Though Christina Wilson may have only taught at APU for a year, her connection to the school extends much further back. In 2010, Wilson started in the IT department as the Academic Support Leader, while simultaneously working towards her Master of Science in Counseling Psychology. So how did she go from taking student ID pictures to teaching APU students (and others around Alaska) how to feel comfortable in their own creativity? Read on.
How to do you teach students who vary widely in their artistic skill set and experience? How do you modify your teaching style to accommodate everyone?
We have a beginner and advanced course tied into one here, where the beginnner students learn right along side the advanced students, often learning from eachother. I modify my teaching so that the advanced students lead critiques and have a more rigorous assignment schedule — they are great role models for the beginner students.
What mediums to do you cover in your classes at APU? How long have you been teaching here? Have you done art shows each year?
In Studio Arts here at APU we cover drawing in ink and graphite, we draw still life and the human figure. We learn watercolor, oil, and acrylic painting. In painting we cover landscape, abstract expressionism and portraiture. No experience is needed to take this class! I’ve been teaching at APU for a year now. We did a Fall student art show last semester, it was a hit, such engaging conversations between the students and viewers, moving some people to tears… it is a very inspirational time.
How is the art show curated? What is expected of students for the show?
Each student will turn in 3-4 of their best pieces in the class, though they are also welcome to create pieces outside of class and display them at the show. My style of art comes from the idea that everyone is an artist and no pieces are excluded from the show — each piece brings their own unique quality and conversation piece to the table.
What do you hope students take away from your class?
I hope my students know they are artists, no matter what skill level. I hope they find their own unique style, but also push the limits in their comfortability. We have assignments that have students share their perceptions on social justice, personal expression, and politics; these are ideas that are essential in a college atmosphere.
What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a teacher here?
To encourage students to think outside the box with art, that is the only way they will be proud in their own creative and unique style.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of teaching at APU?
I’m not going to lie, I get nervous before every class I teach. I wonder if I will teach the material correctly, if the students will learn, and if they will grow in their art. After every class, as I drive home, I have an overwhelming gratitude from what I learn from my students and what they share with each other in the art they create, so I can’t wait to see what they’ve produced next week. There is no wrong way to produce art. And everyone brings their passion and perspectives to critiques each week. I encourage students to make mistakes, try new things, and have fun!
What are some of your favorite aspects of teaching at APU?
We are a small campus, yes? Each week I lug dozens of pounds of art to and from the art space (a shared, multi-purpose space), it is exhausting, but it is also a workout (so I don’t have to go to the gym!) My students always help me with the art supplies, they always clean up and respect the space, I really enjoy this aspect of teaching.
Also, the first time I told the students that we would be drawing a human model I could see them squirm and wiggle uncomfortably in their chairs, I had to add, “Don’t worry, they will be clothed!”
You also teach in the Anchorage community, right? Where do you all teach and how does that differ from teaching at APU?
I teach private and public art lessons at my home. I also teach monthly at the Anchorage Museum, which I love. This year I was fortunate to fly up to one of the northern most points in Alaska, Nuiqsut, to teach at the village school through the ConocoPhillips Village Outreach Program. I loved working with the students, adults and teachers to inform them on artistic techniques and show them how art can be rewarding, relaxing, and stress relieving. Unfortunately art is not embedded in their curriculum so this was a real treat for them to create with unlimited possibilities! In September of this year I will be spending a one month residency awarded for instructors of Art in Higher Education through the Icelandic nonprofit, Norðanbál, on a small island off the north coast of Iceland. Residencies for artists are sort of like sabbaticals, it allows uninterrupted time to create a new body of work. I will be creating a new body of work for an exhibit in 2019 in Homer that involves abstraction and light. I’m excited because my husband, son and I get to stay in a big old school house they’ve turned into a studio, the village has a population 200 and they only have tractors as transportation on the island, a real adventure!
How did you get started in art?
I love this question. I was an Art History major at the University of Minnesota and we were required to take Studio Art classes, to actually make art instead of study it. I was petrified to create art. I wasn’t an artist, I just wanted to study the masters who created it! This serendipitous path led me to love Painting I and Painting II, enjoying oil painting the most. After college I taught art in West Africa in the United States Peace Corps and created many murals on HIV/AIDS prevention as well as geographic maps and models for schools. I loved teaching the students in the native language of Bambara, everything just kind of worked out from there.
Where do you hope to go from here? What are your artistic goals?
I have had a group show in New York City this past year, my goals in 2018-2019 are to have my first solo show in New York City, as well as my first International Art Show in London or Paris — a dream of many artists.