Florida State University Professor Tom Anderson has been named higher education’s Art Educator of the Year by the National Art Education Association. That’s no surprise to his FSU art education department colleagues, who call the popular mentor to legions of doctoral students "a champion of the arts in all our lives."
A widely published expert on art criticism and aesthetics who has traveled the world to promote authentic practices in the teaching of art, Anderson is credited with helping the FSU graduate program in art education rise to national prominence. In fact, FSU art education department Chair Marcia Rosal declares Anderson—who joined that faculty in 1983 and now is its longest-serving member—"the very heart of our program."
Sally McRorie, dean of the FSU College of Visual Arts, Theater and Dance, calls Anderson "extraordinarily deserving" of the prestigious national honor, and notes that it is the second time the national top nod has gone to an FSU art education professor.
"Tom Anderson follows in the big footsteps of FSU Professor Charles Dorn, who received the same recognition in 2003 and passed away last summer after many years here," McRorie said. "Professor Anderson’s work, like that of Professor Dorn, has helped the FSU graduate program in art education become recognized as one of the top three most influential among those at all public institutions in North America."
While his recent round of national recognition is significant, Anderson’s tireless stewardship of future art instructors has brought him "stellar" student evaluations and many other teaching awards during his nearly 25-year tenure at FSU, said McRorie. She also praised his role as the driving force behind the prolific and growing Guernica Children’s International Peace Mural Project, which so far has generated exhibits and workshops in 39 countries.
The admiration is mutual. "I’ve been extremely well supported here at FSU, by Sally McRorie both as my dean and as my former chair, by my current chair, Marcia Rosal, and by my former dean, Jerry Draper," said Anderson, FSU’s Jessie Lovano-Kerr Professor of Art Education. "The emphasis and value on research here is very rare in art education. There are only a handful of other schools in North America that are truly research-centered art education programs, and I wouldn’t leave FSU to go to any one of them. I truly feel like I have one of the best art education jobs in the world."
A popular professor of students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, Anderson has taught in Spain, Italy and the Czech Republic for FSU’s International Programs, and developed and served as the primary faculty representative for the graduate program in art education at FSU’s Panama City, Fla., campus. He has been a curriculum consultant for a number of states—and the country of Kuwait.
Nominated as educator of the year by one of his former students, Anderson considers his latest award "sort of a lifetime achievement thing"—and indeed it is.
Since 1983, when he earned his Ph.D. in art from the University of Georgia and joined the FSU faculty, Anderson has mentored about 40 doctoral students—a remarkable record. He has authored numerous books, chapters, reviews and articles; led myriad art education workshops; appeared as the featured speaker at dozens of national and international conferences; and been the editor of several journals and other publications. He co-authored "Art for Life," a textbook that has been widely used in programs across North America and now is being translated into Japanese, Korean and Chinese.
In addition to aesthetics and art criticism, his areas of expertise include, among others, the social foundations of art and education; anthropology of art and multicultural concerns; and philosophy and contemporary theory related to art and education. He has taught basic studio art, art history and art appreciation—and practices what he preaches: as a creative artist in his own right, his mural paintings and photography have appeared at juried exhibitions nationwide.
Still, it’s all about the students. "What’s most meaningful to me are the students I’ve mentored and in many cases the ongoing relationships that have evolved from that mentoring," Anderson said. "I’ve been the major professor of many who are now professors themselves all across the country and in a number of foreign countries, too."
He will claim his Art Educator of the Year award in March at the National Art Education Association conference in New York City.
Anderson contends that art is one of the most fundamental means of communication between human beings about life’s most profound—and mundane—experiences, and understanding that communication is essential to human culture, even existence.
"That’s what I engage and that’s what I teach," he said.