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Teacher Feature-Susan Feliciano

1. Tell us something about yourself: What is your creative history?

My creative history begins with travel and ends with art. These are my two greatest passions intertwined like branches on a tree.

Summer 2014, I embarked on an Artist Residency aboard the Riviera and travelled along the Mediterranean Sea and stopped to visit 14 European countries. For the next 60 days I documented the sky, the sea, and the land, creating a photo journal of over 2,000 images. That body of work is made up of the natural and built environments of Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Malta, and Turkey. Photographs from that series were accepted in 9Topics and exhibited in both Girls Club, Fort Lauderdale and Arthill Gallery in London.

Recently, I received The Ellies, a teacher travel grant from Oolite Arts. This summer I plan to travel across the United States to New Mexico, New York, and Washington, DC to research the following visual artists, Ana Mendieta, Kara Walker, Helen Frankenthaler, Faith Ringgold, and Georgia O’Keeffe. I will apply the knowledge gained to develop an art-curricula for K-12 students which explores the life and work of those five American women artists and their impact on art history.

2. What inspired you to become an art educator?

I wouldn’t say what inspired me to become an art educator but who. My teachers and mentors have shaped and inspired me to be an artist and to share my practice through teaching. Professor Juan Martinez made a deep and lasting impression, he leads by example. I remember arriving to Martinez’s class early to get a seat in the front row. He lectured nonstop for an hour passionately narrating the works and lives of contemporary artists. His knowledge was vast and came from research and study as well as his relationships with the artists. He spoke from first-hand experience interviewing artists and visiting their studios.

3. How long have you been teaching?

Twenty-four years of teaching experience in art and museum education beginning with the Museum of Contemporary Art, followed by Oolite Arts, Coral Gables Museum, Miami Dade County Public Schools, and most recently Florida International University.

4. What is your favorite medium to work in and why?

My all-time favorite medium is paint. I love the consistency of it. It is creamy, juicy, fluid. Oh, and the colors. It comes in so many tints, shades, and hues. I love making new colors – mixing, blending, and combining. The number of possibilities is endless. I have hundreds of containers and gallon buckets on shelves in a storage unit.

5. What is your proudest teaching moment?

My favorite story to tell is about the kite festival sponsored by the Miami Herald. My students were reading about the history of kites and learning how they were paper wishes carried up to the sky. They dived right into making their own paper wishes made of newspaper colored with bright wide markers in yellow, red, pink, orange, and blue. The media specialist insisted on laminating all 30 kites. On the day of our fieldtrip every student loaded the bus with their rolled-up paper kite under their arm. However, they disembarked empty handed. I quickly ran back to the school bus and pulled all thirty kites from under their seats, one after the other. I then asked them why they left them behind. They looked down and stated that their kites weren’t good enough. We arrived in the sign-in area and were told that we were too late to register as single contestants. Seeing our disappointed faces, we were encouraged to go to the school sign up instead. Within minutes our school was called up, and the entire class launched their brightly colored and laminated kites! The sky was filled with flying designs that zipped, darted, fluttered, dived, and flew higher and higher. Afterwards, we waited to hear the winning schools. They called Frederick Douglass Elementary School. We had won, receiving BEST School Kite, and even beat out both middle schools and high schools! On the bus ride back, I told them to never give up. You just might be the next winner!

6. If you could have lunch with any artist in the world (living or not) who would it be and why?

The artist I would choose to have lunch with is JMW Turner. I would ask him to go on a picnic outside and paint en plein air. I love his atmospheric landscape paintings the best. They encompass an expressive quality that is both dramatic and sublime. His colors are luminous as if they glow from within.

7. What are your personal and professional art dreams for the future?

This is my list of top ten art dreams for the future…

1. Open my studio, Inkimaru Studio where I can go paint, draw, photograph every day

2. Grow my business, Broken Crayons Design to design crayons for people with special needs

3. Travel to Asia and document the ceremonies and rituals through photo journals

4. Learn about color, natural pigments and dyes, and minerals

5. Apply to the Rome Academy of Art and spend a year in Italy

6. Go to backpacking through Europe and paint en plein air

7. Publish photo journals in a small book format

8. Get gallery representation and exhibitions

9. Have artwork in the collections of major museums

10. Speak about turning my passion to purpose on TED talk

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