A conversation with Ashley River Creative Arts Elementary School Art Teacher Olivia Bergan

Describe your art:
Clay. I had a concentration in ceramics in college. Teapots were my favorite.

Indispensable tool:
Potter’s Wheel. I wish I had a kiln.

Finest of all the colors:

Art crush:
Andy Goldsworthy. And I would like to travel just to look at art for example, to see all the work of Isamu Noguchi.

Were you an artsy kid?
I come from a family of artists and dancers. Creativity was encouraged and pushed. I love materials and messy things. I painted on the underside of the family dining table. It is still there. My mother was an artist. Our styles are very different. My father was an English teacher and helped me when I was writing artist statements.

How do you facilitate art for your child?
He can explore and create. We gather sticks and rocks. We wash them then paint them. We go to the beach and bring back shells. He has egg cartons and paper rolls ready to get his hands on.

What makes your teaching unique?
Allowing the students choices. During part of the year I set up 12 different stations. There is still a curriculum but they can choose how they will connect to it. They can choose how to express their idea.

Describe a bad day:
Trying to break the perfectionist mindset. Art isn’t like math or science. There isn’t one right answer. It is tough to get them to get past that.

A good day:
When students realize that they mastered something that they have been working towards. They are excited and want to share with the class and their teachers. And it happens all the time.

How are you beautiful?
I have always loved listening to family stories, hearing about where people come from. I am deeply interested in people from around the world.

Why does art matter?
I ask the students this at the beginning of every year. Why do we have art and make art?  Art helps connect to other subjects especially history and helps to relate to other people, the world, and to feelings. Good day or bad day, it helps to make art.

Susan Irish is the founder and owner of Fabulon – Center for Art and Education.  Each month she interviews a different local artist.

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