Interview with Art-Ed Hero Holt Brasher

Where do you teach and what grades do you teach? How long have you been teaching art?
I teach at Arkansas Northeastern College in Blytheville, Arkansas. I don’t have grades, I mostly focus on courses that 1st and 2nd-year college students need for transferring to the University level so they can be ahead of other students in classes and creatively when they make it to their new home. I am very lucky though, as the college has let me create higher-level courses for students that stay in the community or stick around. I have been teaching art since 2014, and full-time since 2016. I’ve learned quite a lot in these past few years, to say the least!

What is your favorite lesson or concept to teach?
I would say Printmaking I/II. I love Printmaking, it’s my passion in my art and my art career. It’s been that way since day one, and I continue to try and share that passion with anyone who takes the course. When I have a group of committed students like I do now, it all comes naturally. It’s not so much a lesson or a concept, but it is my favorite medium/course to teach.

What has you underwater right now?
That’s a rough one and a tough one to answer without stepping on toes at times. In terms of the arts and higher ed, I wish there were more students and funding state-wide and nation-wide instead of the assessment and success rate pipeline. I also wish teachers and professors were paid what they deserved. Community college instructors teach 5 classes or more a semester. That’s tough to do honestly. In terms of my art, always trying to find the balance of happiness, sleep, work, and creating art. Tough at times, but I’m very thankful for what I have that’s for sure!

What is saving your life in the classroom right now?
Students who are committed, care and want to work. I don’t care if it’s a lecture class or a studio art class, when a student is giving me feedback, working, and we are having a conversation then I know I’m doing well and they care. If it’s just 15 kids all napping and on their cellphones, I tend to lose my mind. Folks, get some sleep and stay offline in class and I promise you’ll feel waaaay better in your life and be much more fulfilled. The workers make my life easier and make me happy to come to class and help them succeed.

What is your favorite memory (or memory you cherish) of seeing a student you taught who is older and no longer in your school?
I see many honestly, and I don’t have a single one that stands out more. I see former students in Memphis and Arkansas having amazing installations and exhibitions, leaving an area and allowing themselves to be who they truly are, following their happiness, following their heart in music and art, and when they say I had a part in that….that means the world to me. I can’t express how many times I’ve been brought to tears by the kind words they say when I read evaluations or things they’ve written online. I’m a hardass, I push them to their limits, it’s all because I want them to be the best artist they can be (yes even better than myself) and they hopefully know they are by the time they leave. It makes it all worth it to hear it. I appreciate every one of them that says so. They’re my art babies. I love them.

Who is your favorite artist to teach kids about?
I have a few, most of these are from Art Appreciation because students will actually speak on them. You show them a Van Gogh, they nod and fall asleep…but these? We conversate.
Dread Scott, Hank Willis Thomas, Kerry James Marshall, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Pepon Osorio, Kathe Kollwitz, Otto Dix, Guerilla Girls, James Luna, etc.

What does your studio practice outside of the classroom look like and how does it make its way into your classroom?
In pandemonium….chaotic….loud….angry….detailed. I suppose former students would say the same thing about my classes.
I try to teach students to detail their sketches, form their ideas, speak with others, then buckle down and try to perfect their crafts. Always be thinking, drawing, etc. So I suppose I drive them as nuts as I do myself.

How often do you let people borrow your glue guns (or art supplies)?
I order supplies for the students every Spring end usually. So I make sure we have enough inks, pencils, paper, etc. You name it, I usually have it for you already when you walk in the door, this is a huge positive about the CC I work at!

Now, my personal supplies? Only if needed, like a saw, or a scraper. I rarely, if at all, let students borrow my personal supplies, but this is because most are expensive and handcrafted. I am also OCD and was an only child. I’m awful, but this is why I make sure to order them the best supplies possible. I never touch their supplies except to do a demo and I try to use the least amount and my own tools.

Also, a lot of my students are at or below the poverty line. I want them to have good portfolios, sketchbooks, pencils, crayons, etc. so they can take that to the University. Also, if it’s not mine, they can be a lot less dear with it.

How often do you collaborate across disciplines and what is a collaboration you are excited about right now?
Rarely. I rarely get asked to collaborate with anyone. I am about to paint a “planter” on Blytheville’s main street this week (Pink, Baby Blue, Black, and Violet? Gorgeous!) so I suppose you could count that. I gladly will edition anyone’s prints though! Sadly though, not much else to report. Maybe this will guilt my friends into collaborating? Ha!

What would you tell a 19-year old who is thinking of becoming an artist or art educator?
If you’re doing it because you love it, then keep doing it. You’re going to lose friends, miss out on fun things, never get to take vacations, have many failed relationships, have angry family members, and none of them will understand because an art major to them is as easy as Bob Ross. They will judge you because they did 15 hours of memorizing tests and 12 hours of art and math will kill you. If you can deal with that you’ll make best friends forever with eccentrics and weirdos and artists and poets and musicians and have great adventures. These people will be loyal forever. You will love every good moment, but the bad moments are tough. You will need to stay determined and work your buns off nonstop. Apply nonstop. Work nonstop. Then, with the will of everything and your hard work, get a good job.

Heck, if it can happen to me, it can for you too.

And if not? Blaze your own path. You can do it.

Who was your art-ed hero growing up?
If you mean elementary and high school years, then none. I didn’t have art at my backward north Louisiana school in Elementary and High School was just as bad. My Uncle would have been the closest to an artistic role model growing up. He always showed me comics, art, weird movies, and he always encouraged me to be myself. I loved him with every ounce of my soul, and I miss him every single day. It’s why I always encourage my friends and students to be the best possible they can be. He was the best ever, and the most encouraging person on the planet. I mean, who else buys a 16-year-old the “Kenneth Anger” collection? So rad!

 

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