I wish I could have seen the look on your face when this happened!
One thing I've learned in my years of inappropriate office work where I
don't fit, is to express interest in the art activities of others, even if
it is a candy cane from a kit for their front door. As an art teacher not
yet with a job, I stepped into the very awkward combination of having an MFA
and the lowest clerical job on the totem pole supervised by women who didn't
go to college and have worked here for 20 years (besides the professional
staff of course). It's amazing how quickly someone who is threatened by
me -to the point of trying to get me fired- becomes an ally if I'm
enthusiastic about their new hobby painting kit. And I AM, it isn't made up.
I love it when people take the slightest interest in learning to make stuff.
Have you asked to see what this woman was painting? Have you invited her to
show some of her work with your students? She may be dying for you to be
interested in her artsy craft painted pumpkin or whatever. That may REALLY
be why she asked in the first place, so you'd say "Oh, I'd LOVE to see what
you're making! Would you bring it to class and show the kids? I'm sure
they'd LOVE to see it!" People are funny, and everybody wants to be thought
creative. I've never met anyone who wanted to be thought otherwise. Even if
you can't stand the thought of being in the same room with her, it might be
worth it in the long run.
If she's trying to paint on her own time, then there is some grain of
interest, however fearful. You know that some people display arrogance and
disinterest to cover that they don't know what they're doing, and clearly
you're dealing with someone who is clueless.
I guess I'm suggesting that instead of the natural response of putting up
defenses and retreating, to consider making this woman an art-missionary
project. Not from the perspective of making her appreciate You or Your
Curriculum, but to help Her learn about her own art. Shouldn't be your job,
but nobody else ever did it. They payoff may be more appreciation for You
and Your Curriculum, but that really isn't the point. This is someone living
a life without art, and that's tragic.