Many people would bask in an ego trip upon earning a national award, but Liza Amor said she was being singled out for something she loves to do. On March 29, the National Art Education Association honored her with the 2014 Nevada Art Educator of the Year Award.
The award was determined through peer review for her contributions to art education. Amor teaches art at Kim Elementary School, 7600 Peace Way, and Lundy Elementary School on Mount Charleston.
“Liza Amor exemplifies the highly qualified art educators active in education today: leaders, teachers, students, scholars and advocates who give their best to their students and the profession,” said Dennis Inhulsen, the association’s president.
In addition to her teaching duties, Amor serves on the executive board of Art Educators of Nevada and edits the group’s newsletter.
Her foray into art began at an early age.
“When I was 4, I immediately started drawing. It was my favorite pastime after school,” she said. “I would spend hours drawing.”
Unlike most children, who simply draw from their imagination, Amor used references from books. She said it gave her a solid base for realistic drawings. Amor’s art mentor came into her life when she was 14, in the form of Kate Simonds, the art teacher at her Buffalo, N.Y., high school.
“When it came time for me to apply to art school, she came in at 5 o’clock in the morning, walking through the snow, and taking pictures of my artwork to send out to art colleges,” Amor said. “She was just the best … I don’t think I could have gotten into art school without her.”
In college, Amor experimented with different art styles. She worked at art camps for children, and her goal became focused on working as an educator. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from State University of New York at Buffalo and a post-baccalaureate license in art education from State University of New York at Buffalo. She is a class of 1998 Buffalo Seminary alumna.
Amor moved to Las Vegas in 2005 and said she found like-minded people.
“It’s definitely a different art community out here,” Amor said. “In Buffalo, we have a very well-known art museum, the Albright-Knox (Art) Gallery. Out here, I was lucky to be part of the up-and-coming art scene down in the Arts District. I think it’s an exciting, fun time to be an artist in Las Vegas. As we are building our local culture, the arts are really coming into focus with First Friday, some of the local art festivals, like in Summerlin, and The Smith Center, of course.”
In her classrooms, she follows the guidelines of the Clark County School District and its discipline-based art education. Every lesson has art history, criticism, aesthetics and art production, so students are learning more than just how to paint or how to color.
“They’re referencing another famous artist,” she said. “They’re learning about the artist’s life; they’re talking about art and thinking about their art.”
Amor loves to travel — she’s been to Israel, France, Spain, England, Ireland, Costa Rica, Italy, Jamaica and Jordan — and visit art museums and galleries at each destination. There, she not only gleans ideas for her own work but buys items from gift shops for her students to use as future references.
In Jerusalem, she viewed the Marc Chagall stained glass windows, purchased postcards of each window and incorporated them into a lesson.
In 2010, she completed her Master of Education in curriculum and instruction at UNLV. She credited her husband of five years, Nir, a businessman, with seeing her art get more recognition.
“He’s the person who encouraged me to get my artwork into a gallery, and from that moment, everything kind of changed in my world,” Amor said of having her art hung in the City of the World gallery, 1229 S. Casino Center Blvd.
City of the World founder and president Roz Knight called Amor’s work “bright and luminous” and said it combines “a modern and abstract art together. It’s awesome.”
Amor has exhibited at the Summerlin Art Festival and the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and had her work appear in a book, “Artists for Autism,” published by the Charlie Palmer Group.
She participates in community projects such as the mural that was painted over graffiti at Main Street and Colorado Avenue in downtown Las Vegas depicting Picasso’s “The Weeping Woman.”
“Right now, I’m living my dream,” Amor said. “My art has been on display downtown. Some of my students’ art has been on display at First Friday and arts festivals, and when people ask me about my job, I tell them I have the best job in the world. I get to create art all day.”