Random, Awkward and AWESOME with Artist Resident Norola Morgan: Teaching
Norola Morgan is a mixed-media artist, performer, and teaching artist living in Houston, Texas. This is her second installment in a 4-part series as Artist Strong’s Artist in Residence. You can enjoy more of her art and random musings over on Instagram: @studio.moonyoonits. She is excited to be re-opening her online shop, but it is not yet live. Home | MoonYoonits Studios (square.site) will be live in a few days so that you can get your fix of handcrafted wit, whimsy and weirdness!
So, first and foremost, the online shop did NOT go live on July 5th. Despite my best efforts, I wasn’t as far ahead in preparation as I had hoped. I have some finishing touches to add, and I don’t want to put out anything that isn’t where I wanted it to be. Stay tuned! I’ll keep everyone updated about when the shop goes LIVE for real. It’s gonna be GOOD. Here’s a sneak peek:
Ok, this week’s post is gonna be all about teaching. Honestly, this surprises the heck out of me, cuz I never envisioned that this would be a role that I would ever play as an artist. We’ve all heard of this quote: “Those who can, do, those who can’t, teach.” Which is such a ridiculous statement. I mean, in order to be able to teach a thing, you have to be able to do it, right?
And it’s funny, too, because a question that I got all through my college career was: “Oh, so you’re gonna teach, right?” That question was second only to: “So… what are you gonna DO with an art degree?”
I shuddered at the thought of being an art teacher, mostly cuz I was young and was still figuring out what I was doing as an artist. How could I possibly teach what I wasn’t even sure of? Also, my idea of teaching art involved me trying to corral a classroom of rowdy/disinterested kids and attempting to instill art foundations and inspire creativity, and that seemed like the path to frustration and madness, with very little energy left over for my personal art practice.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for the teaching profession. I used to say to my co-workers on my former job: like preaching, teaching is a calling, and everybody ain’t able. I certainly didn’t think I was.
Turns out I did do some teaching after I graduated from college. I worked as a face painter at various Houston area amusement parks, and I was so good that I was tapped to train newbie face painters. I facilitated art activities with elementary school and middle school aged kids after school. I was a reading tutor for a time.
And, for 17 years on my library job, I was always showing people how to do things: training new staff on library procedures, answering patron questions regarding the use of technology, leading a team to create large scale art installations, and offering weekly craft sessions and story times. Despite all this, I STILL didn’t see myself as a teacher.
But other people DID. More importantly, they saw me as a teaching artist. Almost as soon as I stepped away from my library job, opportunities to teach were presented to me. Which was great, cuz I needed to hit the ground running making money! I was nervous, but I was open to try.
I’ve been blessed that various art institutions and community organizations have been willing to chance that I could convey my art and craft expertise to other people.
Turns out that I can.
Turns out that all my many jobs had prepared me for this.
Turns out that I am GOOD at it, and that I enjoy it.
And that people enjoy learning from me. I feel that is because I strive to cultivate a safe and fun container to learn, explore, and create within. I don’t want people to be intimidated by the materials or concepts. I’m here as a guide, and it’s my intention to share skills and build student confidence so that they are willing to explore materials and play with the skills they’ve just learned.
So far, I’ve taught people how to make dolls, sock critters, origami ornaments, simple quilt blocks. After each class, each student has left with new skills, a piece of art they made, and the desire to make more. I can’t wait to see what students create in the puppet making and mask making classes I’ll be offering in the fall.
I teach the way I do because I was blessed with both good and bad art teachers. One of the best was my jr, high school art teacher Ms. May. She was an artist and an excellent teacher. She was passionate about art and did such a great job of supporting each of her students’ unique and individual talents. She was extraordinarily kind and compassionate, yet firm, and was able to keep order even when troublemakers were dumped in her class.
Some of the worst were college art professors. Some were vague to the point of uselessness, and others were unnecessarily pretentious and cruel. Critiques could be brutal. I personally did not find it to be an environment that supported creative thriving. Maybe others did. Sometimes I wonder how many of the artists in my block continued to make art after they graduated. I don’t ever want to be the reason that someone got so discouraged that they gave up on art making altogether. Never that.
I’m excited to see where my teaching adventures take me! It might even be to a classroom near you! Or, even from the comfort of your home via virtual classes.
Stay tuned! See ya next week!
Artists show up in our Artist Strong community to share their artistic process, journey, explorations with us over the course of a month.
The goal is to normalize the MANY, VARIED experiences of being an artist.
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