Art teachers make time for personal work


Photo contributed by Brennan.

UA Teacher Artwork (Brennan made these as class examples)(3)
A photo of a drawing by Visual Arts teacher Liz Brennan as an example for her class. Photo contributed by Brennan.

High school is a time when artists find their passion and the mentors that will push them to pursue it. But how do art teachers at the high school find time to focus on their own art?

Visual arts teacher Elizabeth Brennan said that she used to feel confused over whether she was a teacher, an artist or both. Some art teachers at the high school said that it is difficult to be both a teacher and strong artistically outside of school. As a result, they have found new mediums to fulfill their creative desires.

According to Brennan, the majority of the art she makes is for the demonstrations she does with her students.

“I still get a lot out of that because I make sure that it’s something I want to do,” Brennan said. “I actually had a really great time with my Printmaking class from the beginning of this year. We were working in more abstract, intuitive ways, and it was fun for me to show them how to do that.”

Brennan said she constantly learns from her students, occasionally noticing techniques students use and trying it herself.

“I learn what it’s like to be a learner, and I love seeing a student who maybe doesn’t necessarily view himself or herself as talented start connecting things and feeling like they’re doing something that is worthwhile,” Brennan said. “It fills something in their soul.”

According to Career and Technology teacher Glen Gurner, over the last six years he has not been able to craft many woodworking pieces outside of school. However, he still expresses his creativity through teaching.

“What I have discovered about teaching is that in a way it’s probably the most creative thing that I can do, coming up with projects for students and helping engineer their designs to the point where they can actually get a finished project has been an incredibly creative process for me,” Gurner said.

Visual arts teacher Donna Sartanowicz said she thought she was not pushing her limits enough when she was creating drawings or paintings outside of the high school.

“I was starting to feel like I was giving myself assignments, and I was wondering, ‘Is this my work or is this an assignment? Is this authentically my own expression?’ Because I wasn’t feeling challenged enough with the work, I knew too much about what the outcome was going to be,” Sartanowicz said.

UA Teacher Artwork (Sartanowicz at a gig)
Visual Arts teacher Donna Sartanowicz at a music gig. Photo contributed by Sartanowicz.

Although Sartanowicz is a visual arts teacher, recently, the expressive work outside of the classroom that Sartanowicz has participated in has been through music, specifically songwriting, playing and performing.

“It’s fulfilling my need to create, so I don’t have a goal of,  ‘I want to play in this place,’ or ‘I want to do an album.’ But, we (she and her husband) are going to record it, and play around with it, and do different things there,” Sartanowicz said.

According to Sartanowicz, a reason that outside of the high school her creative choices have changed is because a major value of the creative process is not knowing where you will end up, and she was beginning to know how her artwork would turn out.

“When you do creative work, you can’t know what the end is because there’s no fun in that,” Sartanowicz said. “Then you’re just going through a checklist of things and it’s too predictable. You want to be in a state of not knowing, you want to be in a state of feeling like it’s a little bit risky and that you might fail.”