Maggie Jo Feldman is in her 7th year at The Hamlin School. She is the force behind a plethora of beautiful artwork that regularly adorns Stanwood throughout the year.
1) Tell us about your approach to teaching middle school art.
I believe that everyone can be an artist if they want to. I like to introduce a project/artist and have a discussion with students, getting them to explore an artist or technique so they can discover what is important about the work. I also like to remind students that just because an artist is famous and in a museum, doesn’t mean you have to like them. My classroom is built around the model of an art studio, there is a lot time for students to work individually and get into their work. So much of their day is about collaboration, it is nice for them to work solo and get to focus inward. I want my classroom to not only reflect the traditional studio environment, but also to be a different place than an academic classroom.
2) What do you enjoy most about working with young artists at Hamlin?
Hamlin students are pretty amazing in that they are really passionate about many things. They are so eager and excited to take on new challenges, especially if those challenges involve being creative and expressive. They come up with the most interesting things. As a teacher, it is most satisfying to see girls complete a project that they initially thought was out of reach. I love seeing that surprise and happiness of completion.
3) Tell us about your own artwork, we’ve heard it has received recent accolades.
For the last 3 years I have been working extremely hard on developing work around the refugee crisis, and gun violence, while also looking into the language of the Constitution. I taught myself to sew and developed a style using free-motion embroidery. It has been exciting for me (after all these years of making art), to be acknowledged with exhibitions and awards for my work. This year I was awarded several awards. The one I’m most proud of was the honor for excellence in stitchery from the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh. My work has recently been shown in Rhode Island, Ohio, Virginia, San Rafael, Los Angeles, and is currently in an exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Quilt and Design. I also have a piece that is slated to be in an exhibition at the Fort Collins Museum of Art in 2020. Thanks for letting me brag. I guess I’m pretty excited about it all!
4) Who are your artistic influences?
I really love conceptual art and look to the work of Ai Weiwei, Yoko Ono, Joseph Beuys, Richard Long, and Glenn Ligon. When I was painting, I looked to Bay Area figurative artists such as Wayne Thibeaux and Richard Debunker. These artists have influenced me over the years, but if you look at my work, I’m not sure you would see the influences.
5) What is one piece of advice that you can give a beginning artist?
Don’t compare yourself to others. Keep working. Keep looking. Keep being critical. Don’t forget to look at the world around you, it is totally inspiring. Draw from your own experience. There are many different styles, making things look realistic is not the only way. Carry a sketchbook. Remember that learning to make art is much like learning anything. It takes practice, patience and some passion.