Graduation Year


Document Type

Master's Thesis


Master of Science



Program Director

Jennifer Lucko, PhD

First Reader

Matthew E. Davis, PhD

Second Reader

Lynn Sondag, MFA


Art is often marginalized in academic environments while student mental health and academic achievement gaps are highlighted as areas of priority and concern. This research is situated in a theoretical framework that identifies how middle school is a critical time for adolescent development (Hetrick, 2018), conscientization (Mernick, 2021), community-based art as a practice for social-emotional learning (Farrington & Shewfelt, 2020), and resilience as a way to help promote adolescent social-emotional health (Giselly et al., 2018). This study focused on ten students that participated in a multi-week identity based sculptural project inclusive of qualitative surveys and interviews. In addition, two administrators and an art teacher were interviewed on how identity influences art and how that helps us connect with one another and also can help with resilience within the student population. The research resulted in three major findings centered around how identity-formation in art creates connections between inner and outer worlds, how flow and creative process develop stabilizing presence for learning, and the emergence of actionable relationships with community from classroom experience as a way to help promote adolescent social emotional health. This research has important implications in how art teachers might contextualize their work as bridge-building between students and the larger world, ways in which administrators and districts might help facilitate art as an academically integrative and publicly facing core discipline, and as a call for policy makers to prioritize arts as central to the academic development of engaged citizens.

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