I am an artist and a teacher. Teaching art, to me, is like breathing. The best humankind has to offer is a product of the creative spirit. When we nurture creativity in children, we are setting the tone for the future. We are giving them tools to excel in all arenas including math, science, social studies, and of course art. A creative thinker is able to see all facets of the crystal and is able to solve problems with a variety of solutions and become more tolerant of new ideas. Art education will always be necessary; because, even if it is not a career choice, they will always have an appreciation for the aesthetic and the expansion of thinking skills. It will provide a restorative outlet in recreational time. In addition- how joyful!
Mike Means - computer graphics
I grew up in Fayetteville, where I did my first rendering of Snoopy on my bedroom wall. Since then I have worked in many other mediums; graphite, color pencil, pastel, as well as the computer. Drawing will always be my first love. While serving in the U.S. Navy in Japan, the Philippines and Hawaii, I worked as a Graphic Artist. Since leaving the service, I have worked in the graphics shop at International Paper, done advertising and catalogue layout for several local companies as well as free-lance work for many groups in the South Arkansas. I love working with the computer to create art and sharing the knowledge that I have gathered over the years. There is a wow factor when you show students what computer programs can do. Painting using Photoshop and other computer programs is just as fun and rewarding as pencils and oil paints. Most people just need help getting started, and that is where I hope to help children and adults alike. I wanted to break from the traditional graphics classes and show just what you can do on the computer from an artist's point of view. Making the computer work for you as an artist is my goal.
Kelly Phelps - fine art
Although I grew up in Norphlet, I was born in Rankin, Texas, and lived for a brief time in Abbeville, Louisiana. I have lived in Union County since I was 5 years old. Thanks to my parents, I have traveled all over the United States. I have always had a passion for art and for language. For me, words and art are reflections of each other, each inspiring the creation of the other. In the same way, I feel that my students and I inspire each other every time we embark on a creative journey which often arrives at unexpected, delightful destinations.
Darrin Riley - theatre
I am a native of California who moved here in 1976. When I was young, I believed that music and acting were the only ways for me to communicate as a shy, dyslexic kid. I learned material by putting it to song. When I was very young, I started working with the Arkansas Children's Theater in Little Rock. After being in my first play, "Tom Sawyer," I knew that music and the stage were the only things I wanted to do. I continued participating wherever whenever I could. I was artistic designer and Potiphar in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" this summer. I believe if you can transfer material into something, you love or are interested in then you can learn it. If you can sing it or act it out then the lesson becomes easier and sinks in. If you do not understand the material, add a beat. Act out the history lesson. Theater opens children to understanding themselves and others. Theater is the study of life. Theater allows children to step out of themselves and create a character that is separate from them. Through that character, the child's confidence is bolstered. Besides, there is nothing wrong with a little applause.
Lisa Burton Tarver - photography
I am a native of El Dorado. My love of photography began with memories of the black and white images taken by my father. I asked many questions, but I learned photography through trial and error. I have found that photography has awakened the artist in me. I am the Photographer in Residence at the SAAC where I photograph events and people. I enjoy sharing what I have learned through my 22 years of experience. I specialize in black and white photography, dark room techniques, copycat Polaroid system and digital photography. I have also worked with holgaroid and Polaroid manipulations. I enjoy sharing what I have learned through my 22 years of experience. My approach to photography in a classroom setting is to introduce students to the fascinating and powerful world of photography. Students are exposed to the possibility that they can have the ability to create art using the camera as brush and the film as canvas. Children are amazing because their minds are like little sponges to absorb, learn and have fun. By being exposed to photography, they can learn to express themselves in a positive way.
Jorge Villegas - fine art
I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I like my art to connect to the universe, to the most elevated emotions, to express and make contact. Art tells us it is ok to search for what we feel and helps us recognize ourselves. I like to work with mixed media, color pencils, graphite, oils, acrylics or any medium that will render the expression. Teaching art gives me the opportunity to develop "individuals" as human beings with an appreciation for the greatness. Visual arts are learned in the making, which means the child has to do it him/herself to discover who he or she is in their own way. I like to see students' faces in the moment of discovery. I like to bring in good music, art history, and literature to bring attention to human excellence. I like to help them learn to think and make aesthetic choices and develop common sense. The expression of our individuality empowers us, because we have the right and the potential to shape our environment and community. The development and respect of children's personalities is very important. We are lucky to have a place where our kids are encouraged to reflect on their experiences and discoveries and search for their own talents. Development of their uniqueness validates and enriches them and us.
Maria Villegas - fine art
I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I have been an artist since I remember. First, I discovered dance and later painting and drawing. One of my cousins was a professional artist and was my mentor. He encouraged me to sketch my surroundings and nature. In 1991, I came to El Dorado and began working as an artist and art educator. I like painting, drawing, sculpting models and recently acrylics. I teach because I like to communicate what I know. I also teach, because it is like magic. I give and receive at the same time. Students' responses to my classes inspire me to create new projects. In my teaching, I help the student appreciate life and the world around them. I enjoy helping them through the process of discovering and experimentation. Our world is full of traditions and art, so the more we learn about them the better. To do this, I often add music, movement and some Spanish language. Art regenerates the individual who becomes involved in it. Through making art, children learn about themselves, to trust in their own experience, and see their product as a source of pride.
Karen Watkins - voice & piano
SAAC is pleased to announce the addition of Karen Watkins to the teaching staff! Many people may recognize her as the "lady behind the piano" in the orchestra during the performances of "Willy Wonka" last month or as Lily McBain from the 2008 holiday production "Swingtime Canteen." She will also teach private piano and voice lessons for beginning and intermediate students. Watkins received a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from Arizona State University. She spent 10 years teaching grades K-12 in the public school system. She also taught in musical theatre summer camps in the Phoenix area ad in north Texas. Most recently, she was the vocal director for the performing arts camp "Wonka, Jr." here at SAAC. Watkins said, "As early as I can remember, I loved to sing. Also, as I learned to play the piano at an early age, I realized the joy that could result from the ability to accompany myself as I sang." Her musical theatre experience began at age 16. She has performed onstage, acting and singing in shows such as "The Pirates of Penzance" and "Oklahoma." Watkins says, "I'm looking forward to sharing my love of music with children in my classes this fall, and also to teaching private piano and voice lessons to children and adults."