PITTSBURGH - Most people believe that art class in grades K-8 is about
teaching a child to paint or draw or shape something out of clay. At the
Campus Laboratory School of Carlow University, art class can be much more, and
a new collaboration between the school, Carlow’s education department and a
local artist and gallery owner has the potential to influence not only art and
creativity, but wellness, science and technology, too.
The local artist and studio owner, Sarah Zeffiro, who earned her master’s in
art education from Carlow in 2017, has begun a year-long residency at the
Campus Laboratory School, where she will collaborate with Leigh Roche, the art
teacher at the school, and the Carlow University Art Gallery. Throughout the year, they will tap into the expertise
of Carlow faculty and as well as create learning and teaching opportunities
for Carlow graduate and undergraduate students.
“There will be a lot of opportunities throughout the year for Carlow faculty
and students to help in many special ways,” said Zeffiro, who is the owner and
art director at Zeffiro Art. “This project is not just for kids. All ages can
At its roots, the project is about telling and sharing stories mostly through
2-D and 3-D artwork, but it will also include reading, writing, science and
“Play, cognition, curiosity and mindfulness all play a part in learning
through art,” said Roche, who earned her certification in art education from
Carlow. “Opportunities for students to tap into their own knowledge and
experiences through all those processes help build student voice and agency. I
ask students all the time: ‘What do you see? What do you think? What do you
wonder?’ Just to get them in the mindset that their ideas have value, and
their ideas will help them engage with and understand art and artists, and
through that, understand themselves and connect with others.”
Some of the most personal life experiences can be expressed through art, but
the very nature of these experiences and the age of the students involved can
make them shy about sharing with others, according to Zeffiro. One of the
goals of the collaboration is to break through that shyness and build
self-esteem and empathy.
“We build our own stories through art,” said Zeffiro, who has been an art
educator for Carnegie Museum of Art since 2002. “As we build those stories, we
build confidence in ourselves and learn to shape our stories and not be
The year-long project will be titled “Love is Colorful: A K-8 Storytelling
Project,” which is designed to develop student voice and empathy. It will
culminate in a community mural.
While the pandemic has effected how the classes are taught, Zeffiro and Roche
are confident that art can be taught remotely when necessary.
“Everything is different now, and the world we knew is not the same, so we are
adapting and creating in both modalities - face to face and in the digital art
room on zoom,” Roche said.
Before this collaboration was conceived, Zeffiro developed an Instagram series
about teaching art and explaining different techniques step-by-step verbally.
It was good practice for teaching remotely as well as face-to-face.
Both Zeffiro and Roche said they are constantly engaging and asking questions
of their students whether they are teaching in the art room or through cyber
space. Either way, they envision a fulfilling and engaging experience for
“The projects are multi-layered,” Zeffiro said. “They are going to have to
work, but it will be fun, too.”
Throughout the course of this academic year, as “Love is Colorful” takes shape
cognitively, visually, and artistically for their students and themselves, the
goal is to build empathy in the community. The hope is that empathy will
extend beyond the walls of the Campus Laboratory School.
“We are a community of learners - at all times. The”Love is Colorful Project,"
especially currently, is critical," Roche said. “Everyone has been through
life-altering things because of this pandemic. There has been a certain amount
of trauma in the uprooting of our lives and ‘normal’ routines - and this goes
for the children especially. We are vulnerable to the virus; we might have to
change again and readjust our lives. The moment begs for that empathy. We are
all vulnerable not only through our art but as humans just living in this
space and time.”
For more information about the Campus Laboratory School of Carlow
University, visit https://campusschool.carlow.edu
For more information about the Education Department at Carlow University,
To follow Zeffiro, visit @zeffiroart on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.
You can follow the “Love is Colorful Project” on Instagram at: