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Getting There, Part III

December 11, 2020

MECA MAT students

This is Part III of a blog post about the Masters in Arts and Teaching (MAT) students at Maine College of Art (MECA). Together with Part I and Part II you can get a snapshot of their program this fall. Students presented their work in an exhibit called “Getting There“, November 28 – December 7 at the college in Portland. The last two days of Maine Arts Ed blog posts include images from the show, their thoughts on visual art education, and their role as artists and future teachers. It also includes their successes and challenges, and their hopes for the future, post pandemic. I hope I am able to have a more personal conversation with this group of people in the near future. They have so much to offer, are is very articulate and thoughtful, and are bright lights during this dark time.

These MAT voices are strong and I’m sure you’ll agree with me that the future is in good hands. I’ve mentioned over the years how important our role is as educators to mentor, encourage and seek out the future teachers to insure that arts education continues moving forward to provide an excellent education for all students. Here is an opportunity for veteran teachers – read and listen carefully and if you’re inclined, reach out to these students.

In the Part I post there are examples of each students work. In Part II you can hear their voices and below are the responses to questions that I asked the students.

What do you see going on or what are you doing right now (in the midst of Covid) that is so dynamic and creative and alive that you hope doesn’t go away once Covid does?

  • Even though so much of education and the world is in a precarious state, the pandemic is helping me realize how important grounding learning with an arts education is for kids. I’m happy that there’s new energy being channeled into making education more accessible for everyone, and it’s amazing to be in a cohort of teacher candidates as we are all so eager to bring fresh perspectives to classrooms. ~ Philippa Grace, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Sculpture, 2016
  • Education and healthcare seem to be never quite completely accessible. During the pandemic, when everything moved online, we evolved in creating tools of still allowing these things to happen and even flourish virtually. Though an end to the pandemic seems to be in the foreseeable future, I hope to see a continued mix of virtual and in person experience. It allows for more voice and choice. School and doctors are more accessible to those without cars through virtual platforms and if we made decent internet connection a necessity, we could be a lot more productive and connected from within our homes where we are most comfortable. ~ Audrey Robidoux, Maine College of Art
  • Oh gosh great question! I have caught myself noticing the present SO much more- the color of a meadow this fall after a recent rainfall, how this random lady sitting on a bench laughed exactly the same way that my roommate does, the soul settling experience of paddling in a canoe on a lake. I hope to maintain this awe of the moment, (and teach others to do the same!) once quarantining ends. ~Sophie Olmsted, Bates College, Lewison, Studio Art (ceramics), 2018
  • I don’t think I’m doing anything in my personal life that I hope continues after Covid. I do see a silver lining when it comes to my teaching practice. I was blessed enough to get a teaching job that both supplements my student teaching requirements and my wallet during this time. This type of experience would not have happened if it was not for the circumstances that we are in. ~Cooper Binette, Maine College of Art, Portland ME, BFA in painting 2020
  • Refining skills as an artist and a teacher is my life’s work. I am grateful for the time and opportunity to study at Maine College of Art even if we work remote. Allowing me to continue to create an enriching environment for Maine’s youth. It is during the epidemic that I am able to work harder than I ever have to make this a career. ~Seth Baron, Maine College of Art, BFA in Illustration 2020
  • I unfortunately don’t feel that I have achieved anything so dynamic or exciting that it is going to stick around post Covid. I have found myself feeling trapped inside, and uninspired/overwhelmed due to the stressful climate of my surroundings. One positive thing that has come  out of the situation is that I have had a lot of time to sit and work inside of my sketchbook, something I usually do despite Covid times but it feels very accomplished to be able to sit and just draw for hours while being stuck inside. These sketchbooks will be reminders of this unexpected situation, and bring a sense of accomplishment to these hard times. I will then be able to share this experience with my future students, so I guess you could say there’s a small sliver of a silver lining there. ~Lauren Ashlee Anderson, Maine College of Art, BFA in Ceramics 2020
  • I am feeling so inspired by food right now and have been pouring all of my creative energy into cooking and baking. Since the pandemic began, my partner and I have started growing our own vegetables and herbs and have had a lot more time to experiment with new recipes. I never would have guessed I would be so excited about street corn or heirloom tomatoes! ~Madison Mahoney, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, BA in Studio Art, 2019
  • Unfortunately as of right now, I don’t have any creative and dynamic practices that will stay with me post Covid. My ceramics practice was cut short due to Covid and I do not have the means to continue it right now. In all honesty, I hope for things to go back to a seminormal if/when Covid is gone. The silver lining for me is that I’m thankful to be in the Master’s of Art in Teaching program to become an art educator. I will be able to share my passion for art to students and hope to inspire them to achieve their dreams. ~Shelby Pyrzyk, Maine College of Art, BFA in Ceramics 2020 
  • When Covid first hit back in March, I didn’t make any art for 4 months. I was newly unemployed, broke, and depressed. However, about a month before I moved to Maine from Kentucky, I started doing all these paintings of retro video game covers for my friends, and it helped me rejuvenate my creative confidence. Throughout the MAT program I have been able to keep doing these video game commissions for friends, on top of many other creative endeavors, and so I have been able to sustain that motivation to create, but it wasn’t easy. I think that being an artist during a pandemic has reminded me that there are always ups and downs, but art will always be there for me when I’m ready. ~Trent Redmon, Transylvania University, Lexington, KY, BA in Studio Art 2016
  • Storytelling is very important to my life and work as an artist. Traditionally, I tell my stories through comics and graphic novels. Since Covid, however, I’ve invested myself more in the creation of artifacts and life size set pieces from out of my fictional worlds. I’m hoping in the coming years I continue to expand on the idea of bringing the fictional into the real world. ~Sean Dillon, Eastern University 08-12, Exercise Science

What has it been like jumping from student to teacher while continue to nourish your own creative practices?

  • I audited a porcelain class taught by Cathy Hammond at MECA this fall. When I was a few years younger, I was so afraid of failure, but now that I’m learning about mindfulness and bringing our whole selves to the classroom, I was so eager to show Cathy my failures and ask her “what do I do now?!” I learned so much about the materials just by being in a classroom (albeit masked and distanced!) with BFA students at all levels, and Cathy was always willing to share her decades of ceramics teaching experience with us. It was so powerful to be able to fail in front of her and have that be an empowering experience of growth. ~Philippa Grace (favorite color: orange)
  • The journey from artist to teacher has expanded my perspective on the world. As a working artist, I often felt isolated, deeply buried in late studio nights and internal thought. I love to create but it wasn’t enough. I couldn’t invest every piece of myself into it. I felt as though it wasn’t a sustainable practice for myself or my well being. As much as I loved it, I needed something different, a different purpose. After four years of focusing on the art world, I felt the pull to come to the teaching program. Despite the pandemic, and the upheaval of the world around me, I knew that it was the right decision. ~Audrey Robidoux (favorite color: red)
  •  I see the role of teacher and student as interchangeable hats- in one moment, I may have the teacher hat on, but I’m wearing the student one in the next. Flipping back and forth informs both experiences. I feel so lucky to be a student in my 800 studio class because it reminds me of the student experience- what it is like to not know what’s next, how uncomfortable it can be to not know, how to navigate teacher expectations and social interactions. The MAT program (so far) has been the perfect bridge between feeling mostly student to feeling mostly teacher (I plan to identify as a partial student for the rest of my life). ~Sophie Olmsted (favorite color: lavender)
  • Jumping straight from student to Teacher has been a crazy experience. I’ve had to strengthen my time management skills along with prioritizing my school and teaching over my personal practice without allowing it to fizzle out completely. ~Cooper Binette (favorite color: pastel purple)
  • Starting my practice of teaching has been an incredible new experience. New experiences such as meeting a group of students for the first time will continue to inspire my digital paintings. ~Seth Baron (favorite color: cyan)
  • Jumping from student to teacher while continuing to nourish my creative practices has been a big challenge for me. Coming out of quarantine to this program has to be the biggest challenge. My semester in undergrad was cut short due to Covid so all of my studio privileges unfortunately disappeared. I found myself in a creative slump with a lack of inspiring materials. I have worked my way out of the slump by creating awesome lesson plans for future students, and being able to create art while making lesson plans is exciting. I haven’t made much art for myself, but no matter what I still continue to doodle, work in my sketchbook, and pull from the world around me to inspire me. ~Lauren Ashlee Anderson (favorite color: terra cotta)
  • It has been a transition for sure. Some parts of teaching have come easy to me, while others have been harder to grasp. Jumping into teaching after months of uncertainty and quarantine felt like a huge change of pace. But luckily this cohort has been able to offer me amazing support. I’ll admit, at the start of this program I found myself neglecting my creative practice. That quickly shifted when we were given the opportunity to join a BFA class to continue our making. It felt amazing to be back in the studio and since I have gained back more of my creative energy that had been lost in quarantine. ~Madison Mahoney (favorite color: slate blue)
  • It has been interesting but I like the transition because I am able to apply my knowledge from when I was a student to what I am doing while teaching. It also has been helpful when creating lesson plans to have experience with some of the media. ~Shelby Pyrzyk (favorite color: teal or pink)
  • It has been challenging to say the least. It requires so much discipline and drive to be able to change gears from academic work, to studio work, and back and forth. It’s taken lots of perseverance. ~Trent Redmon (favorite color: red)
  • Teaching has gradually become a part of my practice as I’ve become closer with my audience.  I started doing art tutorials and live streams for my following a few years ago and educating others has become just another hat I wear. ~Sean Dillon (favorite color: green)

Was there evidence of the teacher as artist or artist as teacher in the show?

  • Getting There is a time capsule of our cohort on the verge of student teaching with our mentors this winter, in the midst of this pandemic. We are all in different stages of discovering the balance of being a teacher and an artist (for me and some other peers, we have been out of school for a few years and are falling back in love with art and school–others are fresh out of their BFA programs). As we have grown together since August learning about art education, I am so grateful to be able to share this space as artists in our field as well. It is a potent reminder for me to never stop making–even as my creative practice shifts and changes, being an artist is what guides my teaching and grounds me. ~Philippa Grace (pronouns: she/they)
  • For my exhibit I created a sketchbook and a curriculum map, tying in all of the sketchbook prompts. It’s designed for high school students, based off a curriculum map that I dreamt up. High school education is a difficult experience in the current society, and art can teach the lifelong lessons of creative and critical thinking. Giving a young adult a sketchbook can awake a childhood passion that seemed lost and change their perspective on life. The sense of individuality that is born within a sketchbook can inspire. Art and creativity is what every student needs in this current world, where we have no idea what the next few years looks like, let alone the rest of our lives. I want to equip my students with skills that will stay with them no matter what path they take. And it takes an artist to teach these concepts. There really is an art to teaching. And I’m getting there. ~Audrey Robidoux (pronouns: she/hers)
  • Yes, absolutely. I made some jars using a technique on the wheel that I had never tried before (or even heard of!). I absolutely plan to make jars in this way again and to teach others to give it a try. The process served as a reminder that you can always learn new ways to do things and you can always teach students to keep looking for those ways of making that spark energy and intrigue. I plan to hold this experience of discovery with me as I step into my role as a teacher. ~Sophie Olmsted (pronouns: she/her)
  • I think there is evidence about the importance of the teacher as an artist in every piece in the shell. The artwork helps bridge the gap between what we are learning in class and what we are practicing in our studios. This information will only benefit our teaching practice. It will make all of our learnings more accessible to both the audience and the artist. ~Cooper Binette (pronouns: he/him)
  • The show contains an array of illustrations, paintings, ceramics and sculptures. All of which are created by some incredibly diverse perspectives inspired by pedagogy based readings and studies. I highly recommend everyone follow meca.mat on instagram to see all of the pieces from the show. ~Seth Baron (pronouns: he/him/his)
  • Getting There is a show depicting each of our individual journeys as artists and future educators. There is both evidence of teacher as artist, and artist as teacher. In my work specifically I have honed in on the idea of “Embracing being a novice”. My work displayed is a variety of new techniques I learned in my BFA class this semester called “The Sculptural Imagination”. As I am learning to be a teacher, I am still continuing to add new tools into my personal tool box that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. These new techniques are now some that I can share with my future students! Embracing being a novice not only means learning new things, but also means that I am learning things I can teach my students in the future.  ~Lauren Ashlee Anderson (pronouns: she/hers)
  • Absolutely. In my work there is evidence of teacher as artist in the way I approach a new material; in this case, porcelain. For this exhibition I focused on play and embracing possibility in a medium that was brand new to me. As a painter, I primarily work 2D, but I wanted to get a feel for how my students might experience a 3D material. I was the only handbuilder in a class of wheel throwers and I wanted my pieces to reflect that. All of my pieces in this show are my firsts and many experiment with balance as well as glazes. ~Madison Mahoney (pronouns: she/her)
  • Our show Getting There is centered around us as both artists and future teachers. We were tasked with continuing or learning a form of art while being able to tie it back to what we are learning in our program. Many of us have highlighted that in the pieces of our work in the show. I feel this show is important to the program to show us that we can continue our art practices while still being teachers. ~Shelby Pyrzyk (pronouns: she/hers)
  • There is definitely evidence of that in our show. Just going around reading everyone’s artist statements is evidence that everyone put a ton of thought into what they made. Everyone’s perspective is so different, but all the work is still unified by our dual perspectives as both artists and teachers. ~Trent Redmon (pronouns: he/him/his)
  • It’s a subtle message, you really have to look into the details of my piece to decode the artist-teacher relationship.  For me the piece is more of a physical waypoint in a mostly spiritual journey to become a teacher. ~Sean Dillon (pronouns: he/him)

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