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Reta Rickmers (January)Rickmers
Hello to all, my name is Reta Rickmers. I’m in my 27th year teaching high school art. My path to becoming an art teacher did not run straight. I tried many jobs from waitressing, working on the highway as a flag girl, to the U.S. Forestry Service in timber management, to installing street signs for the City of Austin, Texas. Art, however, is the thread that has always run through my life. In 1985 as a single mother of two young boys, I enrolled in California State University, Chico to obtain my BA in Art and a teaching credential. I began teaching in 1990. I teach at Pleasant Valley High School (PVHS) in Chico, California and also serve as the Visual and Performing Arts Department Chair. PVHS is a school of about 1,800 in town of about 100,000 when the college students are here. I am eternally grateful that I found my niche in life as a high school art teacher. I love working with teens. I learn from them constantly and they help keep me young. I am also a working artist focusing on acrylic paintings. Click "Go" to read full bio.

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« It’s Youth Art Month! | Main | Visual Culture - Part 2 »

March 04, 2013

Visual Culture

The second path I want to journey down is my passion for Visual Culture and how that ties into our classrooms.

Let’s kick off with a little about my passion for Visual Culture. It was probably always lurking in the background, but it came to light with beginning to pin down a topic for my MA thesis at the University of Northern Iowa in 2008. Christopher Schulte* was there pushing me to dig deep into what drove me, to find a passion for a topic. I shared a story with him about a recent article I had read titled “50 Works of Art You Should See Before You Die” and a television commercial I had seen while watching football with my family of boys. The middle of the commercial for Sprint® featuring Peyton Manning (then quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts) flashed a few second likeness to M. C. Escher’s “Relativity.” I immediately caught the likeness, but no one else did. With the wonders of DVR, I backed the commercial up and asked my three boys (husband and two sons, ages 14 and 8 at the time) if they recognized any likeness of a work of art in the commercial. They didn’t. I grabbed the laptop and pulled up Escher’s work and they could then recognize the likeness. (Go ahead, search youtube for the “Manning’s Mind” commercial. You know you want to.)

This made me wonder if I was teaching my students to recognize the subtleties in today’s world where famous works of art were being infused all around us. The moment clicked. I had found my passion … Visual Culture.

*Now Dr. Christopher Schulte is an Assistant Professor at Lamar Dodd School of Art, University of Georgia after receiving his doctorate at Penn State University. Dr. Schulte is also a 2013 Elliot Eisner Doctoral Research Award in Art Education Runner-Up.

—Ronda Sternhagen   

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