h1

Arts Learning Grant Recipient

April 9, 2018

Bangor High School

Potter and MALI Teaching Artist Tim Christensen

“Sharks, tarpan migration, stingrays. Canoeing in deeper water while a dolphin gave birth under the boat. No tolerance for being bored. I had something to say. Being a potter let’s me capture information and communicate it in a durable way. In 500 years what do you want someone to know about you, what your life is like in 2018”?

These are some of the stories that teaching artist Tim Christensen shares when he visits classrooms – stories of how he got where he is and how he is living in Maine and working as an artist. He shares why he does what he does and how it came to be. He started out selling text books after majoring in writing in college. But at age 28 after losing his job he took time to consider what he really wanted to do.

Earlier this month I visited Bangor High School while they had Tim working with their students from all three of their art teachers students. The school received a Maine Arts Commission (MAC) Arts Learning grant to provide this opportunity.

Tim makes clay bowls by throwing them on a potter’s wheel and uses the sgraffito process to decorate the pottery. Sgraffito is made by scratching through a surface to reveal the lower layer of contrasting color.

I’ve visited Tim in action in other classrooms and its always interesting to see where he is in his development as an artist and as a teacher. The Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) is pleased to have Tim as a Teaching Artist Leader and on the Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artist roster. It is clear from the teacher and student responses that Tim did a fabulous job and impacted students and teachers during during his four days at the school.

ART TEACHER EVA WAGNER’S REFLECTIONS

Tim Christensen was such a refreshing presence in our classroom. His knowledge, skills, talent, creativity and energy inspired our students to create truly unique artwork. I learned so much from him in just a few days and I am hoping to get him to come back and work with my classes again.

He is a great story teller and he really took an interest in the students’ artwork. They really responded to him personally.

Working with a professional artist is such a valuable experience to give to our youth. It helps them to see fine art as a viable career and exposes them to a whole new way of working and caliber of work. Often high school teachers, like myself, become a sort of jack of all trades because of the amount of time we spend teaching and preparing different lessons. A professional artist has the luxury to focus which raises their production and craftsmanship –  it is wonderful to be able to expose the students to someone who works in this way.

STUDENT REFLECTIONS

  • I enjoyed working with a professional artist because it’s broadening who we learn from. It was cool working with someone who makes and sells art for a living.
  • I learned that quality is better than quantity. I would love to work with this artist again.
  • I enjoyed that Tim took the time to teach us individually and took interest in our art. I also enjoyed the story he told us about sailing across the Pacific ocean.
  • It makes us realize that there are artists out there that make a living from their art. It broadens our outlook on art and gives us perspective of art in the real world.
  • It was inspiring to hear someone’s personal story of how they became a professional potter.
  • I learned about creating sgraffito that tells a story on pottery. I would love to learn more about throwing with Tim Christensen.
  • I liked hearing about Tim’s life story and how he started art. He had many interesting views on art and how he saw the world because of his art. His art itself was incredible, and I had never heard of the techniques he used.
  • Having a Teaching Artist in the classroom can further your understanding of a subject to have someone that is specialized in that art. They can inspire students with their story and give hands on advice.
  • It helped me to see what it would be like to be a professional artist.
  • I enjoyed it because I got to work with a professional on my favorite subject.
  • I learned that there were more than just the few art styles that I’ve learned about over the years so far.
  • I learned how to do sgraffito and that sometimes you don’t need to work from an immediate drawing, you can just start from nothing and keep going from there.
  • It allows you to explore ideas and techniques you might not normally do.  It allows you to learn from them, and hear their stories and get new ideas.  It dispels the idea that artists are unapproachable. It allows you to see other career options beyond lawyer, doctor, teacher, etc.
  • Working with a professional artist was really nice and eye opening to see what his type of life is like. He was a really good artist that was super different from any work that we’ve done in school but it was really eye opening. He was really nice and helped me personally open my eyes to doing different work that was outside my comfort zone.
  • Tim Christensen taught me to step outside my comfort zone and to realize that when I think I’m done with an art piece, if there is still open space on my work, then I am not done. He helped me make my work better and was overall a good teacher.
  • He was an excellent teacher, and had a thoughtful answer to everything we asked.

ART TEACHER ERIC HUTCHINS REFLECTIONS

Many of our students want to become professional artists, but it is a scary thought for them and even their parents to survive as an artist. It is really nice for them to see a Maine artist that is successful at what he does! Tim was able to introduce new and different techniques to many different classes, and offer opportunity for ceramic works to classes that would never get a chance to experience that. Every opportunity students have can open new doors for them.

Tim’s stories about his travels around the world set it apart from other artists that have spoken to our students. His travels and stories connect to the art that he creates, so the students can hear and see the stories at the same time.

We had teachers from other departments visit while he was presenting and even had the opportunity to create their own work with him. They were as engaged as the students.

Students were so impressed with how incredible his work was they were captured by him at the very beginning. It was nice to be “on the outside” and see the students entire conceptual process with the art and see how they react to someone else. It provides you with insight in how students understand and comprehend what is being taught.

PRINCIPAL PAUL BUTLER’S REFLECTIONS

The quality of the contact between Tim and the students was outstanding, and he brought great energy to his visit. Technique sharing is one thing, but interacting with a practicing artist in the way that our students were able to is quite another– and will have a lasting impact on them.

TIM CHRISTENSEN’S REFLECTIONS

I see my value as a teaching artist to be manifold. I create connective tissue in the arts education field by helping people to network, and by connecting art teachers working on the same ideas. I also can bring specialized knowledge into the classroom, whether it be about natural history, technical clay knowledge, or professional and funding opportunities. For the students, I am a fresh face with no baggage, someone who is working in the field of fine art, and is very comfortable sharing all of my professional knowledge. I also provide a platform from which the students can speak and be heard, by stressing the communicative, content bearing parts of any art project.

I very much enjoy teaching the sgraffito technique as a communication tool that transcends culture and/or time. In a way, sgraffito was the original emoji. I urge the students to think about what they would like to say to someone five hundred years hence, and to create artwork that is capable of doing that. I am successful when I have empowered students to speak using their visual voice and to create from a place that is uniquely theirs, confident that they will be heard and that what they have to say matters in the global conversation about our world.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: