TEACHER FEATURE- TOM VIRGIN
1. Tell us something about yourself: What is your creative history? Although I always made things, I did not take art in High School (a middle school teacher made me mad, for reasons that I truly can not recall). I did have a vocational photo class in the last semester of my Senior year in High School. I wanted to take art in college but was told by my family, "you will never make any money." 2. What inspired you to become an art educator? How long have you been teaching? After my parents' "no," post high school, I went to Michigan State for two years, studied Journalism, Advertising and William Faulkner... and dropped out. I moved to Colorado for a year with my girlfriend, her sister and her sister's boyfriend. I took a couple of photo and commercial art classes. Eventually I landed in Florida, and started taking art classes at FAU. I only took art classes, one or two at a time, while I worked as a landscaper/grass cutter. Seventeen years after I started college, I graduated with a BFA in painting and printmaking, with a wife and three kids in the audience. My mom and my (now) ex wife told me, "you should be an art teacher." I took their advice (along with two more years of classes for teacher certification). Post divorce, I moved to Miami to attend UM, and earned an MFA in Printmaking. I have been teaching since '92- kindergarten through college. 3. What is your favorite medium to work in and why? Prints, books and public art are my favorites. I made my first print in 1972, while I waited for my girlfriend to do a print for her college class. I have been hooked ever since. The books are a great way to tie the stories that go with the prints together, and the public art makes the stories grow with shared experiences of a larger audience. All of it allows me to keep one, sell one, and give one away. 4. What is your proudest teaching moment? Teaching my oldest son to tie his first necktie over the phone with mirrors in front of each of us, before you tube and cellphones. He looked great, and the grin on his face in the picture he sent me was priceless. Not a day goes by that I am not grateful for a chance to learn from all these other folks' children. Having 6,000 kids has made me a better person. I do best when I remember that teaching is also learning for me. 5. If you could have lunch with any artist in the world (living or not) who would it be and why? Brian Reedy, because before he was a famous artist we had time to hang out. I figure during lunch, I could watch him cut two or three prints and I could learn something. We would invite all the art teachers too. I like parties with my tribe. 6. What are your personal and professional art dreams for the future? In 2015-2016 I received a Knight Arts Challenge Grant and a Cannonball Miami Wavemaker Grant to establish Extra Virgin Press. I will be teaching and printing letterpress printing here in Miami. Extra Virgin Press will teach book arts, binding, printmaking, professional development, and letterpress printing. I work all day and dream all night. I look forward to the opportunity to work with my friends and colleagues. That would be a dream come true.