Art21 Educators 2011-2012: Jethro Gillespie and James Rees

This week is the third installment of introductions to the new cohort of Art21 Educators, featuring each of the eight pairs of educators. Last week, we featured Jack Watson and Holly Loranger from Chapel Hill, NC. Today, we are pleased to introduce Jethro Gillespie and James Rees from Spanish Fork, Utah.  They both serve on the board of the Utah Art Education Association; James has previously served as the UAEA President.

Jethro Gillespie has been teaching for the last four years. Before joining the faculty of Maple Mountain High School, Jethro taught at a junior high school for two years.

Jethro teaches a range of 2D and 3D visual art courses, bringing aspects of his artistic practice into the classroom. He holds a BFA in Printmaking and is attending the Art Education graduate program at Brigham Young University. He learned about our program from his professor Mark Graham, who is completing his own year in the Art21 Educators program this June. Jethro has been long familiar with Art21 films and has incorporated segments from all five seasons of Art in Twenty-First Century into his teaching. He says, “[the series] is a fantastic source for secondary art teachers to be able to tap into contemporary art.”

Jethro employs a thematic-based approach to teaching and he emphasizes the importance of letting students be in charge, allowing them to generate and explore their own ideas. For Jethro, contemporary art is “an appropriate and powerful agent for 21st-century learning styles in schools . . . Teaching with contemporary art allows students to come up with meaningful, divergent solutions to problems, instead of prescribed, rote, or recipe-like exercises.”

As part of his video biography, Jethro describes an artist lecture that he recently attended and how it has inspired his own pedagogical philosophy:

Jethro elaborates in his application, “As an art teacher, I feel a great responsibility to help students find and create lasting and meaningful experiences . . .I want to get beyond ‘talking about the brushstrokes.’” He also describes his respect for his partner James’s work, noting that, “he has more years of experience teaching than I do, and I have always admired his ambition and commitment to students, and the way he effectively includes contemporary art and artists in his curriculum.”

James Rees has been teaching for twenty years and currently teaches printmaking, painting, and drawing at Provo High School, located about twenty minutes away from Maple Mountain High School. He is currently the Secondary Division Director-Elect of the National Art Education Association. James holds a BFA in Drawing and an MFA in Printmaking, and views artistic practice as the connection between his work in the studio and the classroom. He  believes that the visual arts increase his students’ “ability to experience the world in a more complex, subtle, and meaningful manner.”

As part of his application, James articulates that one of his goals is to encourage cross-curricular art projects by working with Dance, Graphics, and English teachers at his school. He explains that a motivating factor for his participation in Art21 Educators “is to find additional venues of expression for my students . . . embracing the pursuit of contemporary ideas in their work.”

As a TICA participant, James’s experiences with the artists Mark Dion and Matthew Ritchie greatly impacted and inspired his own artistic practice. As a direct result of his encounters, James now invites twelve to sixteen artists to visit his school each year.  He observes that the opportunity to meet and speak with living artists has “encouraged students to explore different perspectives and disciplines within the arts.”

James’s video biography expresses his goal to connect himself and his students to a process of being “continually engaged in learning new things.” In his application, he also describes himself as a perpetual student and researcher and explains that, “these different roles I assume continually feed into each other and motivate me to pursue new ways to work as a teacher and artist.“

We are thrilled to welcome James and Jethro to Art21 Educators!


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