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Joan M. E. Gaither, Ed. D

I am a native Baltimorean with a history of helping to integrate local schools and businesses during the Civil Rights Movement, receiving a B.S. degree from Morgan University (an historic BlackCollege) in 1965 and my Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1998. Finishing the dissertation was certainly a career highlight, but even a greater feeling of accomplishment came when the dissertation was voted "Outstanding Dissertation for 1998 in Educational Research at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee." I continue to strive for that "Perpetual Energy Source Award" that honored my ability to model and facilitate intergenerational participation in art education, public schools, and community arts partnerships.

This high energy combined with an extroverted personality allows me to give, I think, a new meaning to multi-tasking. I'm an active member in national, state, and local professional arts organizations, as well as my familial, social, and spiritual communities. I came to MICA in 1996 and felt immediately at home within the art department that models and mentors a holistic and child centered approach to art education.

As an artist, I've discovered that my voice is informed by an interest in mixed media, fibers, and photographic images that allow close scrutiny of surfaces and metaphors for personal meaning. Only as recent as 2000 did I hand stitch my first and fairly large narrative quilt, My Story: A Family Quilt. This embellished, layered, and color-coded 10'X12' text and image statement of my culture, with brilliant Maryland State Flag colors, photo transfers of family members, threads of gold, and multiple levels of attachments offered clues to the careers and identity of aging and young faces in such a way as to project power and seemed to come alive under the exhibition lights. And it became the catalyst for the more than ten quilts I would hand-stitch during my first sabbatical leave from MICA in 2003. As more quilts began to take shape, deeply buried memories became "unlayered" in fiber and mixed media to address issues of celebration, identity, protection, racism, and survival. My process is reflective and requires interaction with the selections of fiber type, texture, color and objects of embellishment that then put gold threads of hope and celebration into my personal narrative art works.

My work today as an artist/educator follows several interrelated strands and ideas that have emerged from my long commitment to the education of children. In this my 40th year in education, I continue to have a deep interest in young people's growth and development, in teacher preparation, and in the impact of adult educators' belief systems on curricular issues that distribute and mediate cultural knowledge. My varied experiences and education have not only shaped my own belief system, but also grounds my teaching practice. As a result, I believe a teacher encourages students to develop a method of internalizing and learning through a process that is applicable to school and life-long learning. That process includes idea development, brainstorming, research, organization, problem solving, decision making, facilitation, assessment, and continuous reflection. As a teacher helps students to see through a plethora of commercial images in order to verbalize goals, understand processes, meet responsibilities, and be accountable for their actions, educators help students to find their personal voice for "making special" while creating meaningful experiences and developing a world view.

How is that growing up in a particular environment leads to the framework within which one perceives, thinks, and acts? As an artist, educator, researcher, and advocate, I continue to pose the problem in my teaching that directs students to examine the possible conflict between the perceptual psychology of visual images and the hidden meaning embedded in those images. For me, it becomes important to investigate perceptions of culture in terms of what kind and quality of art-like images habitually surround students in schools and in their day-to-day living. I encourage students, teachers, and other educational partners to provide closer scrutiny to imagery selection processes that present visual knowledge purporting to define, validate, and perpetuate cultural identities. As a part of our art education team, I believe that we prepare our student teaching interns for the awesome responsibility of educating children, but first understanding how their behavioral perceptions, interpretations, and responses to events and experiences within their environment grounds what becomes experienced and or mediated for the students in their charge.


  • Doctorate University Wisconsin-Milwaukee: Urban Education Specialization in Art Education.
  • Master Equivalency Post Graduate, Baltimore, Maryland-Towson, Coppin, Johns Hopkins.
  • Bachelor of Science Art Education, Baltimore, Maryland-Morgan State University.

National Art Education Association Activities on the National and Regional Level

  • Recipient of the "NAEA 2009, Committee on Multiethnic Concerns J. Eugene Grigsby, Jr. Award" Awarded "NAEA 2000 Eastern Regional Outstanding Educator in Higher Education"
  • Presented Curricular Workshops and Seminars at National Art Education Conferences
  • NAEA Publication Review Committee Member 2000 - 2005
  • Awards Coordinator Co-Chairperson for MAEA 1998- 2004
  • Presenter at MAEA Annual Fall Conferences since 1980s

State/Province and Local Art Education Association Activities, Offices Held, Committees, Honors, Service, etc

  • MAEA 2008 Conference Keynote Address Speaker.
  • Awarded "NAEA 2005 Maryland Art Educator of the Year".
  • National Endowment for the Arts Grant Review Panel 2004 Member.
  • Advisor for NAEA Student Chapter at Maryland Institute College of Art 1998 - 2002.
  • Maryland State Arts Council Artistic Review Grants Panel, Howard County Arts Council, MD and Wisconsin Arts Council Grant Review Panel.
  • Received 1992 Howie Award Contribution to the Cultural Education of Howard County Students.

Other Leadership Roles and Accomplishments

  • Workshop Designer and Facilitator 2004 Week-Long Art Teacher Institute University of Massachusetts Dartmouth – Finding Personal Meaning in Museum and Gallery Settings 2004.
  • Presenter at Drawing Conference Boston University Fall 2003.
  • Maryland State Dept. of Education – Visual Arts Curriculum Standards – Team leader/ Facilitator.
  • Workshop and Seminar presenter for Art Teachers in Public Schools in Baltimore City, Anne Arundel County & Howard County, Reginald F. Lewis Museum of MD African American History & Culture -Connecting State Standards and Curriculum to Education Program at the Lewis Museum.
  • Awarded Outstanding Dissertation in Education 1998- University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.

Membership in other Professional Organizations, Including Offices Held, Honors, etc

  • President Delta Kappa Gamma Society International/Alpha Gamma Chapter 2001-2004, Member 2005.
  • Member of Secretary Review Panel -Delta Kappa Gamma Society International.

Publications and/or Exhibits

  • Artist in Residence 2005-06, Maryland Institute College of Art, Maryland Historical Society, Reginald Lewis Museum "At Freedom's Door – Challenging Slavery" Exhibition scheduled February 2006.
  • Artist in Residence & Workshop Coordinator Community Quilters for Historic Preservation of African Americans in North West Anne Arundel County 1850 to the Present- Banneker Douglas Museum Fall 2006.
  • Solo Exhibition 2005 Nancy Lincoln Gallery, Beaver Country Day School- Choices, Identity, and Layers of Meaning: Narrative Quilts -School Assembly Presentation, Hands-on 7th & 9th grade workshops.
  • Solo Exhibition 2004 Maryland Institute College of Art-Choices, Identity, and Layers of Meaning: Narrative Quilts Listed in "New York Times Date Book" Arts Page September 17, 2004.

Artist Talk for Solo Exhibition

  • Draft 2004 Visual Arts Curriculum Maryland State Standards Dept. of Education – Collaboration.
  • PBS 2003-2004 Broadcast Martha's Vineyard-Visit with Joan Gaither: Quilt Maker & Storyteller.
  • Group Member Faculty Show Maryland Institute College of Art.
  • Monograph in Art Education in Urban Contexts –National Art Education Association Conference.
  • Maryland Historical Society Black Presence in Maryland: Women in Art Group Show.
  • Teaching By Example and Teachers As Artists – Howard and Baltimore Counties, Maryland.

Other Teaching and/or Related Experiences

  • Project Facilitator Collaboration 4th Annual Celebrating Community: Art and Architecture of Booker T. Washington Middle School – Careers in the Arts Week Long Workshops for 7th & 8th Graders to discover and make personally meaningful art work relative to the people and structures of their community.
  • Workshop Presenter BaltimoreCity Public Schools, Baltimore, Howard, and Anne Arundel Counties.