Art — Expressions coming from within

Expressions coming from within


By Michelle Saturley


Art teacher leads inner-city kids by example


Sharon Price didn’t take the most direct route to her career as an art teacher, which is surprising, since she grew up in a family of artists.

“My mother is a painter, and my brother is an artist as well,” Price said. “I can remember as a child how my mother would set me up at the table with a set of watercolors to keep me busy while she worked.”

Though creativity was in her gene pool, Price bucked tradition and went to college for a career in law enforcement. While at the police academy, she taught a course in defensive driving.

“It was my first experience with teaching, and I liked it very much,” she said.

Price was poised for a job as a police officer when her life took a different turn.

“I fell in love, got married and became a mother,” she said. “That put a different perspective on a career in law enforcement. I started thinking about how important it was for me to come home safely each day.”

Shortly after, she started working in a local bank as an administrative assistant. She wasn’t happy with the work, but the decision to leave was taken out of her hands after a series of bank mergers that left her looking for work.

“I was at a crossroads,” she said. “I remembered how much I enjoyed teaching that class at the academy, so I decided to go back to school for teaching.”

Price enrolled at Notre Dame College and pursued a Masters Degree in teaching as well as a Bachelors Degree in art.

“Going to school the second time around was so much better for me,” she said. “I took it seriously. I was more mature, obviously, and it meant a lot more to me.”

She took a variety of art classes and soon rediscovered her love for painting that had been dormant since childhood.

“I realized that I had a passion for painting, particularly landscapes,” she said.

After graduation, she landed a job as an art teacher at Henry Wilson Elementary School, teaching kids in grades K-5.

“I’ve been here three years,” she said. “It’s been a real challenge. Wilson is an inner-city school. Many of the children here have never been exposed to art. Some don’t even have crayons at home.”

Her goal is to expose students to as many different kinds of art as possible, while helping them build basic creative skills to create their own art.

“Many of the kids, when I started with them, had very little conceptual ability,” she said. “I tell them that they need to flex their creative muscle. It’s been flabby from watching too much TV, being passive.”

Price began an intense series of experiments with the students, immersing them in art history and giving them hands-on projects using what they’d learned.

“I always try to find a hook that grabs their interest,” she said. “For instance, when we studied ancient Egyptian art, we talked about how they mummified people. When I told them that they used to remove the mummy’s brains through their noses, they were hooked. It’s stuff like that you have to use to draw them in.”

Kids at Wilson have learned about Japanese bamboo art, pop art like Andy Warhol, and impressionist art like Monet. Impressed by the work she’s seen, a fellow teacher at Wilson approached Amber Grogan, owner of Jewell and the Beanstalk, about staging an exhibit of Price’s students.

“My friend mentioned to Amber that I was a working artist as well, and Amber suggested that we do a student-teacher joint exhibit,” Price said. “It was pretty exciting for the kids and for me.”

The exhibit is now hanging on the walls at Jewell and the Beanstalk through the end of April. Along with the kids’ cut paper collages and Warhol-inspired self portraits are Price’s own seascapes and landscapes. Many of her seascapes were done in plein air while she was on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard and Kittery, Maine.

“I only recently had enough confidence in my work to start showing it,” she said. “I think this has been a good experience for the kids and for me. They see me putting my work out there, so it gives them the confidence to do it as well.”

Price plans on doing more painting now that the warm weather has returned.

“I prefer painting outdoors to working from photographs,” she said. “There’s something so relaxing about it. I tend to be a meticulous painter who gets caught up in the little details. Working outdoors forces me to loosen up, because there’s only so much time you have to work on a certain scene before the light changes. It forces me to paint more freely.”

Price thinks she’s a rather unconventional art teacher.

“I don’t fit the mold of that touchy-feely, granola type of art teacher,” she said. “I’m definitely a Type-A personality.”

Sharon Price and the students of Henry Wilson Elementary will be featured at Jewell and the Beanstalk for the rest of April. Jewell and the Beanstalk is located at 793 Somerville St.. For more information, call 624-3709.

- Michelle Saturley

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