Banks Elementary School, Glencoe Elementary School, Stafford Primary School, West Hills Montessori School and Stephenson Elementary School. A more complete listing of schools and references can be provided by request. You may contract with Maria directly and may also be able to use Run-for-the-Arts funding. For further information, please contact Maria at 503-235-9403 or use the online form.


“Know Your Face”
Children create self-portrait ceramic masks, using mirrors to see what really happens to their faces when their expressions change and learning clay techniques to give form to their discoveries. This project can be the precursor to portraiture of family members or historical figures.

“Bas-Relief Sculpture for Beginners”
Through observation and basic carving techniques on leather-hard clay, children create bas-relief sculptures in the style of Greek and Roman friezes. They learn about negative and positive space, convexity, concavity, texturing and burnishing.

“Clay in Every Land: One Language”
Students learn the basics of hand building and glazing to give form to their ideas and enhance investigation of the cultures or curriculum they are studying, producing clay animals, masks or teapots.

“Tile Making”
Students create colorful carves tiles of flora, fauna, costumes, dwellings, myths or symbols of cultures they are studying. Finished tiles can be stand-alone or become part of a mural.

“Ceramic Murals”
Students collaborate from concept to production to installation in the creation of a colorful ceramic tile mural. Expect costs of planning, materials and installation. Parent volunteers and on-site kiln required.

“Teacher Workshop”
Simple clay techniques for teaching curriculum, using a kiln.