Ginger Huebner is an artist, a mother of two young children, and the
founder and director of Asheville's new Roots + Wings School of Art.
Note: Readers will have a chance to win a children's book about one of her favorite artists at the end of the interview.
JEAN: First, can you tell us a bit about your background?
GINGER: I got a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture in 1998, but began to see that my heart was leaning more toward art and art education. I returned to college for a Masters in Teaching Visual Art in 2000 and was pretty much determined at that point to make my own artwork pursuits work hand in hand with some type of art education career. I didn't know what that really meant, except to try to teach wherever I could and with any and all ages. I became the art teacher at one of Seattle’s alternative public elementary schools. I also taught at a variety of art centers (kids and adults), organized my own collage workshops, and started an after school program for elementary kids. I just really have a passion for helping folks find and use their creative voice – no matter the age!
JEAN: What prompted you to start an art school?
GINGER: We moved to Asheville 3 years ago when I was pregnant with my son and I wondered what sorts of jobs I could. I started out working for an architect since there weren’t any teaching opportunities in my field but continued to create my personal artwork and found a studio in the River Arts District here.
As Felix turned one I decided I had to make a change (working full time with kids who got sick all the time was driving us crazy). I wanted to teach art classes for the pre-k age (3-6) but found that of all the things we as parents have to choose from for our kids to take part in – visual art classes were nowhere to be found (ironic for Asheville with such a large artist community). A number of my friends wanted me to teach their kids though. So I tried it and it flew. This spawned a bunch of other ideas, and I decided to take the Mountain Bizworks Foundations Class last April to push them along and to just see where I ended up after those 8 weeks. Well, Roots + Wings School of Art (the preschool, the pre-k and afternoon art classes, the adult workshops) was born. All of this has happened very quickly!
GINGER: The focus of our visual arts preschool is to create a structured freedom for each child to explore the classroom and the world outside with the added exposure to the many visual art mediums and methods. We don't sit around and do art all day but rather have a specific part of each day that is spent in our art studio. It has been amazing to see the connections and growth being made by each student. The power of hands-on learning that art allows cannot be matched! Our day also includes snack, outside time, and a free choice hour where the kids can choose to do more art, but we also have the more typical preschool tools, manipulatives, nature table, books, blocks, and cooking center that they can choose to work with as well.
We also document each child’s work through a portfolio. It is a binder full of photographs and text showing how the child is doing and what they are being exposed to. It’s a great tool for the parents to 'see' what is going on at school, but also for the child to be able to look back through what they’ve done.
JEAN: Can you tell me about your monthly visits and hands-on demonstrations from local artists?
GINGER: We have local artists come visit us once a month. Again, we've only been running for 2 months, so we have had one visit so far. Our visiting artists are also our Adult Workshop Instructors. Part of their commitment to Roots + Wings is to come by the preschool for a visit and a project with the kids. Our first artist was Christy Ammerman, a collage and mixed media artist. After she showed us some of her own work, we did a tissue paper collage project with the kids. It was great! Other artists scheduled are a book artist, an oil painter, a sculptor, and some amazing parents from our preschool who are going to present as well!
JEAN: What about in your own family? What kinds of art do your two children gravitate towards at home?
GINGER: We are always doing something! We do a lot of basic drawing: looking at objects and seeing the different shapes that make up the car or truck or stuffed animal, and try to draw it. At home and in the class I gravitate toward using odd, found objects to create art with. I think it is fun for the kids to take something that they look at and think should be used for something else (a mesh bag that held oranges), and use it to create art.
JEAN: What are your favorite art materials for preschool-aged children? Favorite art activities?
GINGER: Painting is always fun, water soluble oil pastels are like magic to kids, 3D sculpture with wood (and letting them hammer a few nails!), and printmaking/collographs. I never like anyone’s art to come out looking like their neighbor’s, so I rarely use templates or pre-cut pieces. If I do, I find a way to add other layers or elements so every child brings their own unique creativity to it.
JEAN: Any books/people/ideas that have influenced you and your approach to art with children?
GINGER: My inspirations... there are many, but I will just throw out two: Romare Bearden, an artist, and Sambo Mockbee, an architect who was also an amazing artist. Both of these men have influenced my own work in my art studio, but have also made me who I am as an educator. They are two people whom I hope folks will look up and spend some time with their work if they haven't heard of them.
JEAN: Thank you Ginger! Kudos to you for seeing a need in the community and filling it. And for following your dream! You're an inspiration.
For more information about Roots + Wings School of Art visit their website. Besides the arts-oriented preschool, they offer one-time and weekly art classes for children and adults, family art sessions, and birthday parties.
Post a comment by Friday, November 6 at 12 midnight EST for a chance to win a copy of Me and Uncle Romie by Claire Hartfield, a children's story inspired by the life and art of Romare Bearden!