Category Archives: Educator Interviews

JOHN NELSON: ART EDUCATOR

The sun smiling down upon Sioux Falls, unmuffled by clouds, I leisurely walk into the East Bank Art Gallery. Instantly enchanted by the creative expressions of local artists hung from wall to wall, I am warmly greeted by John Nelson; a man modest in stature but enormous in personality and compassion. I am surprised to find that he is a free-spirited, easy going guy, with a contagious smile that never seems to leave his face. He pulls out two chairs, hand-painted with bright colors and complemented with delightful flowers. Treating me as an old friend, we chat for a while before I get around to interviewing him.  – Patrick

[Photos by Rachel Polan, Sketch Crawl 2017.]

Continue reading JOHN NELSON: ART EDUCATOR

AN EDUCATOR INTERVIEW: MERCEDES MALTESE

As a fellow employee of the Washington Pavilion, I have had the chance to meet Mercedes before interviewing her for JAM’s Educator Interview. We meet regularly at the Pavilion to go over future lesson plans, and she is there to help other teachers understand the more artistic processes with children. Mercedes leaves quite the great impression! She’s wonderful at creating a fantastic learning experience, even with adults. She especially cares enough to make sure every child understands, and is having fun with the projects. It was amazing to have that student to teacher base impression of her before sitting down and chatting.

-Hannah

Clay Castles camp. In the first one Mercedes about to load a student’s castle into the kiln.

Where/what do you teach and what ages? 

I teach at the Washington Pavilion, ages pre-k through seniors. I teach drawing, painting sculpture and ceramics. I teach outreach to youth at risk at Juvenile detention center, Multicultural Center, Bowden Youth Center, and other afterschool programs funded by grants in the Action Arts and Science Program (AASP).
I teach private lessons, home school lessons, art smarts (primarily school field trips to the Pavilion) OLLI classes, and pottery classes like ‘Wine on the Wheel’.

Clay castle

What inspired you to begin your teaching career? Was the goal always teaching?

I knew I wanted to be an art teacher in 3rd grade. I had great art teachers in middle and high school that encouraged me to stay in the arts. Lori Boldt, Maureen Kaul and Sara Winterscheidt to name a few.

Is there a specific rule of thumb, style, or method that you like to follow when you teach?

Practice every day! Work those art muscles! Step out of one’s comfort zone. If one always draws the same thing, they’ll get really great at drawing that thing. One should try to draw other things, too! For example, I try to push people away from the classic “corner sunshine” composition and ask them if there is another way to put the sun in their picture. In my opinion, art is 90% problem solving and 10% skill.

8-9 year old students working in the Rogers Clay studio at the Pavilion.

What are your favorite aspects about teaching?

Watching the self-discovery, and winning the students over. Sometimes they come into the room and see the project we will be working on, and the first thing out of their mouth is, “We’re making that? I can’t do that.” Then when class is over they are usually pretty impressed with themselves. 

Paper strip sculpture from a sculpture class with Mercedes.

Is there anything that you would want to change about teaching?

Not now. I taught in the public school system for a few years in Georgia, and grading art for 600 students was a challenge. I also felt I didn’t get to know my students very well. Now I teach in an informal setting at the Pavilion where there are no grades; only learning and exploration and discovery without pressure to make the grade. My students are in my classes because they choose to be, and that feels awesome!

Would you give us a glimpse into your hobbies and interests? What are some of your favorite pass times?

My 15 year old daughter and I like to sing and play a few instruments. I like to play in my garden and I love to feed people delicious food. I do Henna tattoos as a side business, When I get a chance to do art for myself, I like to make drums out of clay and cover them with goat skin. Then I do custom Henna designs on the skins of the drums.

Dr. Seuss style landscapes created by JDC students, through the AASP program for earth day.

Thinking about the future, what is a larger-than-life goal that you might have?

I would love to travel the world. I was able to visit Europe for the first time last year. Ireland was such a grand experience that it wet my appetite for more traveling.

Are you part of, or are you planning any big events with the public?

Well, we do a lot of outreach through the Pavilion at special events like the Pride Festival, Down Town Riverfest and Jazz Fest. It’s usually easy to find our table. Just look for all the kids having fun!

Mercedes teaching the wheel.

Can anyone sign up for classes with you?

Yes. Anyone. You’ll find most of the classes I teach at Washingtonpavilion.org. I’ve done private and semi-private lessons with students from 4 to 94.

Using three words how would you describe yourself and style of teaching?
Passionate, creative and FUN!

Mercedes teaching the wheel, time to paint.

 

Mercedes creating a henna design.

ANNOUNCEMENT: JAM Art and Supplies will be having Mercedes Maltese create henna body art both July and August First Fridays 7-8:30 pm. We’ll be open late till 9 pm.

Henna done by Mercedes.
Henna done by Mercedes.

AMBER HANSEN: ART EDUCATOR

I recently had the pleasure of sitting in on what is known, rather informally, in the art world as an “artist talk”. The artist in question was Amber Hansen, the current painting professor at the University of South Dakota. What I expected to be a simple recap of Hansen’s past works was, to my pleasant surprise, a journey through a number of small towns within the Midwest, an interesting discussion on sustainable farming techniques, a viewing of a diverse array of charcoal drawings, large scale murals, experimental films, and Hansen’s insight as to what it means to create artwork collaboratively. What I assumed would be a summary of Hansen’s formal education and a viewing of her portfolio, was actually a dive into Hansen’s world of creating artwork, not simply for herself, but with community involvement and a sense of unity in mind. Continue reading AMBER HANSEN: ART EDUCATOR

Erin Nguyen: Art Educator

A morning bell rings at Roosevelt High School, and outside a room in the deepest recess of the C Wing of visual and performing arts, Erin Nguyen waits smiling outside her ceramics classroom. As the high-schoolers file in, I note that it’s only the second week of a new semester, and Erin is able to greet each of her students by name.

Known as “Miss Winn,” to her students, Erin lives in Sioux Falls with her husband, Dan. She has ten years of teaching experience, and has spent the last two working her “dream job” at Roosevelt. Consummately expressive with her face and her words, Erin laughs easily and speaks at a leisurely pace, drawing out the vowels of certain words, turning her conversation into a kind of melody.

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Sherri Sherard: Art Educator

Art teachers are blessed in Sioux Falls, said Sherri Sherard, art educator at Edison Middle School. They are given leeway, and are able to be creative in how they teach and in what they teach.

That creative allowance shows in the array of tools and materials that line Sherard’s art supply room shelves. Students in her classroom are able to experience a wide range of artistic trades and crafts. Like many art educators know, not every student is going to be an artist. However, as Sherard notes, at least they gain the experience and process of creating certain things, like using a loom to weave. Sherard’s lessons are not just a practice in technique, they are woven with culture and history. 

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Megan Boschee: Art Educator

Eugene Field A+ Elementary School is a unique place. It is South Dakota’s first A+ school, and is the only one in Sioux Falls. With A+ standing for “Arts Plus Academics,” arts integration and collaboration are two of the four pillars of the A+ program. The classroom teachers and arts teachers collaborate to ensure that the curriculum is taught through the arts, and the arts taught through the curriculum. It is a creative environment for unique learning. With 80% open enrollment, an arts-oriented education is exactly why students enroll, and exactly what draws educators like Megan Boschee.

Originally from Watertown, Boschee received her arts education degree from Northern State University in Aberdeen. Her first two years of teaching consisted of traveling from school to school teaching art in Sioux Falls. When a more rooted position opened up at Eugene Field, Boschee knew if she did not at least apply, she would regret it. A firm believer that students learn in different ways that need to be accommodated, she was compelled by the idea of a school that focused on arts integration and incorporated Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. She was elated when she was offered the position, and has been at home there, in her own classroom, for the last 6 years.

Boschee is also no stranger to JAM. She and JAM’s Jess Johnson met when Johnson presented at a teacher in-service. After hearing how JAM could support classroom education, Boschee got in contact with Johnson about presenting at Eugene Field’s Multiple Intelligence Day (MI Day, for short). So far, JAM has presented on creative reuse for two of those events, and has become a student favorite. In fact, some of you may remember the interactive shoebox installation at Art Maze. That was a product of last December’s MI Day. Boschee’s students were thrilled to have the opportunity to be featured in a professional art show.

Another fantastic way Boschee exposes her students to the life of a professional artist is by allowing them to pick and publish their own art on an online portfolio. It is something she has trained nearly all of her students, K-5, to do on an iPad. Pretty phenomenal. Prior to receiving five additional iPads last month, by applying for grant funding through the Sioux Falls Education Foundation, Boschee’s classroom shared only one iPad (yet, still managed to publish around 1,000 pieces). Receiving five additional devices has immensely accelerated students’ ability to publish work in portfolios on Artsonia (1,000 pieces alone since January).

Artsonia is an online student art museum that allows parents/individuals to view and purchase children’s artwork. Funds generated through the site help purchase art supplies for Boschee’s classroom. Check out the rad work of future local Sioux Falls artists here.

Aside from watching musical theater, hanging out with friends and family, watching movies and listening to podcasts, Boschee also enjoys creating her own art. As an artist, she draws inspiration from graphic design, particularly magazine ads, window displays, and billboards. Her artistic focus is largely mosaics, which is apparent in nearly every surface of her house. While it is a creative release that she mainly does for herself, she hopes to market and sell her work in the future.       -TNZ

 Meet Megan Boschee.

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What led you to teach?
My mom is an art teacher, as well. When I was growing up, I was convinced that I was not an artist and that it was my mom’s thing, but not mine. I enjoyed art as a child, but it was never my focus. During my senior year of high school I took a few art classes that I figured would be “easy” electives and I completely fell in love with creating. I actually had a moment in my painting class where I was working on a project and I was so focused that the bell rang for dismissal and I hadn’t even noticed. I remember thinking that if I loved art that much it should definitely be what I do professionally.

What do you hope to teach to your students?
I hope to give my students an exposure to many art styles and techniques, so that they are able to be creative and are filled with a belief that great art can be created in many ways. I also hope that my students develop the courage to continue creating throughout their life. Most of all, I hope that my students will see that art is everywhere they look, and not just in museums or galleries.

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Tell me about your teaching style.
I am strict on procedures, but open to variety. My students know what I expect of them when it comes to taking care of the materials and maintaining order in the classroom. I don’t have a lot of rules (my only rule is “Do your job”), but we practice everything. Every material that is introduced comes with procedures that we review.
While creating, my students know that I will support their artistic choices. I encourage them to try something new, even if it means their project won’t turn out the way they hoped. I’m looking for individual results and not cookie cutter perfection.

What is your favorite medium to teach?
I love to teach painting—especially watercolor. It is a very friendly medium for my young students, and most of my students feel successful with it.

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Student art can be found everywhere in the halls of Eugene Field, particularly in designated galleries, complete with gallery lighting.

What is the most important thing you teach your students?
That art is everywhere. Everything that they touch had an artist involved. Living your life can be a very artistic experience when you view the world in this way.

Who are your favorite artists?
I love Andy Warhol—the way that he took such simple objects and created interesting images. The whole pop art movement is fun and my students love learning about it. I’m also a huge fan of graphic design. I find it very inspiring. Advertisements are my favorite part of magazines.

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If you weren’t an art teacher, what would you do? What is your dream job?
Growing up, I always wanted to be a hair stylist.

What type of art do you personally enjoying making? Crafts?
I paint (acrylic and watercolor) and I create glass mosaics—usually functional pieces like tables.

What keeps you teaching?
Creating is crucial to living a happy life. My job allows me to guide young people toward a life of creating. Teaching provides me with a secure income, a schedule that allows me to spend time with my family and most of all it allows me to create every day.

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How would you like to be remembered?
I hope I will be remembered in a positive way…beyond that I don’t have any specific wishes about my memory. I always tell my students that they get to create a story for their art, and then the viewer can create their own story about it. I would apply that same idea to how people remember me. They can have their own story. I just hope it is a positive one.

 

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Chad Nelson: Art Educator

Chad Nelson’s roots in art and craft are well grounded. His father is an accomplished woodworker and studied art in college. His mother works needle point, quilting, and sewing. Nelson, himself, is an art teacher at Brandon Valley High School, and is also a skilled printmaker. However, printmaking was secondary, Nelson wanted to be a teacher. It is a passion he attributes to the strong role models he has had in his life – from his mom and dad, to his high school art teacher, to college professors.

“Not only did they teach me how to be an artist, they taught me how to be a person, too,” said Nelson. “They were all very caring, and usually went beyond their roles of just a teacher, [et cetera]. It very much affected me, and I wanted to do that for other people, too.”

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Mollie Potter: Art Educator

I have not stepped foot in the halls of a high school during school hours in over 10 years. Initially, everything seemed pretty true to form, aside from everyone having his/her own laptop and a smart phone. Lunch hour was still the same balance of chaos and control, even more so were the halls in between class periods – like a Jackson Pollock of noises, bodies and puberty.

The minute you walk into Mollie Potter’s classroom, there is a very contrasting tranquility. Whether it is the neatly lined rows of empty tables ready like blank canvases, the organized walls of previous art assignments or the instrumental yoga music, you immediately feel a particular kind of focus. This is a place to create, and I want to stay. Forever.

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Lindsay Twa: An Educator Interview

Twa HeadshotMeet Lindsay Twa, an Associate Professor of Art and Director of the Eide/Dalrymple Gallery at Augustana University.  She holds a B.A. in studio art and music from Concordia College, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in art history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Her research focuses on African-American art and the Black Diaspora, Haiti, and the economic structures of the art world. She has curated nearly 70 exhibitions and her recent book, Visualizing Haiti in U.S. Culture, was published with Ashgate in spring 2014. After a long hiatus, she is back in the studio again and enjoying, as she puts it, the struggles of being a beginner printmaker.

In front of the Taj Mahal.
In front of the Taj Mahal.

Twa is married to Dr. Mark Larson, an Associate Professor of Biology at Augustana College, where he teaches Pharmacology and Biochemistry.  The two love to travel.  Before arriving at Augustana, Mark was a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Birmingham in the UK.  Being there for three years allowed them to travel throughout Europe, Turkey, Egypt and Israel frequently.

In 2001, after reading Katie Alvord’s book, Divorce Your Car, the Twa family began a “car light” experiment—driving a car once a week or less.  From 2003 until 2010, they went “car free.”  While they returned to owning a car once their son was three months old, they continue to try and be as “car light” as possible by remaining a single-car family.

Twa describes herself as a serious, but amateur, distance athlete. On top of finishing 8 marathons, including the Snowdonia Mountain Marathon in Wales, she has completed two triathlons, and biked across the state of Iowa as a part of RAGBRAI. In 2007, she was an inaugural member of the Central Plains Cycling team and completed races around the Upper Midwest.

“I was the #3 woman in SD that year, though that tells you how few women were racing at the time!” said Twa.

While she finds herself in a range of roles, Twa says her newest and most favorite role of all is being a mother. She and her husband have two boys, Alexander (5) and Isaac (3).

“The days are full, but life has never been so colorful and wondrous,” she said.

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Kathy Dang a Sioux Falls Art Educator

I had the pleasure of interviewing and meeting with several art educators in the Sioux Falls area about their experience and passion for teaching children.  Art educators carry an important role with developing a child’s creativity, imagination and  problem solving abilities.  Although the art educators of Sioux Falls may varying in experience and  teaching style,  they all strive to provide the best art education possible.   One of the first educators I interviewed was Kathy Dang from Cleveland Elementary School.  Originally from Hutchinson, MN, Kathy has been teaching in Sioux Falls for 5 years.  She received her bachelors in K-12 Education and Art from Augustana College and in addition received a Masters in Education from Augustana as well.  Kathy’s hobbies include; cooking, yoga, gardening and enjoying time outdoors. ~Nakia Fritz

Kathy Dang- Cleveland Elementary

Kathy_Dang_ceramist“I hope my students understand that art is not about creating pretty objects, it is about developing problem solving skills and visual thinking strategies that will help them throughout their lives.  Art, especially in elementary school, helps students to realize that there is more than one way to solve a problem, we can learn from our mistakes, and that art is a venue to share our ideas.”  Continue reading Kathy Dang a Sioux Falls Art Educator