In This Story
The first time Hannah Garnier met Justin Sutters, he gave her and her husband an impromptu tour of the Art and Design Building on George Mason University’s Fairfax Campus.
“I could tell he was passionate about his program and I couldn’t wait to join,” Garnier said.
Garnier took three classes from Sutters, and he was also her capstone project mentor. She is now a 2020 graduate of the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) in Art Education Program in Mason’s College of Visual and Performing Arts.
Sutters’ enthusiasm and dedication were evident to the members of the National Art Education Association, who honored him with the 2021 Southeastern Region Higher Education Art Educator Award. The prestigious award, determined through a peer review of nominations, recognizes the exemplary contributions, service, and achievements of an outstanding NAEA member annually at the regional level within their division. The award was presented during the virtual NAEA 2021 National Convention.
"I was rather honored when I received this award considering the incredible art educators in higher education throughout the region,” said Sutters, who is the director of the MAT Program and an associate professor in Mason's School of Art. “It was on one hand humbling to be recognized, but also validating of the contributions I have made over the past five years while here at Mason at the state, national and international level.”
Sutters said he hopes to continue that trajectory and strengthen existing connections within all three of those levels by extending the reach of his own research and pedagogy, as well as the impact of the MAT Program at Mason and the incredible art teachers it prepares for the field.
Kate Jullie, who begins her final year in the MAT Program this fall, said she’s been lucky to work with Sutters in his roles as director of the program, instructor and faculty advisor for Mason’s NAEA student chapter, where she is president.
Jullie said Sutters’ passion and dedication to the arts and to teaching are evident in his thorough instruction and attention to detail.
“An avid artist himself, [Sutters] has impressed upon us the importance of continuing our own artistic practices throughout our teaching careers and frequently shares his own art and art practices with us,” said Jullie.
“The Art Education program at Mason continues to thrive under Professor Sutters’ leadership and this award is reflective of that success,” said Hasan Elahi, professor and director for Mason’s School of Art. “Our Art Education alumni are highly visible throughout Northern Virginia, and Professor Sutters has a 100% placement rate with his students across K-12 schools in the region. Given the broad range of students they reach, this is not only meaningful to Mason, but also has significant impact across all of Northern Virginia in addressing the needs of our growing and quickly changing population.”
“He forces his students, in the kindest way, to dig deep for ideas, themes, and values from which to draw their lesson plans from,” Garnier said. “He drew me away from cookie-cutter teaching formats.”
Garnier said Sutters is a very knowledgeable professor who guides students into making their own discoveries. “With him it seems there is no ‘one right answer’ to an assignment—he just wants to see evidence of your learning,” she added.
“He encourages us to consider deeply what each of us can bring to the field of teaching art,” Jullie said. “His confidence in our abilities pushes us to be the best that we can be, and that is truly the greatest gift that a teacher can give their students.