Hannah Hammond-Hagman spreads the power of art through education. As the Education Director for the Lubeznik Center for the Arts in Michigan City, Hannah uses her wealth of experience to share art with the hearts and minds of the La Porte County community.
“Art is for everyone,” Hannah said. “Over my time working in art education, I have witnessed the transformative power that it has in lives.”
Hannah was raised through creativity as both her parents were artists and encouraged her to explore art at a young age. She was born in Chicago, but moved to Michigan City and then to Valparaiso. In high school, Hannah was gifted a camera by her grandfather.
“The camera was the first medium I took seriously,” Hannah said. “Also, it was my first teaching job! I taught photo to a small group of kids at the Boys and Girls Club in Valpo when I was in high school.”
With the loving support of her parents, Hannah chased after her love of photography and earned a BFA in Photography from Indiana University. She went on to earn her MFA from The School of the Art Institute Of Chicago in Photography and Studio Art. When it was time to choose a career, Hannah was not certain if the field of education was for her. Even though she was weary, an opportunity presented itself and she gave teaching a chance.
“I taught high school for Visual and Performing Arts and that was transformative for me,” Hannah said. “After my first day, a colleague, Janet Adduci, said ‘You’re made for this.’ It’s like I didn’t choose arts education, it chose me. Sometimes I still hear Janet’s voice when I’m in doubt.”
Hannah led an exciting career, lived on both coasts, and taught thousands of students. After years of valuable experience, she and her husband, Ezra Burke, decided it was time to return to the region and grow roots with their son, Avi. They now live in Valparaiso. Hannah taught for the Lubeznik Center when she returned, and was offered the position of Director of Education; a role that she has loved for the past two years.
“I believe that while arts education teaches techniques, there is something else that happens. It grows critical thinking, problem solving, and other skills that help, no matter what you choose to do.”
There are many rewarding aspects of Hannah’s job. An example is when she witnesses the impact art has on young people. Even though being the Director of Education includes duties outside of the classroom, she is committed to visiting classrooms and welcoming some of the 2,000 students that visit the Lubeznik Center.
“My favorite thing is to have all the minds in the building,” Hannah said. “Hearing the gallery abuzz with insight, when kids enter into that space, it’s like all of those pieces are coming together. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Hannah explained that for some kids, visiting the Lubeznik Center is their first experience in a gallery setting. It is her goal to make it a welcoming, interactive place where their voices are respected and honored.
Hannah is busy with after school programs, special projects, and even developed a teen arts council. She enjoys being able to talk to young adults about their art, help them price and title their work, and build opportunities for them.
“Sometimes the voices of teens are lost,” Hannah said. “We currently have kids that represent 6 regional high school and these kids need each other.”
The Lubeznik Center receives a lot of support from their partners and from the Michigan City community as a whole, according to Hannah. She feels fortunate to be a part of a community that knows the value of art.
“When you work in arts, we have to constantly validate and advocate for them,” Hannah noted. “We know what the arts bring to a community; it speaks to our humanity and hope. Thankfully, Michigan City values us and the work we do and the schools advocate for the arts.”
Although Hannah is happily occupied with her career and family, she still makes time to flex her own artistic muscle. She not only does photography but also works with a variety of media. Her recent projects have been temporary sculptural public art that she developed alongside members of the community. She encourages anyone to get out there and participate in art, no matter their age or skill level.
“Arts are vehicle of self expression,” Hannah said. “Trust yourself and your vision.”