On Dec. 5, the Cranston High School West community, as well as artists and supporters of art education from around the state, helped to celebrate one of their own, as Valerie Bruzzi-Krsulic was named Secondary Art Educator of the Year by the Rhode Island Art Education Association (RIAEA).
The event was held at the Sprout Co-Working Providence space and was a standing-room-only opportunity for the celebration of art education and art educators. In addition to Bruzzi’s award, several others were celebrated as well, including RIAEA 2019 Art Educator of the Year, Amy Weigand from Paul Cuffee Middle School, Elementary Art Educator of the Year Kerri Marshall from Garvin Elementary School in Cumberland, and New Art Educator of the Year Alexandria McKay of Coventry Public Schools. Also honored was Mudstone Studios as Distinguished Friend of RIAEA.
Bruzzi was introduced by her long-time colleague and friend, art educator Heidi Copeman, who had contributed the supporting recommendation for the nomination.
“I had taught with Val Bruzzi either in the same classroom or next door,” said Copeman. “This year we aren’t together but we talk on the phone two hours a day while we commute, always sharing ideas. She’s always open to anyone 24-7 with help for their art, with feedback, she’s a great friend and a wonderful teacher.”
Bruzzi received a standing ovation as she received her award. The evening’s recognition was bittersweet for Bruzzi, as she had recently lost her son, Darko Junior in the weeks prior. Bruzzi wore a shirt she had made herself at the ceremony, which had photographs of as many of her students as she could fit on it from her beginning days of teaching to the present day. Many of her supporters and students also wore t-shirts in the audience at her request, showcasing the importance of art education in the schools.
“Thank you all for coming. This is kind of a double-edged sword for me tonight,” she said. “First of all, I need to thank Thomas Barbieri who nominated me, Jilly Cyr who is the coordinator and the art teachers at Cranston West. I just want to thank so much extended family here tonight, thank you all of you for coming here tonight.”
She also thanked her husband, for putting up with her all these years as she nears three decades of teaching art.
He, too, received a standing ovation.
“Believe me, it’s not easy when you have people standing on your dining room table being casted, or every holiday you’re running around doing portfolios for all of your students to get them into that college, or you’re rushing their portfolios to different schools across the country,” she said. “I’m very proud of them because they’re really good kids, and they’ve done so much.”
Bruzzi read from a message her son Darko Jr., an artist himself, had written to her.
“My son wrote this for me and it kind of epitomizes what art education is all about,” she said. “I appreciated my opportunity to have a mother who unconditionally in her ability to think beyond the box that your artistic nature, showed me great bounty. Always you included me in experiences people may never have, given me the freedom of your knowledge and soul that created my unique mind and perspective. Your story is filled with personality, believing in the potential of who you’ve given to. We are granted continual achievements and outstanding success in art.”
She concluded with her own words.
“That’s all about what art education is,” she said. “It’s teaching someone to have the passion to pursue the arts, to have the passion to just do it, to do art. We as art educators have that great opportunity to share our craft with so many other people. Even if they don’t go to school for art, it’s okay because you can just enjoy being an artist every day. You can just sketch or design fabrics, or you might have to do something with your own kids that’s artistic.”
Samplings of Bruzzi’s art can be found on her website valbruzzi.com.