Q&A: Meet the new education director at East End Arts

East End Arts School new director Diane Giardi on the porch of the school last week. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)
East End Arts School new director Diane Giardi on the porch of the school last week. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

An artist with a holistic approach to lesson planning has been named East End Arts’ newest education director.

Diane Giardi, who began work in the downtown Riverhead office last week, said she’s excited to help teachers prepare curriculums and to build relationships with local artists and community groups.

“One thing I’d like to incorporate is some text in courses — poetry and other aspects of writing and the narrative,” she said. “It would also be nice to bring a little more theater back.”

Ms. Giardi is replacing Shenole Latimer, who had held the position since July 2013 and stepped down recently for personal reasons. He is currently working at EEA part-time on special projects.

The new education director earned a Bachelor of Science degree in art education for grades K-12 at the University of Vermont and earned a Master of Fine Arts at Syracuse University. Formerly an assistant director at Heartwood College of Art in Biddeford, Maine, she has also been a studio arts faculty member at the Ross School in East Hampton and has taught encaustic art at the School of Museum of Arts in Boston, Mass.

Most recently, Ms. Giardi spent six years teaching studio arts and developing curriculum at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass.

A Connecticut native, she now lives in Southold with her husband and has three adult stepchildren.

We sat down with Ms. Giardi at her EEA office to discuss her new role. Here are some excerpts.

Q: Why did you choose a career in art education?

A: I’ve always been an artist, ever since I was young. In my high school, we had an opportunity to choose a career for three weeks and pursue that. It was a great community learning experience. I chose to work with a junior high school art teacher. I just loved it. I thought I might enjoy teaching art and that [experience] just clinched it. From then on, I was pretty focused on art education. A lot of my teaching has been at the college level, but I’ve taught the younger grades as well. I love writing curriculum, too. I like to make [art education] accessible to everyone. Planning is a really fun part of it.

Q: Why do you think it’s important for children to take art classes?

A: It really feeds the whole child — and the whole adult — mind, body and soul. It helps with thinking, motor skills and developing self-esteem. It helps them become happier and a well-adjusted person. I always say [to parents], “Try to create the most inspiring environment for it.” Even if it’s just a table with markers, pencils and all different kinds of paper. It doesn’t have to be expensive materials, but just to have a space — a chair, a table, paper and a few different simple art mediums — so they can sit and explore. And also the appreciation from the parents is very important. They should look at what they’re doing and keep the pieces in a portfolio — treat it specially.

Q: What challenges do you anticipate in your new role?

A: I’m stronger in studio arts than music, but I definitely have an appreciation of all the music programs. It’s another way to creatively express yourself. The particulars to the instruments I leave to the instructors. There’s a lot happening [at EEA] all at the same time or very quickly, sequentially. I think, right now, it’s getting a handle on everything and making sure I organize my time to give enough space and attention to each and every program. [EEA executive director Pat Snyder] has a lot of plans to grow and it’s so exciting to talk ideas with her.

Q: What are your goals as EEA’s education director?

A: The goals I have here are to increase membership for music and studio arts and really focus on developing new arts programs and new relationships with the community and local organizations. There’s a lot wonderful new art programs that I think can be developed and there’s the space for that. Also, inviting the public to some of these programs. A lot of it is the marketing side of it, too, to make sure they enjoy all of the programs that are going on.

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