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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Opening The Door to Fine Arts

Apr 03, 2015 11:04AM ● By Bridget James

Tamara Burnside and Masai Warrior in Masai Mara, Africa.

We all remember that one teacher who opened our minds to a solution to a problem we hadn’t imagined we could solve, or recognized a talent we didn’t realize we possessed. I know if it wasn’t for my eighth grade English teacher, I might not have discovered my passion for writing. This was also the case with Granite School District’s fine arts specialist, Tamara Burnside.

It was Burnside’s fifth grade year when her teacher, Miss Korn, displayed Burnside’s drawing on a bulletin board. Giving praise to her students for their hard work was not typical to Miss Korn’s teaching philosophy. But, by the simple act of recognizing Burnside’s work, her door into the world of fine arts had been opened. “Art is a personal reflection of one’s thoughts and feelings. When an artist receives recognition for their impressions on life, it is a validation of their worth. If I can, at 57, look back and remember having my art acknowledged when I was 10, I would say it encouraged me to continue to draw and create art,” Burnside said.
Artwork by Tamara Burnside: Capri.

 She continued to further her studies, double majoring in fine art and elementary education at Westminster College. She studied art education throughout Europe, working as a teaching assistant in museums and in schools.

She taught elementary education for 12 years then furthered her studies at BYU, receiving a Masters of Art Education. Following this, she accepted a teaching position at Olympus Junior High in Holladay.

In November of 1994, Burnside began her teaching career at OJH. Following the extensive education in the fine arts and education, Burnside was able to apply her passion for the arts and her discipline in the studies and began working with OJH students. Throughout the eight years she taught at OJH, she traveled with art students to New York and Europe. For the OJH art students who were fortunate enough to go on these study abroad trips, they were experiences of a lifetime. 
Artwork by Tamara Burnside: Corpus Christi Day in Granada, Spain

 In 2003, Burnside was hired on as the K-12 fine arts specialist in the Granite School District. For the next couple of years, she continued to teach ,while taking on her new role with the district. By 2006, she was hired on full-time with the district. It’s in this position where she developed curriculum “maps” for teachers to use as pacing guides for the state core curriculum. She also helped bring art programs into schools, such as the Beverly Taylor Sorensen Arts Learning Program and Tanner Dance, in which some Cottonwood- Holladay schools participate.  In addition, she helped bring a Granite School District dance concert to Cottonwood High School, which was held in February. (You can find more information about this on the Granite School District web site.) “I believe all of these programs help to inspire students, and open their hearts and minds to the fine arts,” Burnside said.

Despite her busy career working with teachers and opening the minds of many aspiring young artists, she still continues to create her own art. After all, she understands all too well the importance of creating art and having that art be recognized by others. Theodore F. Wolff, art critic and author of “The Many Masks of Modern Art”, sums up Burnside’s vision: “What any artist wants most passionately is one other person on the face of this globe who will be able to share what is most precious and real to him through his art. This can be an ideal, a belief, a faith, a sense of fun, a tragic vision of life, a particular delight – or it can be his or her sense of the reality and texture of life.”