One of the most amazing parts of our Shared Walls program has proven to be the relationships with the leaders of the communities we serve. From art education, to professional works in schools, to the communities we serve, the positive vibes are endless. There’s really no better feeling than going into a school, park, library, or community center, and getting to know and serve the people that make our neighborhoods the vibrant places we know them to be.
Working with Ross Roadruck, the Art Teacher at Northwest Middle School was precisely one of those experiences. He got in touch, we worked with the administration directly, and every step of the way was fulfilling and fun.
That said, it’s also been made clear to us through this work that our loaned art program is filling a void.
These buildings are often drab and can certainly use the color, design, and energy. It’s also true that amazing teachers like Ross have less and less resources every year to provide quality art education experiences like the Shared Walls program for their students.
That’s why we’re proud to help out, and see plenty of room to build more relationships with educators like Ross Roadruck. We can’t thank him enough for being such a pillar of the community, and we thought, what better way to illustrate the process of Shared Walls than talking to Ross himself.
Ahead, we dive into how Shared Walls works from start to finish, and why it’s so needed & appreciated. Read on!
Evan La Ruffa: What were a few moments where art opened your mind as a kid?
Ross Roadruck: Growing up, I was definitely a builder and a maker but didn’t really consider it art-making. My Dad was always coming up with ideas for inventions and was definitely a creative problem-solver. He always helped me figure out ways to make elaborate projects for school and I think that instilled a sense of creativity that influenced my approach toward a career in the arts.
I was fortunate enough to attend a High School that offered an AP Studio Art course and that totally changed my life’s trajectory.
During my Senior year, I spent almost my entire day in the art rooms. That whole year totally changed my mind about what I wanted to do in the world.
It was a “lightbulb” moment for me. I was learning about and making as much art as possible and couldn’t get enough of it. All of my art teachers in High School were great, but in particular, Mr. Vesper, made a huge impact on me.
How long have you been an Art Teacher in CPS at Northwest Middle School?
This is my third year at Northwest Middle and in CPS it’s my 6th year overall. Prior to working in CPS I taught for 3 years in Bloomington, IL.
What was the process of working with our Shared Walls program like?
Working with Shared Walls has been nothing but fantastic! I am an Arts Liaison and Lead Arts Liaison for Network 3 schools and heard about the program through Evan Plummer, the Director of the CPS Department of Arts Education.
I contacted Shared Walls through the IPMM website and heard back right away! After a couple emails back and forth, we set up a site visit to look at spaces in our building to display the work.
The school year ended and IPaintMyMind sent some images of the work they selected for our school over the summer. He and a few IPMM interns came to our school in early August and installed the work so it would be ready for the start of the school year… amazing! The installation process took about an hour and looks great!
How have you been able to apply the exhibition we installed in your hallway to the art education in your classes?
So far this year, I have been able to take each of my classes on a “gallery walk” of the work displayed in our building. We are lucky enough to be hosting 16 prints by screenprinter Jay Ryan. His work is super “kid-friendly” and definitely provokes a lot of wonder and curiosity. All of the prints on display have some kind of anthropomorphic animal doing something kind of funny or strange – which is great for student imagination! In our gallery walk, I have had students write a brief story about what they think is happening in the piece and use evidence from the work to support it. This is obviously a great way for me to integrate English Language Arts Common Core State Standards, and helps me advocate for the arts in my building and with Administration.
Also, because I will see students during several rotations throughout the year, I am hoping to come back to the gallery throughout the year and have students build on their story to develop their own works of art inspired by Jay Ryan’s prints. I am in the process of buying some screens and hope to have students create some of their own screen printed works of art.
I like to introduce students to relief printmaking, but having the Shared Walls artwork in our building has inspired me to expand to a new technique. I’m hoping to have students screenprint some of their own imagery and show them how prevalent screenprinting is in our society and inspire them with the process.
I’m also planning to host a family night and/or community event where the work is on display and families can experience the process of screenprinting too.
What do you see as the value of the IPMM Shared Walls program as a community partner?
First and foremost, it’s an amazing opportunity for students to see quality works of art by established Chicago-based artists in person! The neighborhood my school is located in doesn’t have any significant arts institutions in the area and most students in my building have never been to a gallery, and only a few have been to art museums more than once or twice. This allows students to experience quality artwork on a daily basis in their own community!
The other huge thing for me is that they are seeing the work of someone who is alive and still working in Chicago! So often, students have this conception that art is “old” and made somewhere else. There is such a broad range of high-quality work being made in Chicago and I’m hoping to make that more tangible to students – the IPMM Shared Walls program definitely does that!
We’re so glad you had such an awesome experience! Anything else to offer about your experience working with IPaintMyMind?
Evan, and everyone at IPMM has been amazing! This is such an fantastic service and program that they offering to the city of Chicago… and its free for schools!
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