Libraries have always been hubs for fostering literacy with written texts. This summer, the Columbus Main Library Carnegie Gallery’s exhibition of visual works by central Ohio art educators will highlight the educational and cultural importance of the link between visual and text literacies.
“The mission of the gallery is that visual literacy is the bridge to text literacy,” said Carnegie Gallery Director Stephanie Rond in a recent interview. “You only need to open a picture book and read with a child as they describe the pictures to you to know that there is a big bridge between those two things.”
Visionaries: Raising the Future with Imagination will showcase the work of central Ohio art teachers from July 5 through Aug. 23 in the Carnegie Gallery of the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Main Library, 96 S. Grant Ave., in Downtown Columbus. The library will host a reception Thursday, July 11 at 6 p.m. in the gallery that's free and open to the public.
Visionaries will be the Carnegie Gallery’s first-ever exhibition of works by art teachers since the gallery opened in 2007. The idea for the exhibition came from artist and art teacher Maggie Rapp Boggess.
“When Maggie came to me with the idea, I was like, ‘Oh, of course, of course. This is a brilliant idea,’” Rond said.
Visionaries: Raising the Future with Imagination honors the work of 27 central Ohio artists devoted to enriching the lives of their students and the cultural life of the Columbus area through their work as teachers and mentors.
“I think a lot of times, and especially lately, our educators all over the city aren’t being celebrated and respected in the way that they deserve,” Rond said. “And so I hope that this is just a small thank-you that we can deliver to those teachers.”
The exhibition will showcase artwork in a range of mediums, presenting visual narratives that often reveal something about the artists’ approaches to teaching.
“Tell me more about that”
Tera Stockdale’s work “Tell me more about that,” which will be shown in the Visionaries exhibition, expresses her desire to help her students learn critical spoken communication skills in an age in which she is seeing her students and her own children spending increasing time communicating via smartphone and computer screens.
“Students are just not using those skills of face-to-face conversation,” said Stockdale, an art teacher for Columbus International School. “I like to do in-progress critiques, where you put your work out midway through, we talk about it, we try to bounce off ideas: Where could this go? How could you elaborate? How could you improve on it? And there’s a lot of struggle trying to get students to have these conversations with each other, and I think it has a lot to do with, they’re just so used to typing in their screens.”
Stockdale’s “Tell me more about that” is a large hexagonal clay slab on which Stockdale has screen-printed a honeycomb pattern. The hexagon shape, Stockdale says, symbolizes “hive-mind thinking.” The phrase ”talk to me” is painted in gold luster.
Stockdale says the design of “Tell me more about that” reflects her rationale for creating in-class opportunities for her students to talk about their own ideas and artwork as means to help them develop critical-thinking and communication skills.
“You need to have downtime, and you need to be bored to think of something new and think of new ideas or approach things in a new way, instead of always just being a passive receiver of information and images,” Stockdale said. “So to me, the ‘talk to me’ part is part of that – slowing down and having real-life, person-to-person communication.”
“Two Light Bulbs”
Brent Payne’s oil painting “Two Light Bulbs,” a still life depicting two traditional incandescent light bulbs, is a subtle yet direct expression of how Payne learned to see inspiration in the world around him and how he now approaches teaching art to others.
Payne instructs adult art classes at the Columbus Cultural Arts Center and a Saturday-morning art class for high school students and adults at the Columbus College of Art and Design. He became an artist after falling in love with art in a community college art class.
“The teacher just really inspired me to really embrace art, art history,” Payne said.
Early on, Payne says, his artistic tastes were what he describes as “very conservative.” Then a different teacher said something that opened his creative horizons.
“One day a printmaker-teacher of mine said, ‘Well, if you ever want to learn how to teach, or if you want to be a good teacher, you have to not only teach what you love, but kind of be open to what’s out there,’” Payne said.
Payne started looking at the world with an open mind and began to see creative inspiration in everyday things around him, something Payne’s artwork – including “Two Light Bulbs” – and teaching reflect.
“I’ll tell my students this: ‘Whenever I go shopping at the grocery store, half the time I’m looking for something to eat, and the other half I’m looking for something to paint,’” Payne said. “And it could be the color of a cherry – oh, I love that bright red – or the shape of a baby squash, or something like that.”
Hilliard City Schools art teacher Amanda Schaeffer created her intaglio print “Opportunity” especially for the Visionaries exhibition.
“I feel so much love for the library – it’s always been a second home to me – that I wanted to create a special piece that really kind of conveys that sense of love and respect I have for our library system,” Schaeffer said.
The print depicts figures that could represent birds taking flight before a bookcase full of books. “Opportunity” reflects the connection Schaeffer says she sees between libraries and schools.
“It’s about equal opportunity – equal opportunity to knowledge, to access to opportunity, but they’re both what you make of them,” Schaeffer said.
The concept of opportunity and creating access to it guide Schaefer’s teaching. Schaeffer says she helps her students gain comfort with different artistic mediums so they will have different opportunities to tell the stories they feel they need to tell.
“One of my visions for our future generations is to continue to have those opportunities, to continue to be able to have a voice, to be able to speak their perspective and to speak their story,” Schaeffer said.
The Future Is Now
The future generations that Schaeffer hopes will have the opportunities to learn, create and contribute include her seventh- and eighth-grade students and other young people.
However, Rond says the title and theme of Visionaries: Raising the Future with Imagination are meant for people of all ages.
“I think it’s important that the future is seen as all of us,” Rond said. “So when we say ‘raising the future,’ we’re not always talking about children. We’re talking about us as a community.”
Visionaries: Raising the Future with Imagination will be on display July 5-Aug. 23 in the Carnegie Library of the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Main Library in Downtown Columbus. A reception will take place July 11 at 6 p.m. in the gallery and is free and open to the public.