While some studio artists make a living creating and selling their work, many use their expertise and creativity to pursue other careers, including teaching. Local artist, Tamara Burnside, presents an example. As a skilled watercolorist, Burnside has the ability to succeed as a full-time artist. She began exhibiting her art in 1997. “I have exhibited in the Springville Museum of Art, BYU’s Harris Fine Arts Center, Bountiful Davis Art Center, Utah Museum of Art and History, and the Riverton Museum of Art. As far as galleries, I have exhibited in PTC’s Loge Gallery, Kimball Art Center, Atrium, Tivoli, Myra Powell, So Ho, Red Butte Gardens, and the Utah County Court House. My works have also traveled in the Utah Arts Council Traveling Show.”
Despite these numerous successes, Burnside chose to focus on sharing her love of art with others. She taught art in elementary, junior high, and high schools and now has a successful career as the K-12 Fine Arts Coordinator for Granite School District.
The fact that Burnside inspires others through her teaching seems significant, especially since her own elementary teacher first inspired her interest in art. “I felt a great deal of accomplishment when my fifth grade teacher displayed my drawing on her bulletin board. Miss Korn was a very disciplined teacher whose praise was in short supply. Therefore, it meant a great deal to have her display my art.”
Burnside developed this early talent through further study and college degrees. “I believe in education and know degrees open doors. I can attest to it in my life. I double majored in Fine Art and Elementary Education at Westminster. After teaching elementary school for twelve years, I wanted to further my knowledge of art education. This lead me to BYU’s Art Education program, a combination of my two loves. During my time at BYU, I had the opportunity to study art education in museums and schools throughout Europe as a teaching assistant. I also taught at BYU’s new Museum of Art. I received my Masters of Art Education from BYU in 1994.”
Burnside’s education led her to several positions. “In November of , I heard about an art position at Olympus Junior High. I taught at OJH for eight years. I loved teaching art there. I took art students abroad to Europe a couple of years, as well as to New York. These were wonderful experiences. In 2003, I started teaching art at Taylorsville High School. It was a joy to teach Drawing, Painting, AP Studio Art, and Concurrent Art Classes. I had just begun teaching at Taylorsville (second week of school), and I was hired to be Granite School District’s K-12 Fine Arts Specialist. I split my time between teaching every other day and between working as a curriculum specialist over Dance, Drama, and Art the rest of the time. In 2006, the Granite School District Board of Education made me the K-12 Fine Arts Specialist full time. In this capacity, I have the pleasure of working primarily with teachers, which is very rewarding.”
Despite Burnside’s busy schedule, she continues to create art. Traveling to exotic locations often influences the artist’s choice of subject matter. “My art reflects my travels. Italy, Sicily, Spain, Egypt, India, Turkey, China, Greece, Austria, France, The Netherlands, and Africa are all places I’ve painted. India was a wonder, and its people struck me deeply. People live in poverty, yet they are clean with beautiful white smiles. I love the Indian people.”
International travel isn’t the artist’s only inspiration. “I have also painted many of my travels in the United States. I just completed a series of paintings of Maine. I also have done series of painting of Utah landscapes from Maynard Dixon’s homestead in Mt. Carmel, Fairview, Spring City, and Riverton.”
Burnside’s teaching and extensive travel experience greatly influence her art and career. They create a broad perspective that seeks to elevate art and to inspire others. “I have been very fortunate to have many opportunities associated with my work in Granite School District and as an advisory board member and chair of Salt Lake County’s arts boards – ZAP (Zoo, Arts, Parks) Tier II, Salt Lake Center for the Arts, and the Art Selections Committee. My service has brought me in contact with students, arts teachers, art professors, art professionals, professional artists, and gallery owners. This network is elevating. I have the opportunity to continually be exposed to people doing great work in the arts at various levels. My purpose has been to be a resource and support to individuals and groups to flourish in the arts.”
Despite such dedication, challenges face the arts in our local schools. “Education is undergoing many transitions. Accountability has been the buzz word of late. Teachers are accountable to show student growth and use assessment data to inform their lesson plans. The days are past when a teacher can just teach how and what they want. They must teach the core. This has added another layer for teachers. When you add this layer to class sizes of forty to fifty students, along with inadequate funding for supplies, teaching has become much harder. Yet, I am continually inspired by teachers who make a difference in student’s lives by encouraging and helping them to grow in knowledge and ability.”
So, how can we, as art lovers and artists, help face such challenges? “It is wonderful to have many community resources. The Foster Art Program is one of these resources. Last week, I had the opportunity to visit Patty Taylor’s art class. She had Blaine Atwood, sculptor and potter, do a presentation consisting of a demonstration and clay project. He was phenomenal! What an opportunity for Magna students to get to learn from a professional. When an artist shares their story, it helps students to see the possibilities for their lives, to use their artistic ability to make a living. The great thing about Blaine is he attests to the need to further your education. As a former art professor at Eastern Utah College, he now makes art full time and is succeeding!”
What advice does Burnside have for burgeoning artists? “My advice to students is to follow their passion. It takes more than wishing and hoping. It takes work. It takes an education.”
It also takes wonderful teachers. Thank you, Tamara Burnside, and thank you to all the teachers out there who help us find and refine our passion.