“The Most effective way to do it, is to do it.” – Amelia Earhart
With a heap to do the next handful of months – like finish graduate school, a graduate committee review, gallery exhibitions and shows, commissions, teaching a photo class for the first time, and full-time teaching at Washington High – Mollie Lage still carves out time to get in her studio, and hustle that art. We could not think of a better local artist to kick off the year (and revival) of our Inspired Interview Series. So, without further adieu…meet Mollie!
Describe to us what type of work you do, and your preferred mediums:
The art that I make when I’m not working on commissions is mostly abstract, and socially or emotionally motivated. I call it conceptual art because it’s based off of ideas rather than physical subject matter.
I also enjoy creating works that represent stories, which is why commissions are so important to me. It gives me the chance to bring someone else’s idea to life, and is a unique opportunity to give back. Acrylic and charcoal are my mediums of choice, but as a high school teacher, I’ve been dabbling in just about everything!
What’s the story about the people that you paint?
The show that I’m working on right now is called Visual Language. I teach at Washington High School where there’s a high ELL (English Language Learner) population. For instance, the parachute painting is called “Inadequate Safeties.” These students (some of them coming from refugee camps or war town countries) don’t always have the resources that they need to succeed, not necessarily academically, but in a lot of other ways, which is why I’ve been using my recent artwork to gain support for LSS Center for New Americans, an amazing source of help.
“Old Enough”, the painting of a hand holding the balloons, is about the how in some countries birthdays aren’t celebrated, so when coming to America, the children have no idea how old they are. When some immigrants and refugees come into the United States, they have to give a date of birth, so they just put down January 1st of whatever year they think might be right. So, thinking about the mental ability of an average 9 year old versus an average 13 year old, that’s a disadvantage in itself. The balloons are for those students.
The portraits of the ladies are an attempt to represent idea formulation, and potential growth coming from people who don’t look the same as one another. Something that I’ve noticed as a teacher is that when a student doesn’t speak English very well, there can be a tendency to feel it’s necessary to water down the content they’re supposed to be learning. However, unless there has been major trauma or an event that has caused cognitive or educational delays (which is sometimes relevant), a 16-year-old who doesn’t speak English is just as aware and capable as an American born 16-year-old. Some adult refugees or immigrants were doctors in their country, but now have menial jobs or no jobs because of the language barrier, and the assumptions that employers make. I wanted to portray that thought, so I’m calling the series, “We are not weak.”
How long have you been doing your specific medium? How has your work evolved over time?
The first time I used acrylic, other than when I painted Christmas decor with my mom, was in high school, but it terrified me then because I was used to drawing. I got heavily into painting my sophomore year of college, and have been working with it since then, which was about 8 years ago.
Over years of teaching more realistic and technical skills that I wouldn’t necessarily say I had honed in on in high school and college, my work has turned from almost completely abstract (focusing mostly on color and texture) into something somewhere in the middle of abstract and realistic. I still love abstract painting, but I’m not afraid to get highly detailed in some areas of my work. I’ve begun to love making artwork that resonates and means something to other people, too, even ones that I don’t personally know. It’s so enriching to facilitate that connection.
Were there any factors that led you to where you are today?
First of all, my family has always been supportive in my artistic endeavors, so I don’t know where I’d be without them. At first that [endeavor] was music, but in high school I started developing a strong passion for drawing. When I went to the University of Sioux Falls, I went as an art education major with a music minor. Then, I dropped the education major, because the idea of teaching terrified me, and I added a psychology degree instead. Because of that switch, which I eventually switched back, I interviewed for an internship at Sanford in the arts and healthcare realm. I was offered the internship, which was a wonderful, heart wrenching, inspiring experience. Through it, I grew exponentially as an artist because of the emotional impact of working with children and adults who were battling, winning, or losing to cancer. Not only that, but the other artists that I worked with, and the unlimited number of supplies at my fingertips, funneled me into a making spree that hasn’t completely stopped since then. My husband, Chase, has also been a huge support, pushing me to make when I want to avoid it. We’ve been married for 6 months, and I’ve done more with my art than ever before.
Opportunities that fell into my lap, like traveling to Europe with my choir and art department in college, changed my life, my way of thinking about the world, and expanded my brain. Those thing I never expected or even wanted to experience, because I didn’t understand how immensely important they would be in my life. Traveling and teaching are an accurate representation of how my artist journey has been going so far – not knowing I needed something, and then having it plopped in my lap. I thank God for leading me here, allowing me to work my butt off doing what I love. I think it’s so important to say yes. even when you’re scared or don’t feel ready, because that’s how you’re forced to get ready, because that’s how I got here.
What usually inspires you to create your work?
It’s different every time. It can be something social or emotional that is triggering an urge to make. Sometimes it’s just a great way to think through a problem or an idea. Other times, a story has been shared with me, and I am trying to get it down for that person or that group of people. Other times it’s recreational, and fueled by the music that‘s playing.
How long does it typically take you to complete a project?
Until recently, I would go through spurts where I’d paint for 2 days straight, and then wouldn’t paint for weeks or months, but lately I’ve been trying to be more consistent. The amount of time a project takes really depends on the size and complexity of the project, but I am a pretty prolific painter when I get down to it.
Do you have anything you want to work on in the future?
As far as artwork goes, I plan to continue doing a mix of commissions and originals. I plan to show Visual Language in 2019 and 2020 around Sioux Falls, calling more attention to the Center for New Americans. I plan to have WHS student work up alongside my own work at Dunn Bros in March. After that, The Museum of Visual Materials is hosting my work from September to October, and then I’ll be showing at the downtown Coffea from December to March of 2020. I’m working to fill up the year!
As that body of work is being shown, my plan is to continue with the fundraising project that I’ve been doing the last few months. I just created a website, MLSFStudio.com, which I’m using to host print sales of my own artwork. Each season I’ll be making mini prints of that artwork available. 50% of the proceeds from those mini print sales will be donated to the Center for New Americans.
Any skills you would like to develop over time?
Developing myself into a local business owner is something I’d like to do, but as far as making art goes, I’ll never stop working on my technical and design skills.
How has Sioux Falls influenced your work?
Sioux Falls has been a lovely supporter of the arts since I first moved here, and it’s only getting better. My students here, and the people I interact with at work and in my personal life, are frequently leaving me feeling motivated to make. Obviously, my teaching career at Washington in Sioux Falls has been a huge influence in my latest body of work.
What are your thoughts on the art community in Sioux Falls?
The art community here is smaller just because Sioux Falls is smaller, but we are definitely blossoming, and seeing more and more people reaching out to get the arts involved in their projects. We have the Sculpture Walk, the Pavilion with Arts Night and the fine arts center, First Fridays, and more galleries and places willing and ready to host artwork. We’re definitely growing, and with that growth, more opportunities to be successful as an artist here. Lastly, most Sioux Falls people see the value in supporting local artists, businesses, and food producers, which has created an encouraging environment for us to do what we do.
What advice would you give to anyone starting out as an artist?
Just keep making, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Hone your skill and be diligent. Don’t take criticism harshly even if it’s harsh, just consider it. Look at what you make, and either toss the criticism to the side, or take it as kind advice and use it to get better. Even if you don’t always feel confident about what you’ve made, which you won’t, put yourself out there to other people anyway, because as a collective of human beings with lots of opinions, skills, thoughts, and ideas, the people around you are your greatest resource.
September’s First Friday was filled with new experiences and new friendships. I challenged myself this month by doing as many different and exciting things as I could. Having my artwork present in two separate group art shows, while simultaneously displaying quality, was a big part of that challenge.
My First Friday morning began with appearing on KELOLAND News to chat about the 5th Annual Tallgrass Recovery Art Show at Exposure Gallery, along with artists Betsy Ashworth and Joan Zephier. Personally, this wasn’t a first time being interviewed about my artwork, but it was a first having it air on television. As nerve-wracking as it was to piece together what I’d say to KELO, it was all worth it. Being able to have the chance to speak about a powerfully impacting exhibition is well worth any amount of nerves. I’m so thankful for Joan and everyone involved with the show.
The most surprising thing was the intense amount of people that showed up just for this healing event. I’m, at times, the type of person that would rather stay home and resist any chance to interact with people. Then there are special times that I’m able to move into a healthier mood that pushes me to meet folks and reach out. The reception was an incredibly eventful first.
A fun, interactive aspect to the exhibit is the People’s Choice Award. Attendees were asked to cast their vote before they left. With the pieces being displayed the entire month of September, I hope you have a chance to stop by to look around.
I enjoy seeing written, story-like pieces beside a visual artwork. It’s even more powerful when the viewer gets a written accompaniment to help lead their thinking, and walk them down a path of interpretation. I like to look for little body cues as viewers take in my work, as well. When someone is reading what I’ve placed before them, and they realize how it fits with everything else they’re seeing, that’s one of my favorite moments. It’s almost like an electric connection is sparked inside their eyes. Witnessing people light up with a specific passion for any artwork is a treat.
At 7:00 p.m. I had to hop, skip, and jump over to Vishnu Bunny Tattoo for the other group show I took part in this month. This show served as an introduction to local artists that the community may not have known about otherwise.
Both Exposure and Third Eye Gallery at Vishnu are constantly brainstorming new topics and themes for artists to submit and present on. Keep your eyes peeled for calls for art. A great resource is our very own Call For Art page on JAM’s website!
I’m not a fan of bland artist statements. I like to give information in a more engaging and fun way. The “theme” of my work displayed at Vishnu is similar to a timeline with missing chunks. So, I decided to make my statement more of a funky story to follow along with. I noticed that during the night, I had to point this fact out to folks. Most of whom I chatted with had never heard of an artist statement that didn’t just state the obvious facts.
For those of you reading who are wondering how to get your work into galleries, just keep going. Connect. Keep pushing. Keep meeting people. Keep working on your art. Keep taking in constructive criticism. Keep positive. What more is there to say? www.patreon.com/HannahWendt
Personally, I have moved on from Augie, but that doesn’t mean there are not things happening. In fact, quite the opposite! Did you know that Sioux Falls’ very own, Augustana University hosts several different gallery exhibits every year? I’m always trying to stick my head in the doors, just to peak at what they’re up to.
Currently, they are housing The Augustana Student Invitational, which runs June 1-September 1, 2017. Augustana is located right off of 33rd Avenue; whereas, the Eide/Dalrymple Gallery is a few blocks down on Grange Avenue. Before we get started, I want to add that there is some incredible work displayed in this show by all the participating students. By all means, go take a closer look at all of the interesting pieces! With that, let’s dive in!
DR. LINDSEY TWA
Does the sophomore and junior summer show normally happen every year?
Yes, this is traditional. We always do our Augustana Student Invitational every summer. That’s been true for a couple of decades now, I believe. So, every summer our rising juniors and seniors get the opportunity to get a professional exhibition under their belt as a part of the group show. These are curated out of our sophomore and junior reviews, which are the two major check points for the art major on the way to their senior thesis show.
What’s some outstanding history with the Edie/Dalrymple Gallery?
Sure! Well, the Edie/Dalrymple Gallery was founded in the late 60’s with former professor Carl Grupp, who was a signature print maker of the region and professor of drawing here. He’s still in town. He also founded our permanent art collection. He did it sort of informally, in addition to his very heavy load over the years, by bringing in professional exhibitions and then having student shows. Then eventually, he got a gallery space that is now the archaeology lab, and then this space opened new with the building in 2006. We are free and open to the public. We always do 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm exhibitions every year. There’s always the Senior thesis show that closes our academic year and then the Sophomore, Junior Invitational is always our summer exhibition.
So, does this run the whole course of the summer?
Sometimes it varies on our upcoming exhibitions. Typically, it’s open all summer and then closes the first Friday of the academic year. We use that as a closing reception to welcome back all of the students from their summer breaks, and to reconnect with them. It gives them a chance to see their show, because for many of them out of town, this gets hung post graduation. So, they won’t see their work in it until they step back on campus in the fall. So, we keep this until the first week of classes.
Of the students here, how would you say their progress has been with their work?
Each one of these artists is worth highlighting and elevating. One of the best things about this being our summer show, traffic tends to be a lot lighter, but we also have a lot of campus tours going on. So, the students that are here as prospectives looking at the college, they get to see that all of these pieces were created in an Augustana art class, and they get to see who the artists are. I love this show because I see these students in the art history classes, but I don’t really get to meet them as artists until I get to sit with them in their sophomore and junior reviews. It’s just fun to have. So, we have, of course, sophomore students that are maybe relatively early to the major. We have several students that are double majoring. Many Augustana students also triple major. Then we, of course, have students that are almost on their way to their senior thesis show. So, Sydney Kelly would be one of those that already has a very advanced and large body of paintings, then she’ll be wrapping up next year with both her art major and her student teaching for education major. It’s just a fun show!
Is this show, specifically, any different feeling than previous ones? Is there anything that struck you differently than previous years?
I mean, each show has its own characteristic and is as unique as the group of artists that are here, right. A couple of fun things to point out, we have Alex Meyer’s large stage set. He’s incredibly talented. So, this might be a nontraditional form. It’s his photography, the concept drawings, and then the model on it. He actually presented that in Washington, DC and got a national award for his set design! We were very excited for him to bring that back to campus, and then to display it. This show gives a great set of how wide-reaching Alex is.
That stained glass tower up in the middle area on the pedestal is his, and then we’ve got these graphic design pieces from him. Right next to them we’ve got Marissa Hight’s digital piece. She’s a biology and art double major, and is interested in medical illustrations and sort of blending that. So, that’s a fun piece, along with her hand cast one. Actually, in the Black Hills this summer she got a research appointment at a research lab in the Black Hills. She will be doing laboratory research, but they were also interested in allowing her to do microscope drawings and proofing images for publication. She’ll get really good experiences being a visual artist who assists the scientists. This year we have Anna Reich in our photography department. We have far more photography present. So, that’s another difference. We just haven’t had a substantial body of photography in a while. That, of course, is a testament to her for building our photography program. Even Wyatt, who I think of as being a screen printer, has some phenomenal experimental photography.
Do you have any words of overall encouragement, or words of critique, for the students presented here?
Maybe a good sort of word of encouragement, especially for perspective students who walk in here… I know you had an excellent high school experience as far as an art program goes, but many students don’t. So, they already come to college saying, oh, I can’t draw. I can’t do this. I can’t do that. I think, particularly with the faculty here on campus, wherever you are at, they will make you better. So then, some of these students probably had no, or little-to-no, art before they came. Some already arrived thinking, oh, I’m uncomfortable with drawing, or I can’t do x, y and z. Yet, in Drawing I they can do things like Dagne’s castle shading to a t. The students who come out of that, and what they present, are far beyond what they would’ve thought could be possible. Then we have students that come in with a very high foundation of art. Then it’s just fun to see how much they improve year after year. Really just in an exponential type of way.
In three words can you describe your impression and experience from this show specifically?
I would have to say uniformly eclectic, because it all hangs together, and yet, it’s such a broad reach. I think it’s a good sense of just how many different avenues you can pursue in the program, and also do individually tailored expressive experiences. I would say hard work. Inspiration. I think, well, you know how many hours go into the studio!
Full list of students displayed at Edie/Dalrymple Gallery:
Sydney Michael Kelly
Joshua D. Matzner
The process: Straight from the artists
How have the before-the-show steps treated you? What’s your impression of the gallery space process before hand; was this a new experience for you? Did you enjoy it?
For me, I think that’s always hard just because I know what other people kind of like, but I don’t necessarily know what kind of stuff of my own that other people like. I kind of have a negative view point over my stuff, just because sometimes it’s really weird stuff just for fun. I don’t take it as serious at times, so I don’t think other people will, even if it’s a serious thing. So, if it’s for the review, it was mainly trying to find things that I like, at the same time other people might like , as well. I think that it helped by doing a write up. I had all these different pieces up for the reviews, so the professors could critique my work, and eventually pick pieces for the show. I had to have a write up that stated what I was trying to get at, but in a super concise way, so that it’s clear. Sometimes I’m going, well, I took this picture just because I messed with a bunch of settings on my camera, or I made this screen print for fun, or because people said “you probably shouldn’t do that,” and I’m going to do it anyway. I couldn’t really say that, so I had to have this concise thing where I had everything down pat. I think that’s where it was stressful. I don’t know most the time if what I’m trying to convey is read by the viewer. With a lot of my pieces I like to have really open-ended outcomes, so that they can pick what they think maybe in a different way than me. Only after the fact, if they’re wondering what I’m trying to get at, I’ll tell them then. Other than that, either making weird things, or making them more confusing, or purposefully under confusing so that it’s easier for them to get. Maybe even harder for them to get, if I’m trying to have a conversation, or something that I’m just trying to get out there. I guess it just depends on each piece. With the ones in here, I think it worked a little both ways. My photographs are definitely a series where I was just trying to experiment with different objects. There’s a variety of things that I’ve taken pictures of. For most of them it was try something and go with it, rather than going, this is exactly what I’m going for and making sure everything is perfect. It was more of what Dr. Twa was saying, working with an experiment. That’s something that I like to do with photography, because it’s quick.
When putting my photographs in here, I wanted to try something a little different. So, instead of having vague titles, I made little music pieces for each of them. Some of them are bridges that are connected by a chorus that runs throughout the whole series. I’m definitely not a music writer at all, it was just something when I sat at a piano thought sounded good. I was trying to do something, that if the viewer has knowledge of music, they can pick out the little tunings with them and then decide if the sound would really go along with it. I’ve always wanted to do different sounds and photography, kind of like music and movies. I’m really into movies, so maybe that has something to do with it? I want the viewer to gain something from it. I like to have fun with it.
Preparing for the show was pretty straightforward; we just had to matte and mount our work so it was ready to hang in the gallery. We did not hang our own work for this show, so I did not experience that process.
The pieces that are in this show were selected by the faculty during our spring reviews. Though they picked a few of the things that I would have chosen myself, I did have some work in ceramics that was finished after the reviews which I wish had been included in the summer show. There is always next year, though!
Before the show, we create work for the academic school year, and then our work is chosen by our professors in what is known to the Sophomores and Juniors as their review. To me, it is kind of a coming of age rite of passage. With me being a junior and having done a review last year, I am well aware of the space as well as how a review is carried out. Regardless, it is still just as nerve wracking to get up in front of your peers and lay your work on the line. In my review summary, I had written about how with art and being an art major it always feels like I am undressing myself and pulling off my skin, folding it neatly, and handing it to someone, while in a way, asking them to accept and appreciate it. I am literally showing you my vulnerability when I am showing you my art, and telling you about the symbolism behind it. The review was exactly this. Each and every time, no matter the audience, I get a certain nervousness about me when speaking on my work. Mainly because my subject matter is so visceral, but also because there is some part of me that is still afraid to tell the stories of what I have been through, and to tell someone is to let them in, and I am not good about letting anyone in. Review is a good test run though for me being able to talk about my work, and the things that go into it.
We are told to bring pieces of work, usually anywhere from 10-12 (sometimes 15 or so if they are smaller), but beyond that we are given the freedom to choose work that we feel is our best. But then you start staring at your rather large portfolio of about 30 or so works that you have created that year and you begin to question what your best is. Is it the piece that you spent countless hours on that got an A- and yet you still are madly in love with it? Or is it the piece that got you an A and yet you do not really care for it, but you know the professors will like it? You start to wonder if you should cater to your professors or to yourself… and to that, I will say that you should cater to yourself. When your work is chosen to be hung up in that space, you should feel a sense of pride, and that pride only comes with staying true to yourself. I make each of my paintings with a very direct purpose in mind, and therefor when my pieces were chosen, I was very pleased with the result. I also felt honored to be a part of an institution that displays the work of their students so proudly and wants to display mine as well the work of my peers. The process leading up to review is nerve racking, the review is nerve racking, preparing your work to be shown around finals week is nerve wracking, but seeing your work hung up is worth every minute of it.
[DURING THE FUN]
Do you have a specific goal, or immediate impression, that you want the viewers to think and feel when experiencing your work?
Well, like I was saying, I do have stuff there, when other times it’s just if it happens then it happens. So, if a viewer sees something in a piece, I’m glad for them, but I’m not specifically trying to push them a certain way. With some pieces I’m trying to just get them and see how they look, while experimenting with different techniques and things like that. It wasn’t really a process of, this is really important to me and having to let the world know. I think my work is still important, in a way, but just not like that. With the photograph series, we’re suppose to explore something that we knew. However, going after that, I decided to take photographs of objects around my house. In the full series, I think there’s 35 or 40 pictures. Some are as simple as mason jars of tomato paste that we have from canning stuff. Other things are, like in here. There’s a certain image that started that series. It’s the self image. I was trying to experiment with light, which I really like to do with photography. I was trying to experiment with the light on the shelf, that in reality isn’t that important because it’s just a shelf in my bathroom. To me, there’s an importance behind it that I can’t quite understand, if that makes sense. Similar to, well, I know this, so it feels important. To anyone else, I don’t think they feel that, but to me, there’s a reason that this feels important. So, that’s where this series turned into something that wasn’t really just things around my house, but things that have a specific importance even if it’s just really vague for the viewer. For those, I’m not expecting the viewer to get anything out of them. They might find bits of relations that, in turn, can find comfort in, but I’m not specifically trying to get the viewer to see that. So, like I was saying, if the viewers see something, I’m glad they do. I would honestly like to know what they see, just because I think that’s interesting, but I’m not trying to force them to see something that I may be putting out there.
My two screen prints that are in this show are the works which I am most pleased with and feel represent a certain side of my work effectively. I am largely influenced by nature, namely the sky and cosmos. I hope that my screen prints will convey some degree of a connection with nature. The piece, “Where are you now? I still need you here,” was created shortly after the unexpected death of my mother. That is the first piece in a series that I am working on which deals with the concepts of life, death, the afterlife, and the consideration of a higher power. I don’t like the idea of telling a viewer exactly how to interpret my work, but I use titles as a guide of my intent.
My intaglio print of my dog, “Charlie,” explored texture by focusing on hair. Charlie has crazy, wiry hair which I thought would be fun and challenging to convey in a drypoint print. The position of him resting was my way of conveying how solitude can oftentimes be a necessary means to feeling inner peace.
When you first look at my work, you are either attracted it to it or repulsed by it. Often there is an innate reaction when viewing the grotesque or death. Your throat tightens a little, your chin clenches, maybe you blink frequently or your advert your glare, but in general you have a response. The secondary response when viewing my art should be the curiosity of why the subject matter is chosen, in an attempt to figure out the piece. The third common response is why does a 21 year old woman attending an upscale university in South Dakota originally from a small town in Iowa want to paint such things? To that, I would have to tell you to sit down with me and listen to the full story. But when that is not do-able, the viewer often just notices my attention to detail and the craft of my work. Notice the ants that are either fleeing away or being attracted to the objects around them. Pay close attention to the use of color and what you might be noticing as an American flag, a desecrated pie symbolizing human interaction, or maybe the mourning ceremony that gives you a closer view of tragedy and the influence of fate. My work is used to show my occupancy in this world, and how as a sexual assault victim and an abuse victim, I have often felt left without control. From that, I have pushed my feeling of being small in this vast world and how there are many parts of my life that are left open to the influence of greater powers. Dominant versus submissive, choice versus the lack of, nature versus nurture, authoritarian parent versus authoritative, resilience versus conforming, and conscience or the lack of. These are some of the things that play a role in my life and the pieces that I create, carrying out a plan to tell my story through the visual arts.
[AFTER IT’S SAID AND DONE]
Personally as an artist, is there anything else that you would want the public to look forward to? Any shows coming up, are you planning any projects, etc.?
I do a lot of stuff on my own, and apart from that, I don’t hear much going around town. Unless it’s from this one girl, Hannah Wendt, that I know, I don’t really hear a lot going on. I’m working on making t-shirts with print making stuff and using screen printing t-shirts, right now. I like wearing t-shirts, and I just wear weird stuff. Why not make my own? I don’t paint a lot, but I’m wanting to get into making my own inks and paints out of random crap. Maybe just smashing up a whole bunch of stuff and seeing what happens. I’m trying to use a bunch of different materials in my work, and do more experimenting because that’s the name of the game with my stuff. Other than that, I guess I need to get out a lot more. For right now, just through Facebook, Wyatt Dickson, would be a way of contacting me. If you wanna say hi, or if you wanna be like, hey, let’s make something. If you want to buy something, sure!
I am drawn to illustration (pun somewhat intended) and showcase my skills in my ceramics work. They are really fun to look at and people seem to get a kick out of them. I am also developing my series of screen prints which is dealing with the concepts of the cycle of life, and the existence of god. I am always dinking around in the printmaking studio and constantly have new stuff I am working on, which I share online. You can find my portfolio, including examples of my ceramic work on Facebook and my website.
I create about one to three paintings a week during the academic year, and I will continue to work at this rate. My work can best be found on social media, as I post my creative journey. I occasionally participate in small shows, but for the most part, I make work for myself and not for show. I have made such grand progress over the 2016/2017 school year and as I go into my final year at Augie, I do not intend on halting my progress. I fully recommend anyone to come to the senior show in May of 2018 if you want to see my grand finale, and hear me speak publicly on my journey. Until then, I sell most of my pieces for cheap so that they are obtainable by many. You could be the next owner of an original piece and you should be. My Instagram is sydneymichaelkelly and it is where most of my work can be seen. My email is email@example.com for any other inquiries.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
Everyday JAM receives donated, lightly used art supplies that they are able to turn around and get into the hands of artists and crafters at an affordable price. That is just one stroke of the paintbrush. JAM Art and Supplies fosters community. Whether it is through their classes and workshops or their website’s First Friday Reviews and Inspiring Interviews, they are a palette of resources for the Sioux Falls art scene. To support that work, JAM hosts an annual fundraiser – the Sweet Art Show, two days before Valentine’s Day. If you heart art, you will not want to miss it.
Last year, with attendance exceeding 250 people, the first Sweet Art Show raised more than $10,000. Thanks to those generous sponsorships and donations, JAM was able to further their mission in 2015. They offered classes and workshops to Sioux Falls artists and children – ranging from free art clubs for middle school and high schoolers, business coaching classes for artists, private lessons, as well as toddler yoga and sing-alongs. They also held their first creative reuse summer camp last August. Kids 8 to 13 learned what creative reuse was, and were also introduced to art installation. As a group, they developed a concept and turned Exposure Gallery into a “candy thunderstorm.”
Last year’s event was held at the Museum of Visual Materials, and featured the work of 16 local artists. Other sweet attractions included a gourmet ice cream social with toppings (created by Chef Lance Catering), a cash bar, silent auction, a create your own Valentine station, and a surprise performance by the Washington High School drumline.
The night will also include the gourmet ice cream bar and other tasty treats, a presentation of an artist advocacy award, live music by Elisabeth Hunstad, raffle prizes…plus a huge surprise that will give you a taste of just how sweet JAM really is.
Looking forward, along with acquiring space for a classroom and providing scholarships for private drawing lessons, JAM looks to send staff to a Monart Method drawing seminar and a Visual Thinking Strategies workshop – both art-based teaching methods that increase core learning skills, comprehension, and problem-solving skills. Funds will also help sustain and improve JAM’s website, increase creative reuse summer camps to 4, and provide more class and workshop opportunities to Sioux Falls artists and children in 2016.
New year, new goals, one strong mission: get art supplies in the hands of local artists. Get involved, yo!
Exclusive sponsorship opportunities are available for you or your business! Become an art advocate, and support a nonprofit that is making waves in the Sioux Falls community. For more information on sponsoring JAM and the Sweet Art Show, please ask to see the 2016 Sponsorship Commitment Form or contact Jess. Share with your business-owning friends too.
Other great ways to get behind the mission? JAM takes merchandise donations year-round, and is always looking for volunteers.
Check out more of last year’s event below. We will see your face on February 12!
This past First Friday held an abundant offering of exhibits, and judging by the packed streets of downtown, you could tell that everyone was trying to enjoy the last fleeting days of summer. Art receptions for the evening included:
I’ve always envied quiet people. The type of people that absorb rather than spew, the seemingly solemn ingestion of everything around them. There is a thoughtfulness that surrounds the eyes, a focused energy that scoops in every detail provided. Don’t get me wrong, quiet people are not emotionless zombies–quite the contrary. They display a marriage of curiosity and wisdom, the silence attached to thought.
Kevin Caraway is this special kind of quiet. He embodies the stillness that comes with observation and continuous thought. He has a soft articulation with his words, and speaks in such a way that you find yourself leaning closer, wanting to catch every word. We sat down with Kevin and discussed where he draws his technique from, the artists that inspire him, and how Sioux Falls could continue to grow. Take this time to reflect on how you approach your own learning, and the impression you leave behind. ~Amy
On a beautiful May Friday, my friend Melissa and I ventured out into the perfect spring air, a warm breeze teasing us that summer is near. Downtown was thriving with people, not an unusual occurrence considering today is one of the best days of the year – Downtown’s First Fridays AND the Art and Wine Walk! The Art and Wine Walk, sponsored by Downtown Sioux Falls, is an enticing way to bring people into the local shops, casually sipping wine and enjoying the artwork that is hosted there.
I have an incredible appreciation for the self-taught artist. It is a daunting task to enter a world in which everyone else can seem to have a leg up, just based on their schooling or connections. The self-taught artist is the lone wolf, the one working even harder behind the scenes to validate their efforts. There requires an overwhelming amount of dedication to follow through with your goals, and an even larger learning curve when you go at it on your own fruition. Solomon Carlson understands the value of experimentation, and embodies the work ethic of a self-motivated individual on a path for great things.
Using illustration as a starting point, Carlson pushes that skill further on a daily basis, working indiscriminately with a variety of mediums in an attempt to continue his own education. He is involved in numerous side projects, including launching a board game design, starting the Sioux Falls Sketch Squad, and creating an illustrated novel. His work is playful and intriguing, with many pieces carrying their own interesting back-story. He understands the necessity of an active community, and reaches out to the younger artistic community to add their own voice to Sioux Falls. Carlson is polite, thoughtful and genuinely interested in what people have to say. He finds value in connecting with those of similar interests, and takes an active approach to help those around him grow. Please read on, and reflect on how you push your own interests, how you are accomplishing those dreams deep within… it’s never to late to start the rest of your life! ~Amy