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UMFA staffer named Utah’s top museum educator

Seastrand completely re-envisioned school outreach after COVID made in-person tours and classroom visits impossible.

Katie Seastrand, manager of school and teacher programs at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA), has been named Utah Museum Educator of the Year. Seastrand received the award Saturday, March 26, at the Utah Art Education Association (UAEA)’s Spring Conference held online.

“Katie does excellent work to connect K-12 students and teachers to the diverse world of art and creativity,” said Annie Burbidge Ream, co-director of learning and engagement at UMFA. “We truly are so grateful to get to work and learn alongside her, and we look forward to seeing all of the wonderful ways she will continue to enrich people’s lives through engaging art experiences.”

Katie Seastrand

Hired in September 2019 to travel and teach in K-12 classrooms throughout Utah, Seastrand completely re-envisioned school outreach after COVID made in-person museum tours and classroom visits impossible. Looking for new ways to safely support teachers and students, Seastrand focused first on immediate needs. She worked with classroom teachers and her colleagues in UMFA Learning and Engagement to develop and distribute 1,500 “Art Kits” of supplies to Salt Lake area schools and to Whitehorse High School in San Juan County. She then reimagined and expanded UMFA’s relatively new distance-learning efforts into five new programs that have brought UMFA artworks and art-inspired experiences into classrooms virtually.

In two and a half years—most of that time under COVID restrictions—Seastrand has worked with more than 6,000 students and 550 teachers statewide to connect classroom core subjects to UMFA’s global art collection. These programs help students and teachers make connections between objects and their own lived experiences, and they give underserved populations some of their only opportunities to experience the visual arts.

“Using art in classrooms not only provides opportunities for students to learn on their own terms but can also help with stress and social-emotional learning,” Seastrand said. “Students need room to be free and creative, to bring what they want to the paper, canvas, clay or another medium. Art education is an empowering space and outlet for whatever emotions, anxieties or experiences that may not easily be expressed through words.”

Seastrand grew up in Salt Lake City and graduated from Olympus High School. She has a bachelor’s degree in art history and curatorial studies from Brigham Young University and a master’s degree in museum education from George Washington University. While in graduate school, she interned at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Abracadabra Preschool in Alexandria, Virginia, before returning to Salt Lake City and joining the UMFA.

This is the second time in six years that a UMFA educator has been honored by UAEA. In 2016, Burbidge Ream, then assistant curator of education and public school programs at the UMFA, won two major awards from the state and national art education associations: Utah Museum Educator of the Year by UAEA and Pacific Region Museum Education Art Educator Award from the National Art Education Association (NAEA).