Sixteen Guilford County art teachers from Greensboro and High Point show a wide range of work at After Hours, highlighting their skills outside of the classroom.
by Joanna Rutter
There were no macaroni necklaces, crayon leaf rubbings or pipe cleaner sculptures in sight at Irving Park Art & Frame in Greensboro on Friday night as Guilford county teachers milled around in the tightly packed gallery amid family, friends and former students.
There were, however, ribboned glass sculptures, dreamy watercolor landscapes, and space-agey pottery, all made by local art teachers, at the fifth iteration of an annual show where educators’ out-of-classroom skills are put on display.
“This is a big deal,” said Seth Bunch, an art teacher at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, in an email. “There is a stereotype that those who can’t do, teach. This show over the past [five] years has proved that wrong tremendously.”
After Hours was conceptualized in 2011 by Renee Lauver, Irving Park Art & Frame’s owner, and Katie Armistead, an art teacher also employed at the shop.
“Every year, the show’s gotten bigger,” Lauver said. “It’s one of our most popular shows. Teachers, no matter whether they’re art or math teachers, don’t get the recognition they deserve. This is a way to give back to them.”
“To see the community rally around teachers is encouraging,” Bunch said, “Especially around an ‘elective’ class.”
For some teachers, the show is an opportunity to explore new mediums. Sandrina Preudhomme, the sole art teacher at Andrews High School in High Point, is showing some of her recent portrait photography. Though she said she enjoys the freedom with lesson planning that comes with her subject, being an educator means that she isn’t able to create more controversial art, such as nude paintings. It’s a tension several teachers echoed.
“I’m always conscious of what I’m posting,” Preudhomme said.
Despite those necessary constraints, some of the show still manages to be provocative. It’s impossible to miss Bunch’s three-dimensional, multimedia piece titled, “Mom & Dad, Will Pokemon Ever Be Real?” comprised of ceramic woven squiggles set on a violently colorful background, mirrored in a painting above it. Equally creative is Angela Holt’s “Old Oak Tree.” Look closely to see repurposed colored pencil shavings used as tree bark.
Kelsey Gagnon-Mathews, one of two art teachers at Western Guilford High School in Greensboro, is showing several small, intricate linoleum prints of flowers, along with an acrylic painting of a mournful-looking Texas longhorn.
“I found this picture of longhorns in a magazine at the Austin airport,” Gagnon-Mathews said, laughing. “I kind of singled him out.”
That vein of funky animal inspiration was shared by her Western Guilford art colleague, Tia Woller, whose bright painting of an octopus spread out across three skateboard decks, reminiscent of a triptych, immediately arrests the visitor’s eye. Both Woller and Gagnon-Mathews said it was important to them to continue cultivating their art whenever they could.
“There’s something wonderful about making projects with my students, but it’s not necessarily what I want to make,” said Gagnon-Mathews, when asked about the interplay between her educational career and artistic career. “It’s a challenge to keep up with your art.”
“It’s a struggle to find the time,” Woller said. She and Gagnon-Mathews are the only art teachers in a school of about 1,300 students.
“But you owe your kids art,” said Gagnon-Mathews.
That attitude of service was reversed on the two teachers when their students surprised them in December with gifts of art supplies for the classroom, using funds the students had raised themselves.
“Budgets have been tight,” explained Woller. “I haven’t been able to teach with clay for two years … but I’m not just making [my lessons] up, I’m teaching a craft.”
Bunch shared the sentiment: “I see shows like this as fighting for justice, for teachers and students, within the niche of the art education world.”
View the After Hours work of local teachers at Irving Park Art & Frame through March 4. Visit irvingparkartandframe.com for shop hours and more details.