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Meet James Rees

Today we’d like to introduce you to James Rees.

Hi James, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I’ve always loved to make images.  from early memories of drawing with my father to today, I like exploring things through visual expressions of various kinds.  Having a sketchbook with me became part of my life from the awkward jr high me to the present.

I like the imagery from the poetry of others that often find expression in my paintings and prints. I was fortunate to have had very supportive high school teachers that prodded me into working, reworking, and exploring different media.

I’ve taught for more than thirty years at the university, college, and high school levels. This was not something I planned, I wanted to teach… but had no idea that I’d end up in a high school teaching reluctant teens to embrace new ways of doing and thinking in an environment that isn’t always so conducive to this end.

Finding a balance between my contribution as an art educator and working as an is kind of likely juggling fish while peddling down a cobblestone road on a unicycle. I can be done, but it’s a constant challenge. In my spare time, I actively engage in research where I strive to make meaningful connections between art, culture, and the human experience.

I’ve been extremely blessed to have formed wonderful relationships with artists and art educators who are amazing and cause me to reflect upon my own practice within these areas. I find this desire to stretch, grow and explore makes it hard to say no to new opportunities to grow and contribute to organizations and great causes.

If art is nothing more than the shadow of humanity, as Henry James stated, then it would seem that I love to linger in the shadows of life exploring the unknown and running into new obstacles.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
An ongoing series of prints reflect the ongoing challenges that I have with various issues related to family life; family members with addiction, and borderline personality disorder… to name just two issues.

The work seeks to express embracing life’s challenges and seeing them as a routine part of my life. Instead of having these burdens removed, I’ve found that they typically don’t but my capacity increases and so does my ability to keep balance as I move forward.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I am a passionate advocate for art education that balances theory, research, and practice. Finding my identity as an Artist, researcher and teacher have been a challenge. Juggling these various roles and maintaining balance has been an interesting process. It’s hard to separate my role within art education from my creative process in the studio. They both feed off and inform each other.

I advocate for the arts nationally and locally to empower students and their teachers in and through the arts. I’m proud of the numerous awards that I’ve received in acknowledgment of my creative drive within teaching: Lifetime Achievement Award from the UAEA, National Secondary Art Educator (NAEA), Award for Excellence in Research by The International Society for Education Through Art (InSea) and National Art Education Secondary Educator of the Year (National Art Education Association), the Sorenson Legacy Foundation Award for Excellence in Arts Education (twice), Utah Art Educator of the Year, the Governors Leadership in the Arts Award 2016, Award for Excellence in Research The International Society for Education Through Art (InSea) 2021.

And I’ve also been able to keep a robust studio practice as a professional artist while helping others find their own creative voice.

If you had to, what characteristic of yours would you give the most credit to?
I believe in the transformative power of the arts. The arts help people understand themselves and the world around them in nuanced ways that cannot be discovered or articulated in other ways. I have a drive and zeal to explore the creative realm and to help others discover their own voice within it. I have boundless energy and I get up early to be able to tackle my various roles.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
George Loch

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