Photo credit: William Zuback

Photo credit: William Zuback

Dear educators. 

I am very happy to introduce you to the Midwest Artist Studios™ (MAS) Project. I created this project in early 2014 as a way to expose, educate, and engage my art students with regional contemporary art, to introduce another way to address Literacy within the art curriculum, and to provide my students with an avenue to start a dialogue with Midwest artists.

In the art world, we often think about successful artists living in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami. However, how often do we think about successful artists living in our communities such as Oskaloosa, Iowa; Ann Arbor, Michigan or Valley City, North Dakota? There are a lot of resources out there that introduce us to living artists, but what I have learned is that my art students need something relevant and accessible.

As an art educator I have learned that the units I created over the years have opened the world of possibilities for my art students. Since the day I began implementing these lessons into my curriculum I have noticed that the way I teach continues to improve and by introducing more technology into my classroom through mobile apps, video, and online critiques have helped tremendously. This momentum has made an impact in my professional life and as a result have benefitted my students’ learning and understanding the benefits of finding their artistic voice.

This video is about MAS 2016 artists sharing their thoughts of being our featured artists.

Here are some comments that my students have shared with me.

From this year, I have learned to have a little faith in the outcome of my projects. I am usually a self-doubting person, so I should take this experience and apply it to my life in general. There have been a lot of things this year that have actually increased my self-confidence. I do not feel ready for next year; however, I do feel a little more prepared, and I think I am in a slightly better mindset for what is to come. The world is complex just like these projects were. The outcome, on occasion, could turn out amazing though and I am excited to see what the world has to offer to me if I work hard enough. It is awfully strange, yet awesome, how many similarities the process of creating art is to living life.

The slightest change in a piece of art can change the entire meaning of a piece. After our interview with Jane Ryder, I began to think about what would be best for my painting, She gave specific suggestions to me through email, and I took those and created a more complex piece of art with the inclusion of another style of gouache painting. I watered down the gouache and created a fluid movement in the background, opposed to the strong colors and solid painting in the foreground. In the end, I gave my painting a softer, more balanced feeling. – Kimberly W, student.

I learned really only one thing  this year about myself while doing art. The  thing I learned about myself was that I can’t really plan out a project. After I plan out the design I always end up changing my mind because I find a new inspiration and add on to it.  I think that the reason I do this is because art is about creativity and you can’t plan creativity. While doing all these projects it has opened my eyes to things around me by finding inspiration in the things around me. – Rachel R, student. 

I learned that not everything I make will be what I expect it to be, some will not live up to my expectations and some may be. I have come to realize that I will not always excel in every single media that I’m given, I will always have a weakness in particular mediums, but that doesn’t mean that I should stop trying to work with them. I think that it just means I should just work with it to understand how it works, that way I don’t necessarily rule that media out for a project. 

While learning about the last project it has helped me realize that not all art has to be so elaborate or perfect. Things aren’t always meant to go the way you want them to. I myself am a perfectionist and any art project I do. I won’t particularly like because it didn’t turn out the way I wanted to, but that’s just how things go. I know that I criticize my work harshly but that’s just the way I am. I always feel like I can do better, but I get lazy. I’ve got to learn to accept that my artwork has turned out this way, and if I want to improve I always have another shot at it. I don’t always have to be so hard on myself.

I would say the assemblage was my favorite project to do because I had dedicated it to my grandpa who passed away two years ago. – Savannah B, student. 

Through creating my art I learned many different things about myself as not only an artist but an individual. I learned that creating different styles of art helps me expand my thinking and brainstorming. What I mean by this is that when I am having a hard time trying to think of ideas for my artwork I like to make sketches to get my mind thinking and get other ideas. I also have learned that creating art helps me deal with stress and helps me relax and calm down from my busy life. Art has helped me in many different ways. Overall by taking art over the last few years I think that I have grown into a stronger and more positive individual. – Natalie M, student.

Through art, I enjoy expressing my emotions on paper.  By creating art I can express my creativity without anyone judging. I have noticed that everyones style is unique, no one is exactly the same, when expressing one’s creativity. The arts can teach individuals to make good judgement about qualitative relationships. Unlike much of the curriculum in which correct answers and rules prevail, in the arts, it is judgment rather than rules that prevail. The arts teach students to think through and within a material. All art forms employ some means through which images become real. The arts help individuals learn to say what cannot be said. When children are invited to disclose what a work of art helps them feel, they must reach into their poetic capacities to find the words that will do the job. This course, I have learned many techniques and strategies to improve my art capabilities. Stretching, creating canvases, paint strokes, sketching skills are some of the many techniques learned. By learning these new techniques, it has opened my eyes to the world around me. – Marisa B, student. 

Feel free to contact me.

Frank Juarez

Art Educator & Founder



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