"A teaching artist is a practicing professional artist with the complementary skills and sensibilities of an educator, who engages people in learning experiences in, through and about the arts."
After earning my degree in Art Education, alongside a Painting degree from Syracuse University, I entered into the field of public education as an art teacher in my early 20s. It was an eye-opening experience, one that ultimately wasn't the best fit for me. As a novice teacher, I had the dream that I would develop as a professional artist, alongside teaching professionally. Unfortunately, I learned within the first year of teaching, that I wouldn't have the luxury of time to devote to that kind of creativity, as all of my energy was being put into my teaching. I deeply admire public educators, but realized that I needed to pursue a different path to maintain my art-making.
That path led me to offering private art lessons from home, which in hindsight was modeled for me by teaching artist, Nancy Bossert, whom I studied art with in high school. Within a few years of working form home, I opened a space that operated for five years as both a gallery and studio from which I exhibited and created my own work, sold work by other artists, and taught art lessons. Several years and two kids later, I'm on a slightly different road, though the trajectory of teaching and making my art is still constant.
This past fall, I started offering my art classes at Oh! Canary Art Studio in Maplewood, NJ. This new space has allowed me to breathe life back to my lessons, after having taught in a small home studio for a few years in West Orange. Simultaneously I started identifying myself as a teaching artist. During the past year, I've been thinking about ways to redesign and rebrand my blog, which I've been posting to since 2007. After hiring a local web strategist, Dani Geraci, to review my site, she suggested a blog overhaul. The new name came to me recently when a lightbulb went off - "The Teaching Artist."
From here on, you can expect to see posts under the name, "The Teaching Artist." The direction of posts will move towards showing the connections between what I'm teaching and what I'm making. Sometimes it may be an influence from a book I'm reading, unrelated to art, or it may be a direct connection to work I'm creating. I'm teaching in Maplewood and making in West Orange, NJ. Showing up in this arena, gives me purpose, structure and forces new ideas that often filters into my own work. Keep on following, sharing, and please connect with me.
I'll leave you with a quote that resonates with me and accurately describes one of the drives behind a teaching artist, by Richard Bach, the author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, "You teach best what you most need to learn."
Jennie Traill Schaeffer
"You teach best what you most need to learn." - Richard Bach
Red Carpet Icons: New Works by Jennie Traill Schaeffer (ok, me) are on exhibit now through early March at the Valley's own Hat City Kitchen. I spent the better part of the end of the year producing several new pieces around the theme of the red carpet. Many of the works feature appliances, including several Crock Pots, a toaster, and espresso machine, along with a few baked goods and "thrones" of the home. The Crock Pot, in particular, was a pivotally important cook's tool. Through my research I learned it was the vogue appliance of the 1970s and I made the connection to the red carpet. Many of my appliances in past works (one included here, St. Mixer), were sainted with halos and personified in a way. This seemed to be a natural transition for me. All of the works in the exhibit are in oil (with the exception of one relief print), employing vivid colors and thick textural paint.
We had a soft opening reception in December during Valley Arts' monthly Artists Salon. Thank you to several of my friends and artists who showed up to support me. Thank you especially to Jeremy Moss, local artist and Valley Arts volunteer who helped me hang the show and invite me to exhibit. And, thank you to Patricia Rogers from Masconsumption.com who has Tweeted, Instagrammed, and paid me incredible compliments on my work. Luckily the work is up for two more months over the course of two more Artist Salons, tonight, January 11th and next month on February 8th. Please come down between 6 - 8pm to see the work, enjoy a drink or appetizer, and chat. I'll have 2016 Calendars and Assorted Prints / Small Works set up during the salons for sale also.
Summer art lessons and workshops finished off a few weeks ago with these fruits of my students' labors. I had the fullest teaching schedule I've experienced since closing my Newton studio, enrolling several new students in a part-time summer drawing camp, an after-camp art class, and a watercolor workshop. Since putting my youngest in part-time childcare, I've been able to promote my lessons to a wider audience and offer more sessions.
These are just the tip of the iceberg from the summer:
What's even better than this visual eye candy is the experience my students had. None of them wanted the classes to end; my watercolor workshop students couldn't come up with one criticism. I worked with several adults, particularly mothers, who carved out time for themselves for the first time this summer. To see their joy and satisfaction from their work was priceless. And, whether the students were children or adults, the process of making these works was a conduit to growth, learning, and joy (despite occasional frustration).
Interested in experiencing the joy of creating? Check out my Fall lesson schedule online. I'm offering several small group sessions in my West Orange Studio on the 3rd Floor including after school kids classes, an AM jumpstART for adults, and my signature Saturday teen class, as well as two classes (Painting in Watercolor and Taking Watercolor & Drawing Further) at Work & Play in South Orange.
Several years ago, a couple walked into my gallery in Newton, fell in love with one of my paintings (seen below) on site and purchased the work for their home in Morris County. I was out of town the weekend they stopped by and did not have the opportunity to meet them in person, until about a year later when they made another visit.
Please join me if you're in the Syracuse area on Thursday evening for the opening of Syracuse University's Department of Art's Painting Alumni Retrospective. I'm honored and humbled to be included in such a significant show striving to explore the changes in painting in America over half a century and Syracuse University's contribution to it, beginning with alumnus Clement Greenberg '30. The opening reception is this Thursday from 6 - 8pm at 914Works in Syracuse. I'll be there with my mom, the first artist in my life!
Jennie Traill Schaeffer
Sometimes called the Kitchen God's Artist, I'm balancing mothering two energetic sons, a big mutt Ringo, making and teaching art. TraillWorks is the apron under which I create and teach. My own art develops mostly in my West Orange home studio, but is sometimes spurred through my teaching.
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Studio on the 3rd Floor
West Orange, NJ
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Call 973.271.9104 or email firstname.lastname@example.org