• Natalie Marsh

ViVA welcomes Olivia Spiers as Education and Communications Editorial Intern

ViVA is pleased to welcome our inaugural Education and Communications Editorial Intern. Currently earning her Masters in Art Education from the University of Texas at Austin, Olivia Spiers has worked as a research assistant for two state-wide projects centered around art teacher resilience during COVID-19 and neurodiversity representation in the classroom. These experiences flowed into her thesis research, which focuses on trauma-aware practices in post-COVID museums and highlighting storytelling’s ability to cultivate respect and empathy for others – a deep passion which spans from her years working as a print journalist while earning her B.A. in Art History and Classics from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

During the summer of 2021, Olivia worked at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. as the National Teacher Programs intern. During this time, she worked with educators around the world during the Gallery’s annual professional development conference for teachers. Olivia was able to design several resources for participants to use throughout the conference, including a digital interactive workbook. Additionally, Olivia was given the opportunity to walk Gallery staff through a trauma-informed art talk, which focused on feelings of forced separation and long-awaited reunion – two themes that span from the looming effects of COVID-19.

Before her time at the National Gallery, Olivia was the Education Fellow at the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin, where she assisted in the development of a social-emotional learning (SEL) video series for children. The series features artworks that invite reflection on common human experience such as: courage, loneliness, hope, resilience, self-expression, and empathy. While assisting with the SEL series, Olivia realized the need for art-based SEL programming in light of the pandemic – a sentiment that is reflected in her thesis research.

After working at the Blanton and National Gallery, Olivia developed a strong fascination with the ability art has to guide us through our thoughts and feelings, and the unique ways art can help us slow down to recognize and honor our mental and emotional wounds. From these interests, Olivia developed her M.A. thesis, which centers the abundant need for trauma-aware pedagogy in museums and galleries, as humanity moves into a post-COVID, trauma-filled world.

After graduate school, Olivia will continue to advocate for trauma-aware approaches in museum programming and resource development. As she moves into the professional world, Olivia aims to merge her trauma-informed advocacy with digital initiatives, which she believes can open the door for arts-based healing and transformative experiences for communities that have little or no access to physical art spaces.

Although she resides in Austin, Texas, Olivia was born and raised in a small town located in the Mississippi Delta.

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