Morna McDermott McNulty is an artist, writer and educator. She is a professor in the College of Education at Towson University, as well as an author (Blood’s Will — a vampire novel, 2018), and film producer (Voices of Baltimore: Life Under Segregation, 2017). She is also a certified Paint Your Life instructor, hosting workshops in schools and art galleries around the country. Morna has been working in, and with, arts-integration for public education and social justice for over 20 years. Some of her photographs have been published in various academic journals including The Journal of Curriculum Theorizing and The Currere Exchange. She lives in Catonsville with her family.

For 8 years Educationalchemy has been a site dedicated to transformation in education. As an educator devoted to the preservation of PUBLIC education as a fundamental right for ALL children, I focus on writing essays, mad rants, and research based articles that address the concerns, fears, hopes and imaginings I share with others. Alchemy is key. Common lore describes alchemy as the work of madmen attempting to change base metals into gold. But true alchemists know that the art of alchemy is about transformation of self and world in tandem with one another.

About Alchemy: Known traditionally as a pseudo-science of turning lead into gold, alchemy is also according to many scholars (Jung, 1968; Highwater, 1996; Briggs, 1985) the belief in and practice of “self” as a creative aesthetic process with the aim of transforming “self” into a relational being that connects the alchemist with the world; using the sensory world of “prima materia” (the elements of earth, fire and water) as a metaphor for empathetic and socially responsible action. As an educational practice that “works from within,” alchemy uses metaphor to access and express the ineffable knowledges emerging from the complex and shifting relationships between self a other, and between our inner self and acts of social change within the world. Based on the premise that “what is within is also without,” alchemy as inquiry taps into changes within “self” to spark change within our socially constructed systems of meaning-making. As such, those of us dedicated to transforming public education, not “reforming” it,  know that “the work” is the highest goal. Profit cannot be the motivation to drive meaningful, equitable,  and sustainable educational practices. Nor can glory, fame, or self-gratification.

The self becomes an agent of change only by changing the self. Using alchemical processes in arts inquiry we forge visions rather than findings, inviting others to tap into their own creative reserves and draw out other ways of seeing the world. How might we access sensory and artistic conceptions in inquiry so that they might in turn help transform our work and worlds?


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