Faculty Friday: Andrea Mancuso

Each school year, the faculty at Nichols School provide tremendous guidance and encouragement to help their students learn and grow. Our faculty members are empowered to craft the curriculum as they see fit, to make learning relevant and rewarding for every child.
Faculty Friday features the outstanding teachers of Nichols School and showcases the work they do to help our students and our community.
Meet Andrea Mancuso, our arts department chair and Upper School visual arts teacher!
How long have you taught at Nichols School for?
This is my 21st year teaching art at Nichols.
How have your art classes changed since the beginning of 2020?
Like everything else, my classes had to change. Virtual teaching has forced me to be decisive in my teaching, making sure that everything we do matters. It has also made me more aware of how difficult this time is for my students.
Virtual teaching for photography and filmmaking is actually pretty great. Students were able to utilize the full Adobe CC suite of tools, so they are really working with amazing tools. The focus is mostly on celebrating each other and trying to build a supportive studio atmosphere despite all the challenges of this time.
My teaching has changed because, first and foremost, I want each of my lessons and my classroom to bring joy to my students. The focus is on providing individual attention to help each student find personal growth through the arts.
Outside the classroom, how do you help students connect with the arts?
I’m an advocate for the Nichols art program 24/7. We have incredible alumni working in the arts world nationally and internationally, so I try to connect my current students to our graduates. I am also a practicing artist. I have had exhibitions in most every museum and gallery in Buffalo from the Albright Knox, to Hallwalls, and CEPA. I make sure all my students know about our vibrant art scene and connect them to the artists and curators in our community.
What do your visual arts students learn from studying contemporary and modern artists and their work?
Students can learn from studying the classics and reviewing decades or even centuries worth of opinions and criticisms of different artistic styles. By focusing more on contemporary and modern art, students can see the influence of current events and recent history in the arts. It also gives them an opportunity to develop a critical lens and form their own opinion of art, so they can effectively use these principles in their own work.
This weekend, you are presenting a workshop on “Contemporary Artists as Storytellers” at the New York State Art Teachers Association (NYSATA) Annual Conference. What have you learned recently that informs this presentation?
In preparing for this workshop, I took a critical look at the work my students have been doing over the past 20 years. I found that when students connect to contemporary art, they make better work. My reason for presenting this workshop is to share this with my art teaching community. The presentation will focus on how teachers can use widely-available resources to lead discussions on contemporary art and its impact on our world in current events.
How do professional development and outside art work impact your curriculum?
I believe an educational institution functions best if its faculty and staff are actively participating in their own development. I gathered great inspiration teaching while earning my Ph.D., working with colleagues by developing curriculum as a national Art21 educator, and assessing AP portfolios as an AP reader. All these activities have helped me this year to adjust and improve my curriculum to suit 21st-century learners and manage teaching during a pandemic. In addition, professional development and outside work has helped me understand and work to address implicit bias, inequity and blind spots in my teaching.
Why do you enjoy teaching?
I love being a guide to students as they develop verve and their own artistic voice. I want them all to live a life fluent in the languages of art.
What do you like most about Nichols School?
The darkroom is my favorite space at Nichols, seeing photography come to life and seeing how students enjoy that process.
My colleagues and students make every day amazing at Nichols. I’ve gotten to see firsthand the difference a Nichols education makes when my children went to school here. The people really are the difference.