From "Hugs and Messes" to Multidisciplinary Life Skills

For North Campus Art Teachers Lauren Cannon and Kelly Cook, the St. Mary's art curriculum is a way to reinforce concepts the students are learning in other classes, cultivate the creative process, and even help regulate students’ feelings and emotions.

“The collaboration between the Lower School classroom teachers and the art curriculum drew me to St. Mary’s,” said Lower School Art Teacher Ms. Cook. “It makes sense because art itself is multidisciplinary and encompasses literature, anthropology, sociology, mathematics, and science. The girls are good at connecting what they learn in their classrooms with what they learn in their specials classes.”

St. Mary’s art classes also tie in the school’s Episcopalian tradition, fostering a sense of belonging and inclusion. “Exposing the students to artists with diverse backgrounds is one way we reinforce our commitment to belonging,” said Early Childhood Art Teacher Mrs. Cannon.


Further, the art curriculum on the North Campus dovetails with the lessons students are taught in their guidance and counseling classes. “Art requires a lot of social-emotional learning, so I collaborate with the counseling team a lot,” said Ms. Cook.

“Art is problem-solving. Students must find ways to communicate visually what they feel internally,” emphasizes Mrs. Cannon. “Learning to self-regulate while problem-solving is a lifelong skill.”

Both North Campus art teachers have had impressive careers in art education. Before joining the St. Mary’s faculty in 2021, Mrs. Cannon earned her master’s in instruction and curriculum, specializing in art for grades K-12. She then taught art at Houston Middle School in Germantown for many years. 

“Connecting students to their art is something I’ve always gravitated toward,” said Mrs. Cannon.


While K-12 art education has always been Ms. Cook’s passion, she began teaching university classes as part of her MFA program. Now, in addition to her full-time role at St. Mary's she also teaches as an adjunct professor at the University of Memphis.

“I like to joke that I teach everyone from ages 4 to 74,” said Ms. Cook.

The inspiration and connections drawn from the students make both teachers love their roles more every day.

“The students’ fearlessness in the art room influences my personal art practice. When I look at the first and second-grade girls rolling up their sleeves and diving headfirst into a project, it gives me the encouragement I need to do something a little adventurous in my own studio,” said Ms. Cook.

Mrs. Cannon concurs. “I tell folks I have the best job in the world: hugs and messes.”

  • All-School
  • Early Childhood
  • Lower School

Additional Images

Lower School Art Teacher Kelly Cook works with two students on their artistic creations.

Lower School Art Teacher Kelly Cook works with two students on their artistic creations.

Early Childhood Art Teacher Mrs. Cannon helps a student create a work of art.

Early Childhood Art Teacher Mrs. Cannon helps a student create a work of art.