Art teacher Amy Cuneo enjoying her first year at WHS


Credit: Nathan Zhao

Pictured above is visual arts teacher Amy Cuneo in her studio. Cuneo teaches Art 1, Metalwork and Advanced Metalwork. This year is her first teaching high school art. “I love the high school age, I love having relationships with my students and I just love the classes that I’m teaching,” Cuneo said.

Nathan Zhao

It’s last block on a Friday, and music lazily drifts out of the speakers of the art room. Paint brushes glide effortlessly across the canvas, forming images mirroring those in the students’ minds. Amy Cuneo, WHS’ new visual arts teacher, judges each forming piece of art with a satisfied smile, occasionally offering constructive advice.

Since she began teaching at WHS in September, Cuneo can usually be found in one of the school’s art rooms. This is her first job as a high school art teacher, but she has been creating art for her entire life. She paints in her free time.

Before working at WHS, Cuneo taught elementary school art in Framingham. She learned about the nearby Wayland job from an online posting that caught her eye.

“The minute I applied, I just heard amazing things about Wayland from everybody I talked to, about how great and supportive of a town it was. One of the things that stood out to me is Wayland’s support for the arts,” Cuneo said. “[Susan] Memoli, [fine arts] department head, explained to me how we have a Creative Arts Parents Association (CAPA), which is basically an entire organization that supports the arts. It’s incredible.”

Cuneo noted that Wayland definitely lived up to her high expectations.

“I never feel like I don’t have what I need; I always feel I have support for what I’m doing,” Cuneo said. “My year has been exceeding my expectations of how my first year was going to be. I came from an elementary art background, so taking the jump to high school has been really different but really exciting.”

Cuneo teaches Art 1, Metalwork and Advanced Metalwork. Of these, she enjoys teaching Metalwork most; however, a metalwork class can get a little too full for the available resources.

“[Metalwork] is a complete introduction to working with metal. We have settling gas torches we use for heat connections and cold connections,” Cuneo said. “It’s definitely a class for 12 or fewer students, and last semester I had 13. It was a little busy, since we only have two torches. It gets a little cramped sometimes, but, overall, [metalwork] is great.”

Cuneo also enjoys the opportunity to display her students’ artwork in the school and around the Wayland area. In her opinion, her biggest accomplishment so far was when one of her students, freshman Kate Maietta, received a Scholastic Art Honorable Mention in February. According to Cuneo, Maietta receiving an award was a big deal, especially since most of her classes are beginner courses.

“[As an art teacher], I get to do what I love all day long. I’ve done art since I was a little girl, so getting to teach art to other people is really fun for me,” Cuneo said. “But it’s also fulfilling, and watching kids grow and make progress makes me feel good. I get rewarded from it, personally, and kids get rewarded from it too. It’s nice to see [students] make things that they are proud of.”

Cuneo enjoys helping individual students, something she can’t often do when teaching a larger class. She tries to get around to every student in every class.

“Teaching art to me is a lot like coaching in a way because it’s a lot of project-based learning and independent learning and work habits. I like coaching kids along with what they’re working on,” Cuneo said.

In the future, Cuneo would like to teach at the college level or do art outreach.

“I love what I am doing, and I’m really happy where I’m at, but I definitely see more happening. I sponsor the National Art Honor Society (NAHS) here, which is a lot about service in art,” Cuneo said. “I think it would be really special to push that a little bit more and maybe find out a way that I could pursue that, maybe art in the community.”

In Cuneo’s opinion, fine arts teachers should help represent art in the community and strive to share their wealth of art with others. She thinks they should show just how special the fine arts are and how different they are from academic subjects.

“You get to express yourself creatively, which you just don’t get to do in some of the other times in your life,” Cuneo said. “You get so bogged down by tests and quizzes, and sometimes it’s just great to escape for a little bit.”

Cuneo tries to make her room a place where students can unwind.

“I always have music playing, and I try to make it a calm environment for [the students], so when they come in here, they can just kick back and work on their artwork and relax,” Cuneo said.

Cuneo has two lessons she hopes every student will learn in her classes: You can take risks, and anybody can make art.

“Take risks. I’m always encouraging my students to think creatively and conceptually and not to stay safe, but take a risk, and see what happens,” Cuneo said. “Any student can be an artist. I have a lot of students, especially in my Art 1 and Metalwork classes, who are beginners. They have come to the realization that once they put in the time and effort, they can actually make something great. I think it’s about time, it’s about effort and just the commitment you put into something.”