• Teaching

    General Teaching Philosophy

    I seek to engage my students with the creative process. Whether we are in a classroom or on the banks of a wild river, the experience is a dynamic one that changes with the individual and the moment. Simply put, I want my students to feel comfortable with the medium they are using while challenging themselves to stretch to the edges of their comfort zone.

    Art is a language and a pathway to aspects of ourselves that we rarely access. In my workshops and classes, there are moments when participants access and discover things about themselves they have either forgotten or never known. For some students there are moments of healing and empowerment, which I believe comes from the simple act of creating with one’s hands. Teaching is very much about listening to what the student needs while at the same time challenging the individual to discover something new.

    I am listed on the Vermont Art Council’s Arts Directory. This means that schools in Vermont can apply for streamlined grants to bring me in for a workshop or residency, as described below.

    Art of Sustainability

    I work with Sustainability Leaders Network, bringing the Art of Sustainability to leaders in the social and environment change movement. We see creative problem solving as essential for addressing the many challenges we face in bringing about a sustainable future for people and planet. Art and creative expression stimulate the right side of the brain, and seek meaning, expansive possibilities, and the big picture. We have found that those who engage in creative processing often experience a profound sense of new possibilities and are more effective in their work place. Sustainability is an art. And art helps us break through old ways of thinking to get to sustainable solutions.

    Workshops and Residencies

    I am available for workshops and residencies that facilitate creativity and exploration. These workshops can be done in 1 hour increments or month-long experiential participation. I begin this process by evaluating the needs of the group and then I design a program that responds to those concerns. I have done several workshops that spanned the spectrum of duration, outcome and creativity. Each project is a customized response to the unique circumstances of place and people. Here are some examples of current workshop offerings:

    View flyers and descriptions of example workshops, below.

    My workshops and residencies facilitate creativity through a wide range of projects. Some programs have focused on discovering aspects of self through the creation of transient installations using natural materials in wild places; others, to the building of self-esteem through stilt walking. I’ve run workshops around creating giant puppet performance, story telling through shadow puppetry, mural projects, and creating community gardens.

    While I challenge my younger students to develop a strong and vibrant visual vocabulary, I also like to encourage older participants to rediscover their inner child and unleash unknown creative expression. My goal is to empower individuals and groups to make something authentic to that moment. Through these experiences, I have seen participants discover, heal, and engage in exciting new ways.

    A Little Farm Story

    Based on my book A Little Farm Story, I offer several classes and workshops for groups of all ages.

    For example, through Show and Tell, we read the book and show the pages either from the original or projected on a screen. Then we go back and talk about what is behind each of the images. This interaction can be tailored to the age group of students and their baseline knowledge of farming. If the focus for students has been on nutrition, health and where food comes from, then there would be a bigger emphasis on what goes into soil fertility, seed choices, weather, pests, weeds, the harvest, etc. If the teacher desires to have more of an environmental or socio/economic orientation regarding farming, then there can be more of a focus on the importance of local farms, at a scale where inputs and outputs are environmentally sound, what attracts young farmers to farming, and what barriers and challenges they encounter. The analysis of what is behind each image can be as simple or as complex as needed.

    Depending on the length of residency, students could experience a number of creative media and approaches. Here are some possible projects:

    1. Draw or paint a favorite image from A Little Farm Story (ALFS) as a poster. It’s possible that students could think up new images and ideas that would be in keeping with ALFS. Possible media: markers, colored pencils, tempera, watercolor, collage, crayons, and acrylic paint. One or two classes.
    2. Create a version of ALFS as a book. Possible media: magic markers, colored pencils, and watercolor. Several classes.
    3. Create a puppet show about ALFS. Using stick or shadow puppets each student gets assigned a character to create or chooses from a hat. Media: sticks and card stock. Several classes.
    4. Create a performance that dramatizes the book with students from younger grades. Several classes.
    5. Write a haiku about a page or series of pages from ALFS. This haiku could be illustrated. One class.

    See images from A Little Farm Story and purchase a copy of the book.


    “Jay Mead has been serving as artist-in-residence and artistic consultant for our “BIG Art” programs in the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life at Vassar College for ten years.  “BIG Art” was Jay’s typically creative and generous term for a range of projects that are dedicated to giving students and community members skills in making public art and changing local communities.

    With Jay’s guidance, our students created a marvelous giant puppet story about the history of religious life at the college for a grand celebration of our chapel’s centennial.  Jay has a gift for meeting students where they are, and helping them discover their passions, abilities, and confidence. He taught our students how to make community murals and mosaic tile benches for a new community garden near campus.  Jay led stilt-walking workshops for our students, not simply as a physical feat, but as a practice of street theater; our student stilt-walkers became a thrilling addition to the local community street festival.

    In these and many more projects, Jay combines the gifts of a master teacher, a visionary artist, and a skilled craftsman and builder. It is hard to imagine one person combines all three of these abilities, but Jay does.  And it’s why I keep inviting him back to Vassar, year after year.”

    -Rev. Samuel Speers, Assistant Dean for Campus Life, Director, Office of Religious & Spiritual Life, Vassar College

    See more testimonials in the right column.