A long-standing wish of mine was fulfilled this summer: to teach at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts. I had taught workshops there, and substituted for other teachers over the years, but I had not taught formal classes. Andrew Rodgers, the new director of NOAFA, invited me to teach both portrait and advanced still life painting for the entire eight-week summer session. I immediately accepted! I am grateful to family for graciously housing me this summer.
The New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts was founded by Auseklis Ozols in 1978, and patterned after the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where he had studied. Luckily for us, both the portrait and still life classrooms have natural north light overlooking Magazine Street. Our delightful view was of unique New Orleans architecture: brightly painted double shotgun houses and a corner po-boy restaurant.
I love to teach and I believe it is a calling. To paraphrase Exodus 35:31-35, the spirit of God gives the artist the wisdom, understanding, and knowledge to perform his or her craft, and gives the ability to teach. Teaching gives me a sense of purpose. It is thrilling when a student has an epiphany as a direct result of something I said. For example, in presenting the idea of a lost edge, I ask them to squint. Then I point out the lost edges on a figure and finally they understand. Many students say they have never heard of this idea before. I suspect they may have heard it, but were not ready to absorb it. I frequently think of new ways to get my point across. For example, this summer I had students sculpt little balls of clay and told them to insert the orbs into the skeleton’s eye sockets. I hoped this would help them in the future to remember that eyeballs are three-dimensional and to treat them as spheres. So, through God-given ability and years of studying, I would like to think I am answering my calling.
Teaching is also a great way to make new friends and to build long-lasting relationships. Initially I was invited by a local New Orleans art guild to teach a workshop. From there, the Jewish Community Center director invited me to teach drawing classes. After my husband and I moved from New Orleans to Texas, I was asked by my fellow artists if I would teach a weekly portrait class. I usually return to New Orleans a few times per year to teach. So after almost two decades, I have taught countless classes and workshops. I have art buddies I have known for decades and new students that have recently taken my classes. As the Girl Scouts’ song goes, “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold”. I have stayed in touch with many friends through Facebook, Instagram, and my association with the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts. Teaching is a wonderful path to friendship.
Back to my summer vacation. I was in New Orleans most of the summer. I visited old friends and family, enjoyed café au lait and beignets at City Park, and ate New Orleans cuisine centered around fresh seafood. On the last day of class, we were photographed by a Times-Picayune/NOLA.com staff photographer. He wanted to photograph our class wearing masks to accompany an article about the mayor’s recent mask mandate. We reminisced about how the local photographers use to send film via carrier pigeons and now it is immediately done digitally.
Now that my wish of teaching at the NOAFA has been fulfilled, I am back home in Texas resuming my normal life. That means attending the Woodlands Art League portrait studio, experimenting with painting, and planning upcoming workshops.