Artist/High School Art Teacher Ryan Moffett
Ryan Moffett grew up in South Ogden, Utah, and graduated from Bonneville High School in 1989. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Utah State University in Logan, Utah in 1997, and began teaching high school at Murray High School. Ryan earned his MA Ed. From Brigham Young University in 2005 while still teaching at Murray High. He is currently teaching Ceramics, Sculpture and Video Production at Murray High.
In his spare time, Ryan loves spending time with his wife and four daughters doing just about anything. He especially loves going on adventures, hiking, backpacking, camping, and traveling. He also enjoys gardening, watching movies and anything in the performing arts – dance, drama, concerts, etc.
How do you balance art making and art teaching?
It is difficult at times to balance the two. First, I try to design projects and assignments for my students around projects on which I am personally interested. That way, I can work on my projects while simultaneously demonstrating the assignment. This of course doesn’t always work, as my work may be too complex for beginning students, or simply not address the desired learning goals. Another way I try to balance art making with art teaching, is to set limits on time I spend working on school-related business. For example, when 3:00 hits, I make myself stop what I am doing for my teaching job and shift gears into working on my artwork. This takes discipline, utilizing every available moment during the school workday to be productive and focused on managing my professional teaching responsibilities. Being an artist, I’m not always super great at keeping my mind focused. Finally, I use my Summer Break to crank out as much work as I possibly can. Again, this takes discipline. But I collect ideas and inspiration all school year long in anticipation of having some production time during the Summer.
What other artists influence your work?
I have always loved art history. I am always looking at images from so many artists and I would say they all influence my work in some way. Exposure to a wide variety of artwork is essential for any artist in order to stay current and know where your work is coming from. But, if I were to pick a few of my favorite, and ones that reflect in my work, I would have to say ancient Cycladic art, Amedeo Modigliani, Constantin Brancusi and Egon Schiele. I also really enjoy the work of Pablo Picasso, Henri Moore, Alberto Giacometti, Frank Gehry, Michelangelo, El Greco, Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, Chuck Close, Claus Oldenburg, Andy Goldsworthy, Do-Ho Suh and many more.
Do your students see you making art?
I always have a project at some stage of completion in my classroom. I don’t always work on it during class time, but my students know I am actively producing work and sometimes they will see me working on it. I am also very open with them and talk about the meaning behind my work and why it is important to me. I always make sure to let my students know about exhibits that I am in, and invite them to attend. Actively being involved in creating and exhibiting my work is absolutely vital to my teaching. It gives it more relevance and validity.
Do you think it is important for your students to know about your art career? Why?
One of my responsibilities as a high school teacher is to help develop students into responsible citizens. This includes helping them discover who they are and what they can and want to become? There always seems to be someone that connects with the arts in every class. Someone that gets excited about it. So, I share with my classes what art means to me, how I made a career of it, and how they can make a career of what interests them. It’s important for them to know they can make a career out of it if they want. It’s also important for them to know how they can make art a part of their life even if it isn’t part of their career goals.
How has teaching changed the way you make art?
They say, if you want to learn something, teach it. I strongly believe my art is better because I teach it. I plan my work better, because I expect my students to plan. I am better able to articulate what I am expressing because I have to talk about it with my students. I feel like the quality of my work is improved because I am constantly explaining to my students how to improve the quality of their own work. I search more images as I prepare lessons, which give me a broader understanding of how other artists have addressed similar topics. And my students keep me young and up to date on pop culture and social trends.
How would you respond to someone who says you are not a true professional artist because you teach?
Jack Black brings this stereotype to the surface in School of Rock when he says, “If you can’t do, you teach. If you can’t teach, you teach Gym.” I feel like this is the thought process of many professionals. I think the art teacher can get so tired and worn out from teaching, that when the school day ends, they really can’t function in the studio. They have exhausted all their creative energy helping students brainstorm to come up with their own creative solutions to classroom art problems. This makes it hard to produce work after school. Therefore, it leaves them without an opportunity to produce work for exhibition. And it’s hard to call someone an artist if they are not producing work and exhibiting. But what about those of us who do produce art and exhibit while teaching? True, I may be able to produce more work if I were doing it full time, but I can still produce professional quality work regardless. I produce, people buy, I am professional. I guess if they really think I can’t be a true professional if I teach, then they don’t understand the significance of a teacher. Michelangelo had students. Was he a true professional?
Why is it important for you to continue to make art?
I have found that making art is the most effective way for me to express what I need to express. Therefore, I must continue to make art – to express. I entered this field because I couldn’t imagine myself living happily without being around art every day. So, I continue to make art to feed my need for art. It’s also very important for my students to see by example that I am giving assignments that have relevance by doing them myself. I want them to see that I practice what I preach.
What advice would you give to a brand new teacher who wants to be an artist as well?
1. Make time for yourself to produce art.
2. Stay true to that time. Discipline.
3. Don’t let rejection slow you down.
4. Make your classroom fun. If the students are happy, parents are happy. If students and parents are happy, administrators are happy. If students, parents and administrators are happy, then you are happy which makes for better art making conditions.
Find Ryan’s work at: