"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
Jennie Traill Schaeffer
Deemed the Kitchen God's Artist by NJ Savvy Living for my sainted appliances, I'm now known more for my vibrant, meditational paintings of chairs set surprisingly in landscapes. Since relocating to NC from NJ, mothering my two sons, and caring for our rescue pup, Cider, took the lead. Now, that my Durham home studio is renovated it's open again for virtual art coaching and the resumption of my personal art and commissions. The work I make is inspired by my joy of teaching, exploring nature, and traveling. On The Teaching Artist Blog, I share my approach to teaching and educate my readers about my creative process.
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Want to read more from the past? Click here to read archived blog posts from my previous blog on Blogger.