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Finding balance between teaching and creating.

Artist/High School Teacher Steven Stradley

Artist/High School Teacher Steven Stradley

Steven Stradley was raised in the Salt Lake Valley.  He was involved in the arts at an early age, playing piano and violin as well as drawing incessantly.  He graduated from Utah State University with a composite degree that consists of a BFA in Drawing/Painting as well as a degree in Art Education.  After four rewarding years teaching at Mountain Ridge Junior High school, Stradley enrolled in a graduate program at Michigan State University, where he was named as a University Distinguished Fellow.  Having received an MFA in painting, he began teaching at Tuacahn High School for the Performing Arts, where he presently facilitates and guides young student artists in their creative pursuits in drawing, painting, design, and personal and collaborative art efforts, including AP Studio Art and Art Production, a class designed to enhance visual culture in public spaces.  Stradley has enjoyed many exhibition opportunities throughout the United States and is currently represented at A Gallery in Salt Lake City. In addition to creating and advocating contemporary arts, Stradley is also an avid outdoor enthusiast. Rock climbing, hiking, and athletics are activities that provide creative balance to his life. He also enjoys varied travel, specifically if an art museum is in the itinerary. 


How do you balance art making and art teaching?

I see my roles as teacher and artist as intertwined and reciprocal to one another.  I am constantly influenced by experiencing the world around me and have a strong inclination to get outside of myself to become a greater artist.  This philosophy is manifest by engaging with other creative folks, particularly young artists who re-present ideas of politics, identity, technology, and image making to me in a raw manner that causes me to reflect on my own work.  While in the studio, my experiences and discoveries become part of my overall skill sets that are then carried back into the educational studio to be imparted and explored in varied manner by my students. Vice versa, young artists frequently are pushed to, and delve into risk taking experimentation in the studio that inspires me to not settle upon any one, narrow, production method, but rather, that myriad methods can be utilized at any given moment to produce the most transformative work possible that addresses my own artistic concerns.  In relation to being relevant in the classroom studio, I undertake much current art research that helps me keep my finger on the pulse of current practices, themes, and global artists which greatly influence the context in which I place my own work in.


What does your schedule for making art look like?

Evenings are prime times for art production though I have recently begun to think that early mornings might serve me better, especially as my daughter becomes older and starts to emerge into her teenage years.  I try to balance family time and studio time on the weekends as well as in the summer. I stopped doing any kind of summer part time employment post-graduate school which gives me time and space to be uber-productive during those few months, frequenting the studio on a nearly daily basis except when we travel.  I keep numerous sketchbooks when I am not in the studio so that I can sketch and write down ideas that occur during the day.


Do your students see you making art?

I am constantly working with student artists on the range of projects that they undertake.  I find this to be a rewarding time to discuss anything from big, philosophical ideas to popular culture (all of which I find influence creative thought and have the capacity to work into works of art).  Once in a while, I will work on my studio work in the presence of students; however, it is really hard to give myself to my work and to these amazing young people. The times they see me work on my professional work the most is when we host 12-hour art marathons in the class studio.  These are times when all are encouraged to work on their personal projects and I have enough time to separate from the work of teaching to just be able to work alongside students with greater depth. Art club parties have brought students into my studio where they get to see, inquire, and discuss my artistic practice and see the context of my personal creative work.


Do you think it is important for your students to know about your art career? Why?

It is essential that students know about my career as an artist, and that I see myself as not just an art teacher, but as an artist-educator.  If my job is to help young artists to emerge into a college situation equipped with not just the creative tools, but also, professional tools to be a more successful maker then, it is important that they know I create, exhibit, and curate works of art and engage creative pursuits whilst outside the doors of the school studio.  Part of my mandate to students is to use formats and efforts that they would find in the professional world. Students curate, install, and publicize their work in professional ways. My experience facilitates the flow of practical artist knowledge that shifts the context of student work into that of emerging work and context.


Describe your favorite classroom project.

I don’t frequently repeat too many projects as I try to respond to each group of students and current culture as we engage material transformation but here are a few of my favorite big ideas/prompts: Fragmentation, Reinvestigating portraiture, Hybridity, Shifting/Transformation of Source Material as Source Material (cycle through transformations as much as wanted to arrive at new source), The Poetics of Painting


How did you gain representation from your gallery/galleries?

I have participated in Art Access Gallery’s 300 Plates fundraiser event since 2008.  Over the years, in combination with other exhibitions, Sue Barrett, at A Gallery, became familiar with my work.  Soon after my friend Roland Thompson began showing at A Gallery, he told me that my work was highly considered for representation and that I should give them a call.  It wasn’t too long after when I began to be represented by A Gallery, an experience that has been a great relationship and wonderful space to contextualize my work with many artists whom I hold in high regard.  They have represented my work since 2014.


What other artists influence your work?

Mark Bradford, David Reed, Gary Stephan, Jonathan Lasker, Cordy Ryman, Peter Haley, Terry Winters, Joan Waltemath, Nicole Eisenmann, Willem DeKooning, Ad Reinhart, El Anatsui, Lazlo Maholy-Nagy, among many others


How would you respond to someone who says you are not a true professional artist because you teach?

This has never really happened.  I think there is a lot to be said for being a maker and taking the time to continually muse upon art and art making and then to practice what you preach.  I think there are many teachers that don’t engage in their discipline to the detriment of their students. If a resume is helpful to out down any skepticism, I can certainly direct any to my website and CV.  If references are needed to solidify my standing as an artist, and an educator, I’m happy to oblige. I think many contemporary artists are educators in one way or another. They are asking you to consider different perspectives, bringing visual context to varied local and global problems, addressing new media and technologies to explore ranges of possibilities.  Frankly, I don’t even know why this should be a concern for anyone. Anyone involved in frequent gallery and exhibition work, despite their other forms of occupation, is an artist.


Any books you could recommend that motivate you to make art?

Art and Fear- Bayles and Orland

“Provisional Painting” by Raphael Rubenstein as read in “Art in America”

Art Encounters- Simon O’Sullivan

How To See- David Salle

The Object Stares Back- James Elkins

Any catalog or book that has great essays and lots of images of the oeuvre of an artist.


Do you have a favorite brand of paint?

Golden Acrylic and Gamblin Oil Colors



A Gallery, Salt Lake City


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Artist/Mother Denise Gasser

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Artist/Junior High Teacher Michelle Montrose Larsen