As a kid, Danielle Livoti’s mom and grandma were always giving her crayons and sketchbooks.
Now, when she’s not digitally illustrating strong women in pop culture, Danielle teaches various art classes at New Hyde Park Memorial High School in New York. In her classroom, she takes a choice-based approach so her students, girls especially, can comfortably express themselves through art.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, Danielle shares how art can be a vehicle for empowerment and the importance of role models for girls.
Q: Why is art a powerful tool for girls?
When girls create something from their own decision-making in art class, and it’s successful, they start to get a sense of pride. Next thing you know, they keep wanting it. Art builds confidence. And it gives them a different way of speaking about something that might be complicated.
Q: How have you encouraged girls to positively explore identity and expression through art?
We just finished a project in my 9th grade Studio Arts class where my students created masks. One girl did a camouflage mask. She went out into the courtyard, tore up grass and leaves, and hot glued them on. She wrote about it and said, “I like to go upstate with my family, and I like to go hunting. Some people think girls shouldn’t, but I like to do it.”
By providing a tool for self-expression, where they can be anything they want to be in art, it’s another way of giving them a voice.
Q: How are you helping your talented girl artists think about potential future careers?
I’m the advisor to our Art Honor Society. Every year we do an induction ceremony for our new inductees. I invite art educators, artists, and arts writers to come and speak. Out of the past nine ceremonies, I’ve invited eight women to speak. I gravitate toward women. It’s important for girls to see a professional, creative woman making a living so they know they could accomplish that if they wanted to.
Q: Why is empowering girls in the classroom important to you?
Recently, I’ve started to realize I have a little bit of a platform as a teacher to make sure we’re breaking stereotypes of women. In particular, this idea that women are small and weak and not meant for bigger jobs or leadership roles. That stigma is still there.
The girls in my class, when they go out into the world, I want them to be able to uplift each other, help each other, speak up for each other. I try to model that now more than ever. I’m more aware of it. And I want them to be, too.