Art teachers inspire, lead by example
By Rex Rutkoski
Published: Sunday, November 7, 2010
Regina Selden believes there is nothing complicated about trying to explain art.
She tells her students at St. Joseph High School, Natrona Heights, simply, "Art is all about the world we experience."
And, if they struggle to find subject matter, she reminds them, "It is right in front of you."
Her students will be able to check out how she practices what she teaches in the annual exhibit of the same name, under way through November at Penn State New Kensington's art gallery.
The Alle-Kiski Arts Consortium again has invited current and retired art teachers to share their work in a variety of mediums.
"Art fosters a joy of learning, because it allows the students to create without hesitation," says Selden, who is represented in the exhibit with two acrylic paintings.
Selden looks to the masters for inspiration. "Since I teach art history, people like Francisco Goya, Georgia O'Keeffe, Jean-Francois Millet and Wassily Kandinsky are artists who led me to my ideas toward art. They were all artists who felt art comes from within, expressing emotions and thoughts."
Those emotions and thoughts are expressed in this show in painting, photography, glass, ceramics and other mediums.
"Art is all around us," says Deer Lakes Middle School teacher Bill Pazman Jr., who has two paintings in the show. "It is what makes the world go 'round. We are the storytellers of generations, and it affects all things in life; from the chair we sit on to the clothes we wear, tools we use or the buildings we live, work and play in," he says. "No matter what happens in this world, people will always doodle on the walls to tell their story."
Like Selden, Pazman tells his students, "Pay attention to the world around you."
Denise Wagner, art and ceramics instructor at Burrell High School, believes the "Practice What We Teach" exhibit is important "because it can show the students and the community that we are not only educators, but we are also students trying to master an art form."
Wagner is displaying a photo series she calls "Cool Runnings," six landscapes taken in warmer climes. She also is represented with a glass necklace pendant and a print.
"I think the message that students can take from this show is that at any age, you can always be learning and creating new work," she says.
"We are an example of how the arts can be an integral part of living," adds Christy Culp, who teaches three-dimensional art at Deer Lakes High School. She is exhibiting three ceramic teapots.
"My students see me making work every day. It is the single most important thing for an art student to see," she says. "Students absorb like sponges. By seeing an artist in the middle of creating, (students) get to see the process, the struggle and, hopefully, the success." Culp believes this validates her teaching.
Valley High School art teacher Prissy Pakulski, who creates stained art glass as her personal expression of art and design, says she is convinced that the creative process is a lifestyle. "You must see and realize the value in art, art viewing, art as a communicative tool and, most importantly, that it is necessary and vital to the world," she says.
She believes the best teachers are the ones who remember what it was like to be a student, realize the learning style and process of every student, and see the potential of the future.
"The process of making my art helps me empathize with the students as they face aesthetic decisions of their own," says Gwendolyn Korvick, who has a clay pot in the show. She is an elementary-school art teacher in New Kensington-Arnold School District. "We experience the same creative challenges as our students when we make our own art," she adds.
Korvick won best of show for the second time at the Craftsmen's Guild of Pittsburgh's "A Fair in the Park" in September, and was one of 100 members of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh invited to enter the "100@100" exhibit in June.
She finds the most satisfying part of teaching is when students teach someone else the skill they learned from her. "How nice that they enjoyed something so much that they shared it," she says.
Karen Ferrick, like other teachers, finds inspiration from their students.
One of her paintings was one of 150 works selected from more than 2,000 entries from Pennsylvania artists for the "Art of the State" juried show, which hung at the state museum in Harrisburg from May through September this year. She has paintings of mushrooms on exhibit in "Practice What We Teach."
Ferrick teaches kindergarten through fifth grade art in the Burrell School District.
Her kindergarten students ask her two questions when they come in for class, she says. The first: "Are we painting today?"
"If you have ever witnessed a small child painting, it is a wonder to see," she says. They love the pure process of applying the color and the joy is evident in their faces, she says. "I still have that wonder, discovery and joy every time I apply pure color pigment to make a pastel painting," she says.
Her students' second question: "Are we taking it home today?"
"They can't wait to share their art with Mom and Dad and," Ferick says. "And just like them, we artists want to share our art with others."
'Practice What We Teach'
What: Alle-Kiski Arts Consortium teacher exhibit
When: Daily, through November, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays -Fridays; Noon-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; closed Thanksgiving Day
Where: Art gallery, Penn State New Kensington Campus, Upper Burrell
Free Meet the Artist reception: 6-8 p.m. Nov. 16
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