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May 4, 2020

“Life is short… Art is long.”

UVM senior Kia’Rae Hanron (’20) remembers when her Montpelier High School Art Teacher Barbara Austin-Hutchins would often refer to the quote.

“Though she passed away last summer after 40 years of being an art teacher, Barb continues to inspire me on a daily basis to leave the world a better place than I found it, and I can only hope to leave that same legacy,” says Hanron. “Life is short, unpredictable, and at times quite ugly, but the legacy we leave behind as artists and compassionate humans far outlasts our physical presence on Earth.”

She believes the power of art to change the world lies in its power to change individual lives. “It allows us to see others’ perspectives – their unique worlds – in ways common sentences often cannot. Art provides outlets for grief and anger when words fail us, hope and laughter during the darkest of times, and a beauty that can only come from the genuine living of life – the adversity, success, and everything in between.” 

Facing a series of hardships during her college journey, Kia’Rae considered quitting on multiple occasions. She struggled with mental health issues, her identity as a biracial woman in Vermont, the passing of her father when she was a first-year student, and nearly losing her mother to sepsis two years ago. After two years and a semester off, one of her professors suggested that she look into art education.

“Had I not found my passion and purpose in education, I would have dropped out of school,” says Hanron, who will graduate with a B.S. in Art Education. “Since my first day as an education major, I have been in love with the discipline. Having meaningful goals to work toward, amazing teachers, and an advisor who went above and beyond gave me the hope, courage, strength, and love to achieve what I often felt was impossible – graduating college Honors in Art Education – which six years ago seemed literally impossible.”

In March, she accepted a position at Clemmons Family Farm, an African-American-owned historic farm gradually transitioning to a non-profit organization with a mission of promoting a deeper understanding and appreciation of African-American and African diaspora history, arts, and culture. Hanron serves as Arts Learning Advisor for the Windows to a Multicultural Work educational series. She also facilitates training workshops for teaching artists.

Hanron with fellow artists at Charlotte Central School event

Above, from left to right: Musician Michael Dyke, School Librarian Heidi Huestis, Art Education major Kia'Rae Hanron, Painter Julio Desmont, Dr. Lydia Clemmons, and poet and fellow UVM senior Harmony Edosomwan. Collectively, they facilitated summer reading program discussions and activities centerered on the civil rights movement and Book One from MARCH, written by Congressman John Lewis.

Community-engaged learning is a hallmark of educations programs at UVM. For Hanron, that included internships at Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center and Burlington High School. She credits the mentorship of Kate Healy and John Mazuzen for helping her develop the empathy and strength it takes to be an effective teacher. 

Over her final spring semester with UVM, Hanron worked on an independent study project illustrating a book written by local poet Rajnii Eddins about brown tenderness and the beautiful relationships between fathers and their children.

“Kia's work is filled with beauty and strength,” says Jane Kent, Professor and Chair of the Department of Art and Art History. “Her current project, a children’s book originally intended as a hand-made silkscreen book, is now digitally made due to the Covid-19 response and remote work in printmaking. It is an extraordinary accomplishment.”

Art Education Program Coordinator Erika White notes Hanron’s remarkable energy, artistry, and commitment to foster social justice and social and emotional wellbeing for those who have the pleasure of working with her.

As graduation approaches, Hanron feels a deep sense of gratitude toward White, her academic advisor. “Erika’s compassionate support and advocacy made all the difference to my time here. She went out of her way to ensure my success, and for that, I am forever grateful. Because she helped me, I can now help others.”

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