Talk with the Author

Jessie Davis

If you would like to talk to the author about the books or articles described on this site, or about any related topics, please enter your comments below (and click on “comments” to read full text of what’s there). Thank you.

39 Replies to “Talk with the Author”

  1. Jessica,
    I just received the Teacher College Press Spring 2010 publication and your “Ordinary Gifted Children” title caught my eye. I firmly believe that each child IS gifted. Unfortunately, traditional education only values certain gifts, leaving many gifts undiscovered, underappreciated or refused. I am a licensed marriage and family therapist, an art educator and a most recently a corporate training developer/health coach and PhD student in Organizatinal Leadership and Policy Development. In my study of educational reform (or lack thereof) I am struck by how often research is done to confirm existing knowledge rather than explore possibility. Case in point, “giving students a voice” to comment on educational teaching process. While it raises the awareness of teachers as to their pedagogy, it amounts to little more then allowing students to “paint the cell” rather than freeing them from the confines of school the way it’s always been done. It is hard for students to conceptualize any other way of learning, and yet they have all experienced it before they set foot in school. We are born curious, resourceful and creative. Little by little, the way we choose becomes judged, narrowed or thwarted. As a health coach, I work with people who have learned what works for society, not for them. When given a chance to speak the truth and to experiment with options without judgement, their inate creativity sparks and changes their entire system. For my dissertation, I want to reach young children to find out what they know about learning, what they know about school, and what they wish school could be like. I envision three groups of students: preschool, second grade and 4th grade. As an art educator, I saw these levels as radical pivots in my students’ lives (I had the privalege to teach them longitudinally) and was always curious as to what was happening systemically at those points. Ultimately, I want to encourage learning across subject areas from idiosyncratic and intrinsic curiosity and the dynamic process of that learning in both solitude and in group experience. The ultimate question is, how can the institution of academia facilitate rather than squelch such learning, and what type of teacher/administration/other support personnel preparation will enable that facilitation. Many questions, but I can only look at one aspect at a time. I want to authentically listen to authentic children-it is their future, and ours, that is on the line. By the way, I have attended Project Zero, the Learning Differences Conference and New and Aspiring Leaders Conference at Harvard. Great experiences, all. I wish my life circumstances allowed me to enroll in the Doctor of Educational Leadership program, but I have a junior in High School. I look forward to reading your good work! It is sure to become part of what informs my continuing research. Thank you in advance!

  2. Thank you for your thoughtful reflections on educational reform and children’s voices (or lack thereof) in the broader conversation about what school is and could be. I do hope you find Ordinary Gifted Children of interest and use to your quest. Ann Hoffmann believed (and I hear this in your remarks) that we need to listen carefully to children for if we do, we will find that they will tell us what they need and what we must do. Additionally, as I note also in your comments, Ann Hoffmann believed that if things were not working for a child in a school setting, it was the school and not the child who needed to adjust. Your proposed study asking children what they know about school should be very interesting. I did some research into
    “playing school”-that great venue for pretend play that children do on their own or with others. Interestingly, the classrooms children created in their play were not necessarily like those in the schools they attended. Images of children and teachers perpetuated through media entered into their playful constructions of the scene. Where will children in your study derive the understandings you seek to explore? Should be most interesting. Finally, like you Ann Hoffmann believed all children come to schools bearing gifts and that it is the responsibility of the teacher to recognize and receive. Please let me know your thoughts after you’ve read it. I do thank you for your advance interest and thoughtful commentary. Best.

  3. Hi Jessica,

    I took a professional development class at the Rochester Museum and Science Center about 15 years ago, and learned about Entry Point Approach. I have adapted it to my work with English language learners, and use it all the time to spark discussion, inquiry, and thorough examination of all sorts of objects, including scientific specimens, paintings, and pieces of music.

    One of my favorite learning experiences with kids was playing the Triumphal March from Verdi’s Aida. After my third grade group listened to it and discussed it through entry point questions, they were really interested in finding out more about the music, and that lead to a fantastic project of reading, writing, puppetry and performance (at a cafe where a soprano performed some excerpts from the opera.) And I had just played the piece one day because I wondered if entry point approach would work as well with music as it does with three-dimensional objects! I have been using my own version of Entry Point, (always with credit to Project MUSE) and teaching it to kids and teachers all over.

    I have just returned from a one-month trip to Ethiopia. I accompanied a group of 12 American teachers who were chosen to benefit from a Fulbright-Hays Group Study Abroad grant. I acted as curriculum specialist, to help the teachers bring what they were learning about Ethiopia back to their students. One thing I taught them in the first few days of our trip was using Entry Point Approach with cultural, scientific, and artistic objects. They loved it and were encouraged to bring back interesting artifacts to share with their students.

    Our group did not disband after the trip. We will be working together–via an online classroom–to pilot and share our lessons and curriculum adaptations with each other. I have a copy of the MUSE book, and I wondered if you could give me permission to scan 6 pages of the report to share with those teachers. I think it would help ground them better in the approach. The scanned pages would be uploaded to K-State Online, to our particular course. They would not be shared in the original form anywhere else.

    Thank you for considering my request, and thanks mostly for your wonderful work. It has made all the difference in the world for my students, for teachers I have worked with, and for me in my teaching career.

    Alicia Van Borssum
    ESOL teacher, Autumn Lane Elementary School
    and doctoral candidate at the University of Rochester, NY

  4. I came across your book and web site when I searched for the Hoffmann school. My sister was a student at your Mom’s school for 9 years. I remember going to her graduation there and how nice your Mom was. Mrs. Hoffmann saved my sister’s life in a way. You see when she was 5 she went public school kindergarden and lasted about 2 weeks-they told my parents she needed to go to an institution. My sister Jeannie would stand in the corner and not talk. She was probably autistic. My Mom tells me how excited your Mom was when Jeannie did finally talk! At her graduation I can still see your Mom looking at my sister and telling me with tears in her eyes how proud she was of Jeannie and far she had come. Your Mom was special like an Angel-helping the children nobody would back then. Jeannie was born in 1958, myself in 1957. I look forward to reading Ordinary Children. Thank You.

    Julia Webber BS RN CRRN

  5. Thank you Julia for this beautiful message and remembrance. I hope you will enjoy the book and would welcome your thoughts on it all. All best to you and your family, Jessica

  6. Hello Jessica –
    I just found out about your book – Why Our Schools Need the Arts – and look forward to reading it. Reading about your background, I felt such a connection. I’m a music educator in Ventura County, California, where there are many Blue Ribbon and Distinguished schools, but no credentialed arts teachers in the elementary schools – at all. I was laid off from my arts grant-paid job when CA’s budget tanked in 2009. I found work a year ago, but it is “part-time” (800 kids per week), paid as a “non-teaching” position, from PFA funds; it’s pitiful compensation for what I do, and for my qualifications. I don’t have a room, either. In our middle and high schools, there are terrific music programs. There is also parent-paid band in 4th & 5th grade.

    I want to raise awareness in our community of what is missing here, by denying kids a highly qualified teacher and a sequential music program, or conversely, trying to build support so that I can be paid enough to continue teaching these kids. The teachers and the children know that what I gave them in the past year was very valuable, and not “business as usual,” such as what they received when taught by others in an unsustainable situation. As you can imagine, it is very tricky to try to point out what is wrong to one’s superiors.

    Do you think our school board members will read your book?
    Do you have any advice for me? Thank you.
    – Lise

  7. Hi Lise. Thanks for being in touch. I hope you will enjoy Why Our Schools Need the Arts and that it will be helpful to you in your quest. It is certainly written with the non-arts educator in mind and I do hope your school board members would find it accessible and perhaps/hopefully persuasive. In terms of advice, I think (and describe in the book) that arts education advocates have got to lift the Sequoia that’s been weighing on our shoulders (you know, that belief that “they” don’t appreciate or understand the arts and that “they” are always quick to eliminate them) and to recognize that many if not most of the parents, teachers, and administrators whom we have considered “they” really do appreciate the arts, have a sense of their importance to their children’s education, and feel as we do that the reduction or elimination of the arts in our schools (and wow “no credentialed arts teachers” is really sad) is a great loss and injustice. Just a tweak in our attitude, the realization that we are all on the same side in wanting the best for our children can turn an adversarial rapport into a collaborative and constructive conversation. That funds (albeit inadequate) were found to have you even part-time in this era of cuts and testing indicates that there is support for what you do. I hope my book will be helpful to you in your quest. It has recommendations for action as well as arguments for inclusion that may help you in your appeal to the school board and perhaps even make the book something they would read. That there are terrific music programs for older students reflects an appreciation on which to build. Children come to school making music and the early grades are a time to celebrate and cultivate their natural proclivities. If not only to give students more ways to make sense of and enjoy school and the broader world, then also to ready them for the sequential programs that lie ahead for them in the schools. I wish you great luck in your worthy mission and I thank you for all that you do. Jessica

  8. I am a teacher and graduate student in education at the University of Prince Edward Island, I stumbled upon you books in the university library and I found them to be extremely relevant and timely to my course work. As an art teacher I sometimes like a voice shouting in the wind to my fellow educators on the importance of art. Thank you for the work you do.

  9. I so appreciate your letting me know that my books have been useful to you. I wish you all the best in your studies and with your arts teaching, Diane. Thank YOU for the work you do. Jessica

  10. Dear Jessica:

    I have been working with the Visual Thinking Strategies for the past 6 years in public schools in the Madrid area, Spain. I received basic training, not really knowing what was going to happen in the classrooms. The outcome was and is so extraordinary that I feel each lesson as a gift. So much so, that I felt the urge to continue learning. Among articles and books, I came across your “Why Our Schools Need the Arts”. I must thank you for your work, which is helping me a lot in my teacher training programmes. Now, I have come across Quests, another extraordinary piece of work.
    I have attended Project Zero Classroom Institute at Harvard this summer, and last year was lucky to be able to go to Lemshaga Akademi´s (Sweden) 10th Anniversary Conference on Visible Thinking.
    There is a lot of work to be done here in Spain. I am making a big effort to try to expand Artful and Visible Thinking, not only in schools but in other training environments as well. Not an easy task in such a traditional and closed-minded educational system.
    Do you know of anyone, any school, in Madrid who is currently working with the Arts? I would love to get in touch with them because it is much more fruitful to work as a community.
    Any piece of advice is more than welcome.
    Thank you very much for your work.
    Bettina Ingham

  11. Dear Bettina, Thank you so much for being in touch and letting me know my work has been of use to you. The MUSE project (in which the Generic Game (do you have it? I know there is a version in Spanish) loomed large and grew (in conjunction with Gardner’s entry points) into the Quests was exciting work that seems to be being continued in the field. Which is thrilling. I wish I could be more helpful with regard to work in Madrid. Have you tried contacting Veronica Boix-Mansilla at Harvard Project Zero? I know she is engaged with international interests and was instrumental in the development of the Quests in Mexico. I wish you luck with your work even against great odds. I know that the Game and the Quests have appealed even to wary educators-they’re easy, non-threatening, require no knowledge of art, and provide a first hand experience with observation, open-ended inquiry, and making sense. We did a workshop once at the De Cordova Museum in Massachusetts where we “played” with the Quests with non-arts teachers in different domains, using the Quest questions as examples of inquiry from the perspective of different entry points and asked the teachers to develop their own questions in terms of their own subjects, e.g. regarding a particular object like a steel sculpture and with an eye to Science (or Math or English), what might be a good narrative question or aesthetic etc. etc. It was great fun and teachers were “jumping” in with ideas for each other, illustrating for themselves the generative cross-disciplinary possibilities that come from careful viewing of a work of art. Not sure the MUSE Guide is still available, but it gives examples of educators’ different application of the tools in a number of settings and with different learners. As things unfold, if there are questions I might address or if there is any way in which I can be helpful, please let me know. Thanks again for being and touch. Right on. Jessica

  12. I am an avid supporter and advocate for the arts. It saddens me to see how people in top positions deem the arts as a discipline that is not necessary towards the total development of the child. Art programs are being eliminated from public schools around the globe. Moreover, art and music programs are not administered with equal importance as other subjects eventhough research supports the invaluable learning that the arts provide for all multiple intelligences. My desire is to one day provide a program of learning that has a heavy focus on the arts for students in Georgia because I see the negative impact/ outcomes of learning that exists as a result of the lack of the arts in public schools to support student motivation and engagement in learning. I will complete my specialist degree in education upon the completion of two more courses, and will have two years to complete my doctoral in teacher leadership. My research study will relate to how the arts impact learning. I am schocked by the decesions made by school systems to eliminate art and music programs. I grew up with full class sessions of the arts to support my learning, and I am certain that had these experiences not been afforded for me that I would have been a lost and withdrawn soul from all other disciplines because I needed art and music to make strong connections to other subjects that were not of my highest intelligence. I can’t imagine what children are going through who receive zero support with their multiple intelligence of art and music as being their dominant way of learning. My daughters have a high intelligence for the arts and has been deprived in public school of this discipline that supports their learning; however, as a teacher, I realized this fact and went outside of the school to provide them with art lessons, drama lessons, dancing lessons, and music lessons so that they would not experience a sense of not belonging in school. Hence, most people do not have this option and with furlough days for teachers, I am not able to afford these opportunities anymore for my daughters and am lucky that my daughter, after being void of the arts, now has art in nineth grade, and my other daughter can continue with clarinet lessons because of a dedicated teacher who relaized her natural gift and provides affordable lessons. I believe that American is creating a great famine in educating our children to compete in this global world because America is not feeding the children through the arts which makes them whole. There are so many things that I do in the classroom with my students and have been doing these things since 1992, and I know that these strategies work 100% of the time because of the implementation of the arts through my teaching pedagogy. I am hoping that I can find a grant to help me make this world a better place for others to dwell through the powerful medium of the arts because the arts should not exist as a discipline to be placed on the back shelf especially when learning is involved and the future of American children’s education is at risk. America,we must get back to the business of really providing a solid education for all children with the arts!

    Mona Lisa Ward

  13. Dear Jessica,

    I grew up in Riverdale in the 50s-60s and attended Hoffman School for first and second grade I am in touch with several friends from that time. My feelings about those two years are quite mixed. But, after reading your book and speaking about the school with those friends, I realize that the school did offer something very very unique. I came across some report cards when I cleared out my mother’s apartment after she died, and the teachers were very insightful and on target in their descriptions of my sister and me.

    From your book, Charlie’s comment about using your “mistakes” is so wise, and so different from the approach of most teachers. I’ve been un- (or sub-) consciously using that advice all my life, but I never knew I got it from him!!

    I also had no idea that Anne’s family lived upstairs!!

    If you wish to contact me my email is akfbass at nyc dot rr dot com. I live in NYC.


    Andrea (Frey) Bass

  14. Dear Dr. Davis–

    I just purchased Why Our High Schools Need the Arts and look forward to reading it. I am in the midst of a two-year study sponsored by the Spencer Foundation to examine the link between high school arts participation and outcomes using student-level education data from Texas. We have started exploring the link between arts participation and high school dropout using survival analysis, and we hope to have a working paper complete later this fall. I believe your book will be very informative as we proceed.

    I would also like to share with you some recent findings from “Access to Arts Education: Why Participation Matters as Much as Course Availability.” Using the same state education data from Texas (school and student-level), we find that the high schools with the highest number of course offerings in the arts do not necessarily have the highest rates of student participation. We also find that the campuses fostering the highest rates of student participation in the arts are often small schools located in rural areas. We believe our findings could fundamentally change the way we look at arts access. If you are interested in receiving a copy of the policy brief and executive summary, please email me and let me know. I would love to hear your comments and ideas.

    Thanks so much.

    Kathleen Thomas

    M. Kathleen Thomas
    Associate Professor of Economics
    Department of Finance and Economics
    Box 9580
    Mississippi State University
    Mississippi State, MS 39762
    (662) 325-2561

  15. Jessica,

    I am in the middle of writing up my work for the professional doctorate in systemic practice at the University of Bedfordshire in the UK. I stumbled into Portraiture as the result of a chance remark from a visiting professor, Kevin Barge. It seems to fit very well as I am a painter by training and find myself drawn to metaphors which come from art. I also taught art many years ago at the beginning of my career. My portrait/s are of a group I run for parents of violent and self destructive children. We use ideas developed by Haim Omer in Tel Aviv and drawn from the non-violent resistance political movement (Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Bayard Rustin) to enable parents to actively resist their children’s attempts to control everything. We published our programme a couple of years ago and are just about to run our eleventh group. We work in the NHS in London and recently won an award for the programme and for its focus on safeguarding children. One of the things that I think is unique is our collaborative stance with parents. We involve parents at all stages of the process; they have helped develop parts of the programme, work alongside us as facilitators and have supervision with us. I am writing portraits of parents, facilitators, a group which is in spanish (I don’t speak spanish so this has been particularly interesting as I can’t focus on the words), and one whole group programme of ten sessions. I have also made a number of abstract paintings (one after each group session) and had an exhibition of these last year which parents were invited to. I was wondering if you know of anyone else who has been producing art work as part of the portraiture method? I have been very inspired by your and Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot’s writing! Best wishes from London.

  16. Hi Liz. I am so glad that portraiture has proved of use and interest to you. Am sure you’ve checked our our “manual” for the methodology :Art and Science of Portraiture which I co-authored with Sara Lawrence Lightfoot and which was published by Jossey-Bass. Your sense of metaphor etc. position you well for the work at hand, but as for the incorporation of actual art making, the methodology may seem constrained. I would recommend to you the work of Professor Rita Irwin at the University of British Columbia. You can see examples of ideas for employing art making itself as a research approach, i.e. to make sense of things at There are articles in the Springer International Handbook of Art Education which address related topics and might suggest to you others in the field that could be of help. That said, I thank you for describing your most interesting and important work and wish you all the best with your doctorate. Jessica

  17. Jessica

    Yes indeed I have your book on the methodology! and thank you for the steer towards Rita Irwin. I will check out the url you give.

    many thanks


  18. Hi. I’m writing my senior thesis on how the arts are important to the mental development of students, and the injustice that is underfunding these classes. I’m basically trying to find the correlation between the lack of arts education and the lack of creativity of the student later in life. My question is, which one of your books would be the most beneficial to read for research?

  19. I think you may find what you need in “Why Our Schools Need the Arts.” If you’re focussing on high school aged individuals, you might find “Why Our High Schools Need the Arts” useful because it is filled with first hand accounts from high school teachers and students. Framing Education as Art may have more theoretical background than you need for your paper, though it makes an argument you might support: non arts classes would be more compelling if they embraced some of the tenets of arts learning. You’ve probably had teachers who demonstrate that model and are artful in their practice whatever they teach. Anyways, hope that’s helpful. I wish you luck with your paper. Let me know if I can be of further help. Jessica

  20. Dear Jessica
    I am teaching arts in a secondary school in singapore. Your book entitled MUSE Quests was strongly recommended as a very good reference for stimulating questioning and thinking during the arts professional sharing. However, I could not get hold of the book anywhere on earth for they were out of stock everywhere. Can you please advise me where I could order or buy your marvellous book?thanks a lot.

  21. Dear Jessica,

    I write in huge appreciation of your book The Art and Science of Portraiture.

    I am an artist from Scotland, who has concentrated most of my professional life on portraiture. For much of the past 12 or so years I have worked in collaboration with clinicians, patients and care givers on two ambitious residency programs and exhibits- Saving Faces and Portraits of Care (

    The BMJ Humanities published a research paper I jointly authored documenting the latter project, which was carried out at The University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, USA.It can be seen at

    I have also sent you a copy, by post, of the book “Here I am and Nowhere Else- Portraits of Care”. This accompanied the resultant exhibition. I hope you may find that also of interest.

    I am now working on a my dissertation for my PhD, exploring the nature, relationship and narratives of patient/sitters who consent to work along with me on these artworks. The previous research has been able to generate extraordinary results, in terms of response to the images and public exhibition. Neither project sought to analyze the nature of the relationship and the process that was developed with me and the participants, that generated these findings. This is what I seek to explore.

    I have extraordinarily only just acquired ‘The Art and Science of Portraiture’, and it has proved to be a kindred spirit to me and invaluable to my ongoing research. It says much about what I have always felt about my collaborations in a clinical setting (and personal practice) and is even more pertinent and precious to me as a researcher.
    It demonstrates all that I have been struggling to describe as to how portraiture can straddle the gap between empiricism and aesthetics. And therefore be a source of learning for medical education, research and clinical interactions. I greatly look forward to reading your other publications relating to the critical role art can play in education

    Thank you hugely, once again,

    Very best wishes

    Mark Gilbert

  22. Dear Jessica,
    I work for the Tuscaloosa Museum of Art in Tuscaloosa,Al and we are familiar with The Muse Book and we would like to include the principles of muse quests in our education program. We are,however having difficulty finding a copy of the Muse book for sale could you please let us know where we might find it.

    Thank you,
    Kathie Thurman

  23. Dear Jessica,

    I attended The Hoffmann School from 1949 through 1957. You might remember me as the child who was missing an arm! I have fond memories of my years at the school and those years, in part formed the foundation for all the intervening years down to this very day. I studied accounting, went to law school, obtained a Masters of Law in Taxation at NYU, and had a successful law practice before moving to Vail, Colorado in 2001, where I am a ski instructor for disabled skiers and injured veterans from the recent “wars.” And, of course, I’ve been teaching my grandchildren to ski!! Thanks to the wonderful caring of your mom, and teachers like Betty Levine, life turned out just fine.

  24. Dear Jessica,
    I think my note to you was just cut off before I could complete it. The work “geek” certainly did not exist when I was at the Hoffmann School. And notwithstanding my considerable education, I still struggle with computers. I am not sure that my note of a few minutes ago went through, so at the risk of being redundant, here I go again.

    I attended the Hoffman School from 1947 through 1957. I was the little boy who was missing an arm since birth. I recall all the years of caring and personal interest from your mom as well as teachers like Betty Levine. I went on to study accounting, then law (Master of Laws in Taxation), and had a successful law practice in Manhattan, until moving to Vail, Colorado in 2001. I am now a teacher myself, of sorts, in that I am a ski instructor specializing in disabled skiers and veterans who have been injured the Iraq and Afghanistan “wars.” And my young grandchildren have similarly benefitted from my teaching abilities which, I surmise, stem in great measure from the way I was treated at the Hoffman School.

    Back in 2002, while making frequent visits to an uncle at Hebrew Home, I drove past the old school property which was obviously sold and undergoing considerable renovation. I regret that I did not walk onto the property for one last look at the school that provided such great benefits to me over the years. In fact, I have continued to regret the opportunity to walk through an important piece of my “being.” It looks as if you are working on a book about mom’s school; I would very much like to purchase a copy when it is available!! Perhaps you might even take the time to call me (970-331-1318). All my Best, David Stern

  25. Jessica….Just ordered your book. I noted a review comment by Austin Hill; he was one of my best buddies at the Hoffmann School. Stumbling upon your website is bringing back a lot of memories. Can’t wait to read the book. Best, David Stern

  26. Hello Jessica,
    I am a professor of art and design, currently writing an Ed.D dissertation. I have a question about portraiture. My study focuses on creative college students and the regeneration of creativity after trauma. My participants (college art and design students) will collect data by taking a series of photographs that they believe represent their lived experience. The photographs will be paired with written journal entires and compiled by myself in a digital photo book. My writing style of the study is very descriptive however the students are creating the main components of the art. Would this method be portraiture or photo elicitation? Portraiture seems to fit the educational arena I am in but photo elicitation studies actually find participants with cameras in hand. If you have a moment I would love to have your thoughts.

    Sample data from a pilot study:

    Many Thanks,

    Sara Moore
    Professor Integrative Media Art and Design
    Wilkes University

  27. Hi Jessica,

    I am hoping you may be able to help me. I am researching blogs by arts educators who find themselves resisting the current ‘high stakes testing environment’ in schools and who really have to fight for their beliefs in the importance of the arts. My own particular area of interest is drama education but if you are aware of any by arts educators, I’d really appreciate it.

    Thanks so much,


  28. Dear Jessica,

    I just finished “Ordinary Gifted Children.”
    Thank you for writing this beautiful book about your mother and her school.
    It brought back wonderful memories of a magical place filled with unforgettable people.

    Audrey Isselbacher
    Class of 1964

  29. Dr. Davis,
    I just finished devouring your “The Art and Science of Portraiture” in preparation to write my PhD dissertation proposal “Sustaining Souls: Portraits of Spiritual and Psychological Wholeness among Anti-Sex-Trafficking Leaders.” After listening to my own soul pouring out for several months on this topic, my dissertation chair gave me your book because she just knew portraiture would be a perfect fit for my personality, writing style, and proposed project. It is! I don’t when I’ve ever in my life resonated so immediately and deeply with anything I’ve read. Unfortunately, my program director has never heard of portraiture as methodology and is suspicious about its rigor and lack of wide exposure in the field of counseling psychology. She says she wants me to be able to defend my methodology 10 years from now, fearing that since I’ve become so quickly enamored with portraiture that it might just be a passing fad and my work won’t be taken seriously down the road. So I’m writing to request whatever help you can offer me in terms of defending portraiture as a rigorous, substantive, lasting methodology for qualitative inquiry in the field of counseling psychology. I have already found your chapter in the 2003 Qualitative Research in Psychology book. Anything else you could give me would be extraordinarily helpful.
    Deep thanks,
    Deb Berghuis, MA, LPC

  30. Dear Jessica Hoffmann Davis:

    I enjoyed reading “Ordinary Gifted Children.” I began my career as an art and museum educator, and worked as a museum curator for two decades before returning to college teaching several years ago. I live in Duluth, Minnesota.

    As it turns out, an artist who taught at the Hoffmann School in the 1960s was from Duluth. Her name was Mae Gruber, and she passed away in 2014. I helped sort and appraise a houseful of her artwork.

    Besides my interest in alternative educational settings, I read your book hoping to find some mention of Mae Gruber. She was reclusive after returning to Duluth in the 1970s, and her story goes largely untold. She was an excellent painter, but her work stops rather abruptly in 1973.

    Among her works were drawings and paintings of Hoffmann school students, and many images of the Hudson which I think might be near the school property circa 1960s.

    Page 107 discusses various colleges the school’s faculty came from, and mentions Carlton College, which is where Mae received a BFA in 1956, before traveling in Europe on a Fulbright.

    I thought you might know more about her, or know who to refer me to. I sincerely appreciate any information that would shed more light on Mae Gruber as a teacher/artist.


    Peter F. Spooner
    Duluth, MN

  31. Dear Jessica Davis,

    I have a female student in my class at Copper Basin HS in Copperhill, Tennessee. She is a junior in high school with a great interest in art illustration. She likes to illustrate with pencil, pen, and ink. She is not interested in digital creations. I am trying to point her in a direction to pursue her passion but I have limited exposure and resources to art program. Copper Basin is in an geographically isolated mountainous area of the lower Appalachians. I wondered if you could suggest some resources or people in my area of whom I could contact for help.

    The reason I am contacting you seemingly out of the blue is that you helped me a few years back in regards to promoting a museum-like approach to across the curriculum arts integration. You sent me a copy of your book “The Muse Book” and we have referred to the materials in the book for guidance.

    If you have any suggestions I would appreciate it

    Thank you.

    Craig Green

  32. HI Jessica- I was a student at your mother’s school in the mid 60’s-I just saw the photo page of the Hoffmann school but did not recognize anyone- Your mother saved my life- and while I was only there for the 6th and 7th grades, she is and will always be my HERO

    I just stepped down from 12 years as the Founding Head of the Wolf School here in RI, a school for children with multiple learning challenges- it was my way of saying thank you to her and paying it forward so that a schools could exist for children who don’t fit or have failed elsewhere- don’t know if that was the mission of your mothers school, but it does describe me -The Hoffmann School changed the trajectory of my life and I will be forever grateful

    I was thrilled to learn that you had written about your mother and the school – I am about half way through it – I have promised (myself and others) to write the book of Wolf- although I have not yet been able to start it. If ever written, it will be dedicated to your mother

    You and I saw each othr years ago in Newton at the mall -we moved to RI in 1997- I would love to connect in some way as your book has moved me closer to writing my own- Jessica Robins Miller

  33. Hello Jessica,

    I am a Korean student of a student in high school. Accidentally impressed to read your book, why our high schools need the arts, I write a letter like this. I live and have been living in an environment that is opposed to art. I thought it would be better recognized as time goes by, it has become worse. High school life in Korea is hell. Wake up at six in the morning to go to school when you get back home has more than 11:00. Subjects to learn for a long time, is a subject that can help to university entrance. However, as you said, this subject is not interested in due to a lack of relationship with me. I love art. Theater, art, music, ballet, love all to writing. When any form of art This is to express my by my art, you feel that you are alive for the first time. However, I could not do these things. it will already nearly five years. In South Korea, not only to ignore the art, there is less interest in art. If living with the arts, you will die of hunger is widespread recognition. So institution that can be in contact with the art also I’m very little. So institution that can be in contact with the art also rarely. Can you solve all if you go to university? I would not I feel that. It is difficult that the art in the atmosphere that are not oriented art country.I feel that my creativity and sensibility and intellect are degenerate. Keen sensitivity and feelings of youth period, is considered in the special feeling that only this time to enjoy. However, I will not focus on this sentiment, it is likely to regret if you are finishing the young. Jessica Sorry so that it was arranged only the first appealed to the letter. However, reading your book, I’ve noticed that I am not wrong. Also, I saw my chance. So I get the courage. However, I don’t know where I should go and how can I do first? Dear Jessica, please tell me what to do. I’m so confused and depressed. I have a pretty positive personality but increasingly coming limit. Could you tell me the name of Art Focus School that you know?
    Finally, Jessica thank you for reading my letter (English is not good) and writing this book.

    I got the courage up because of you.

    Thank you hugely, once again.

    yoon jeong Lee (christina)

  34. To Jessica,

    I am a pre-service Primary School teacher and learning about the various ways in which I can instruct my class in appreciating art (all going well I will be teaching by the end of the year).

    Through my search of various sites I came across one that had referenced The MUSE Book. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a copy (either through my university library – University of Wollongong – or online).

    Would be able to let me know where I would be able to find it either for sale or either temporary electronic loan?



  35. Dear Ms. Davis,
    I am currently pursuing my degree in elementary education and am taking a course about the role of arts in education. Drawn to your psychology background, which is my background as well, I have chosen you as the key philosopher I am studying this semester. You have not disappointed! I have just begun reading “Why Our Schools Need the Arts” and listening to your Harvard lecture about “Framing Education as Art: The Octopus Has a Good Day;” your ideas are insightful, brilliant, and, at times, beautiful. While I would love to teach in an arts-based education program, I plan to bring the arts into any classroom that I am in. You have given me some excellent rebuttals to the all too frequent arguments against arts education; I look forward to advocating for the arts–and their relevance and importance in the lives of our students. Inspired by your writings, I am also planning to visit a community arts center. I will be giving a presentation about you to my graduate school classmates, and I wanted to ask you: What is your advice for teacher candidates and new teachers hoping to be advocates for arts education? It would be an honor to hear back from you.
    Thank you so very much,

  36. Hi Jessica
    I’m studying a Master degree in creative and innovative learning processes at Aalborg University in Denmark. I’m interested in the collaboration between museums and schools and how the arts Can contribute to learning many aspects of life and in education.
    My adwiser Tatiana Chemi has introduced me to the muse quest, which you have been a part of producing. I have been working with the idea and the questions and made an so called experience guide in danish to unfold art for both children and grownups.
    I have had problems finding the booklets behind the quest and I m interested in any kind of material that you have used in the process. Could you perhaps help me?
    I would love to get in touch with you sometime in the future to discuss my work in comparisson with yours.
    I would like to develop the experience guide into an interactive app.
    Please contact me on
    Best wishes Henrik

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