Smile Politely

Having a deadline helps

I talked to Stacey Gross about an exciting exhibit at Indi Go Artist Co-op. Champaign Unit 4 art teachers are sharing their personal works until May 18th. Gross says, “Several years ago, some of us (art teachers) started getting together in the summer to have informal critiques and share our personal art works with one another… and just to have an opportunity to hang out and talk about something other than work!” That turned into the current show at Indi Go.

Smile Politely: What sparked this idea in the first place? The saying “Those who can’t, teach” is a common and infuriating one…

Stacey Gross: Several years ago, some of us (Champaign Unit 4 Art teachers) started getting together in the summer to have informal critiques and share our personal art works with one another… and just to have an opportunity to hang out and talk about something other than work! We are all artists that went into education because of our love for making art and realized that it was harder to carve out time for our own work. For us, the summer meetings were motivation to make new art and to reimagine our identities as artists. At one meeting, a colleague said something like, “What if we put our art on display for a change?” We are constantly organizing shows for student work, so it we knew how to go about organizing an exhibit. Our initial gallery space closed just as we were preparing our exhibit, but it just then that indi go Artist Co-op was starting up — it couldn’t have been a better fit! We’ve shown at indi go each year.

SP: Who are the typical contributors? Is there an average in this group?

Gross: Many of the 19 art teachers in the district have been teaching in the district [for] over 10 years, so there’s a good handful of us that graduated college in the ’90s. We also have recent college graduates in our group -it’s a nice range.

SP: What can attendees expect from this showing?

Gross: There are 17 artists presenting new works in a range of media: painting, printmaking, photography, drawing, and sculpture. The exhibition is up from Tuesday, May 13th through Sunday, May 18th with a reception on Friday, May 16th, from 6-9 p.m.

SP: Tell me about your role in this exhibit. How are you involved?

Gross: Apart from making arrangements with Indi Go, I guess I’m the delegator — it’s such a team effort! From designing posters, to hanging the show and making labels, buying wine for the reception, hosting open gallery hours and sweeping up afterwards -everyone plays a part. We work really well together and play off of the unique strengths each brings. Scott Fernsler (Jefferson Middle School) used to work in exhibitions at Krannert Art Museum, so he works to hang the show. Amy Johnson (Robeson Elementary) does the design work, and Amy Lozar (South Side Elementary) makes ah-mazing cupcakes for the reception. John Odum (Booker T. Washington) has a ladder and a truck, so he’s essential! Michael McLoughlin (Dr. Howard Elementary) makes music in his spare time. Instead of putting a work in the show, his band, Los Guapos, will be playing at the reception. Really, though, it’s a great group and we get along really well. It’s a good deal of work (at the busiest time of the year), but it ends up feeling like fun instead of something we have to do.

“A group of accomplished art teachers set out to dispel a common myth about the abilities of teachers with their show, Those Who Teach, Can. The artwork, from Champaign Unit 4 School District Art Teachers, represents the diverse talents of its faculty, working in a range of media. These artists/teachers prove that they CAN with their creative, inspirational and thoughtful works of art.”

— Stephanie Stuart, Community Relations Coordinator, Champaign Unit #4 School District

SP: What do you hope for people to gain from this show?

Gross: I hope those who see it will appreciate the talent of their community’s art teachers. We’d like to challenge the frustrating notion that educators aren’t strong in their craft. Again, it’s our passion for making art that lead us to teach. I also hope other teachers will be inspired to pursue their own artistic endeavors. This show forces us to carve out some studio time and reinvigorates us. It’s easy to lose sight of one’s own art when giving so much on a daily basis. Plus, just like many of our students, having a deadline can really help!

Get to Indi Go Artist Co-op to see these passionate educators before Saturday. The opening reception is on Friday, May 16. 

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