By Teacherlem Iglesias

I’M currently teaching Art in Bangkok, Thailand and I’m proud to say that my students’ artworks are currently displayed in other parts of the world. We call these artworks Artist Trading Cards (ATCs), and the ones created by my students this year are surprisingly very much appreciated in the US, UK, Italy, Germany, Belgium and Australia.

Artist Trading Cards are small artworks the size of regular playing cards / baseball cards, approximately 2 ½ X 3 ½ inches in size. Students can draw, paint, collage and experiment with any type of art material, technique and style to create a meaningful art piece. Students can make as many ATCs as they want as part of an Art class project or just for fun.

SISB ATC_Mindmap

SISB ATC_Collage

Students can draw or paint on a blank Artist Trading Card (first photo) or do an easy collage (top) .


My students have been making ATCs in the past as part of our student-directed art project. They are always enthusiastic to make ATCs since it gives them some freedom on what to do and how to do it. It’s a great lesson reinforcement and free-time activity, especially for those who finish early with other assigned projects. But this narrow concept of what ATCs can accomplish as an art activity was turned upside down when I came upon Nic Hahn’s awesome collaborative project– Mini Matisse’s Annual Artist Trading Card Swap!

Since making an ATC is a popular form of art activity, whose origins can be traced back to a conceptual project by Swiss artist M. Vänçi Stirnemann in 1997, the number of art teachers who have been inspired to use the idea in their lessons are as many as the professional artists who make and sell them online as ACEO (Art Card Editions and Originals). However, as far as I know, no effort has been made to organise and turn the ATCs into actual cards for trading. Until Nic stepped in to help build that connection between Art teachers who were making ATCs with their students in class.

I discovered Nic (@MiniMatisse on Twitter) when she made an open call for any art teachers interested in trading their student-made ATCs. She gave easy-to-follow instructions and step-by-step guides on how to create ATCs, as well as how to participate in the swap, on her blog >>  http://minimatisse.blogspot.com/2015/07/the-1st-annual-minimatisse-artist.html

SISB ATC_Nic Hahn Call

Nic Hahn’s call to action on Twitter, activating the ATC Swap last 2016 ( from https://twitter.com/MiniMatisse ) .



Thanks to YouTube, here’s the wonderful Nic Hahn from Minnesota, USA explaining the ATC to my students in Bangkok, Thailand. (Link)


Our Primary 3 (age 8-9) to Primary 6 (age 11-12) students spent a month making several ATCs, with the agreement that we will send one of their best cards, then trade all their other ATCs with their classmates. Each student ended up making six to twelve ATCs each. That’s how enthusiastic they were. The promise of sending their ATCs to the US and other countries added to the excitement. When everything was ready, we sent a package with 550 ATCs to Nic’s school in Rogers, Minnesota. From there, Nic and her team coordinated the ATC exchanges between all the schools from the US and other parts of the world that participated. Talk about dedication!

SISB ATC_Package

Here’s what we sent to Nic: 550 ATCs, with the official ATC Swap form, neatly wrapped with colourful rubber bands.


My school received the same number of ATCs (550 cards) after two months of waiting — remember, we’re from the other side of the world. My students kept asking, ‘When will the ATCs from the other schools arrive?’ I always answered that they should be patient. Once the box of ATCs arrived from the US, my students were so excited to see what type of cards we got. They were not disappointed — the ATCs from the US, UK, Italy, Belgium and Australia were all very creative and exceptional. One of my students told me while smiling, ‘Our patience paid off.’ Soon after giving out the cards to my students, I made sure to include some of the extra ATCs in our annual Students’ Art Show. During the Art exhibition, everyone was so interested in the story of how the ATC Swap happened. My students and I were happy to share our wonderful story about it.


Art Connecting the World: 550 Artist Trading Cards from the US, UK, Australia, Italy and Belgium traveled all the way to Thailand.


My students’ Artist Trading Cards ended up in several schools in the US, UK, Italy, Germany, Belgium and Australia. Teachers from those schools were so awesome that some of them even displayed our ATCs in their school hallways and art rooms, and also posted photos of their students posing with our ATCs. I was able to track what went on since participants in the ATC Swap were encouraged by Nic to post updates on Twitter. This enabled us to show our gratitude for the unbelievable effort by everyone to make sure that the ATC Swap succeeded.


Here’s one way on how to display the ATCs properly (from @JaneLongArt ).


For me, the most important part of the ATC Swap was the fellowship created among art teachers, and the meaningful connections built between different schools from around the world. I am so looking forward to joining the next ATC Swap, and waiting excitedly for Nic Hahn’s open call this year.

And yeah, we have to thank the awesome Nic Hahn for making it happen 🙂

Teacher Lem_signature

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