John’s Biography

Photograph of John Schaefer.John Schaefer

Artist / Educator / Consultant
1215 5th Avenue
Salt Lake City, UT 84103
Phone/Fax: (801) 455-1456

Click here for a downloadable pdf version of John’s biography.


John Schaefer Biography

Community Builder, Artist, Media Educator

John Schaefer is the Director and a Founder of The Children’s Media Workshop (F. 1976), a non- profit organization that utilizes media experiences to teach visual literacy and improve self-esteem. He has taught hundreds of workshops at home and overseas, from The Museum of Modern Art in New York to The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

His photographic art has been exhibited throughout the U.S.; photographs documenting political campaigning are being curated into The Master Photographers Collection of The Library Of Congress. In 1984 he received a grant from Polaroid and Nikon Corporations to make a photographic interpretation of the U.S. Presidential Conventions.

He has been photographer for Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Institute since 1983. In 1988 he received a Gold Creativity Award from Art Direction Magazine for his photographic work on the film Promised Land. Chosen 1993 Mayor’s Award recipient – Salt Lake City Artist Of The Year.

John developed The Polaroid Education Program Teacher Workshops. A cutting-edge effort involving education, technology, and corporate America. In just 4 years over 510,000 school teachers received hands-on training in visual learning techniques through this program.

He has been or currently is on the Board of Directors of Very Special Arts Utah, the Advisory Board of The Utah Arts Council Artists-In-Education program, and The Governor’s Arts Awards Board. He served on the Advisory Board of Festival 2000, a national resource for multicultural  education. John edited the video component of AIDS in Utah, In This Place.

As a writer he has produced The Polaroid Education Program Curriculum Guide (500,000 currently in print). He has authored the Visual Literacy component for Scott-Foresman’s elementary school reading and writing program (600,000 anticipated). He is writing the screenplay Disconnected, concerning the alienating nature of technology in our society, a comedy. He also authored the educational material for The End Hunger Network’s national TV campaign. Harper-Collins published his book, Sight Unseen: A Practical Guide To Visual and Media Literacy For Parents and Teachers, in bookstores 12/94.

John directed the National Visual Learning Conference for teachers, 8/91; concerned with children, media, learning, self-esteem, critical viewing skills, and classroom and school change. He appeared with President Bush and actress/director Jody Foster on the national video tele-conference sponsored by Invent America, 10/91. Speaker at the National PTA Conference (twice). He has worked with schools in France, The U.K., Spain, Italy, Canada, Morocco, and West Africa. Recent workshops have focused on the mixing of Words and Images and The Computer in the Classroom. Panelist, NEA National Conference – Art In The 21st Century.

University of Notre Dame, B.A. cum laude, Economics / Education.

Married with two daughters and one wife.

2009 Update:

Commissioned by and worked with Robert Redford to create the art for Redford’s first non-Sundance restaurant, Zoom, in Park City, Utah. 12/95-97.

Consulting / workshop instruction on Effective Communication Strategies Using New Technologies. Clients include: Showtime, Sundance, St. Luke’s – Roosevelt Hospitals, The National Institute of Health, The Council for Exceptional Children, and Impact II, The National Teachers’ Network, Bayer Corp. 1994- present.

A special half-hour television documentary featuring John Schaefer and his work with the Children’s Media Workshop has been produced and is being distributed nationally by The Children’s Miracle Network.

Curator and designer of School Work?, this exhibition premiered in April 1996 at The Art Access Gallery in Salt Lake, and will travel to schools statewide as part of the National Endowment for the Arts  and Utah Arts Council programming. Students, teachers, administrators, and parents responding visually with new technologies to the question of how schools must change to meet current challenges.

Mr. Schaefer is working on his second book, working title, Pass The Ball. Sports, primarily basketball, as a vehicle for teaching and learning lifelong skills involving communication and team building, ingredients for the survival of the species.

Guest panelist with Jane Alexander, NEA national forum: “How Do the Arts Ensure Student Success and Good Schools?” July 1996.

Removing the Distance from Distance Learning: consulting services aimed at fostering sound aesthetics to maximize human communications utilizing Video Teleconferencing, merging Art (Sundance) and Technology. I Want My MdTV: Columbia University. June 1996 – present.

Video Critique: using real-time video technology to build positive behavior patterns. With at-risk children, substance abusers, and corporate executives. May 1996 – present.

Nissan Corporation Hometown Hero Award. Chosen as one of eight national heroes, featured on National.

TV special sponsored by Nissan from Disneyworld, May 1997.

12/97 – Appointed to the Olympic Advisory Committee to provide a voice for education and the arts at the 2002 Winter Games.

Commissioned artist on the Phillips Gallery Team which designed art for the Utah Transit Authority’s 1300.

South TRAX light rail system station 1999-2000.

Director/creator of The Salt Lake Ethics Project, a community response/revitalization to the Olympic scandal and uncontrolled growth. May 22 – July 4th, 1999.

Utah Arts Festival, Director of Fine Art Exhibition, DIGITAL.COMMUNITY  2000.

Creator / Director – A Sense Of Place – City of Escalante, Utah with the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument – a partnership grant from the National Endowment For The Arts, National Endowment For The Humanities, and the Department of the Interior 2000-2001 (see Web Site).

Utah Refugee Documentary – A Sense of Place – grant from International Refugee Committee, NYC  2001- present.

Community Building – a major art commission for the new SLC public library, with architect Moshe Safdie, using the computer terminals of this 21st Century building, dealing with concepts of technology, globalization, and humanism.

The Scientific Mindset – an interactive multimedia environmental education project and curriculum for the BLM.

New Technologies Communication Projects: Bayer, Showtime, Sundance Channel, Safdie Architectural Tour.

Clearfield , Utah – Creating A Sense Of Place – Urban design project with EDT.

Radio West – 1 hour NPR interview on the Media, Art, and Popular Culture – Competing with MTV and Nintendo.

Workability Project – creating graphic art of people with disabilities in the Utah workplace for the State of Utah.

Created and designed The ABC’s of Hepatitis and HIV – a highly acclaimed graphi art based educational website with renown pathologist Dr. Joseph Schappert of NYC Beth Israel Hospitals for Bayer Corporation

Sundance Film Festival 2006 – Featured artist, 25 Years of Sundance Institute

Choice Humanitarian, Director of Education, Consultant – developing educational initiatives with national and international partners using 3rd World – 1st World anti-poverty development projects, 10/2005 .

Temporary Museum of Permanent Change, Salt Lake City – co-director of an innovative approach to downtown vitalization and community empowerment. Bridging the gaps of territoriality that exist between organizations and citizens. 10/2006.

UsTube – an internet and community based Media Literacy project that uses clip culture and critical thinking to develop communication skills and esthetics to elevate the mostly static and derivative media-sharing experience into an active community empowerment vehicle. Premiering at the 2007 Utah Arts Festival.

TravelWise Schools – with UDOT and NEA support developing an in depth curriculum that enables each student to understand the environmental impact of how s/he travels to and from school. The activities culminate with an assessment of alternative modes of travel by each student, empowering them to make safe and healthy transportation choices. This curriculum has been designed to meet Utah State Core Standards so that teachers can address their educational responsibilities in Language Arts, Social Studies, and Art while students are learning what they can do to build sustainable community. 2009.

Global Classroom – director of an innovative teacher collaboration aimed to transform schools into places of learning while helping teachers develop the technology skills to use media effectively in the learning process. This project is based in community action, dissolving the school walls. The proof of concept phase has just been completed with selected schools in the USA and Mexico. 2008-10.

Bluff Project 2010-12 – Received funding from the Obama administration’s School Improvement Grants (SIG) program. The grant is specifically a “transformation model” project, the target being Bluff Elementary School in Southern Utah (80% native American). The goal is to build a collaborative learning community using an expansive definition of literacy (media to the three Rs) across the curriculum that can be a model for 21st Century Education.