Every teacher has a mailbox. It's just that Hutch's says, "Don't give me attitude.
Give me art! Old School. VISUAL ART (WHAT REALLY COUNTS)." From there it's just a short trip to the classroom to observe Old School in session, and he is who his mailbox says he is. Still imbued with a passion for the students and his subject, Roger Hutchison has 33+ years in as a one-of-a-kind art teacher.
Always known for his wit and wonderful personality, Hutch began his teaching career in midyear 1977 in Osborn, Kan. After two years there and an eight-year stint in Roundup, Mont., Hutch took the art reins at Delta High School where he still teaches today as a department of one.
"It's all about the relationships with kids. That's it. That's what it's about," says Hutch. "They won't remember one thing I taught them about anything, but they'll remember what kind of person I am."
And many remember far more than that. "Hutch has taught me the fundamentals of art, different media and such, but he's also taught me that it's fun," says Tim Ashurst, a senior at Delta High School.
"I love Hutch because he's crazy! He's also a great mentor to kids," adds Iris Hentze, another senior at DHS. Without a doubt, Roger Hutchison has enriched the lives of hundreds of students and faculty members over the years.
The Public Fight
In an era of shrinking state budgets and decreased funding on many fronts, public school art programs often face the risk of being cut. According to an article in The Herald Bulletin in Anderson, Ind., several school districts have either restricted their art offerings or axed the programs completely.
"I think we have to fight for art's place in public education," says Hutch. "The difference between the U.S. and most other countries is our public education system. Everyone gets a chance in America. Art helps with that. For some, it's what makes them want to come to school."
Hutch is right. According to an October 2009 report by The Center for Arts Education, several national studies over the past decade confirmed that students at risk of dropping out cited participation in the arts as their reason for staying in school. Research also revealed that "arts education has had a measurable impact on at-risk youth in deterring delinquent behavior and truancy problems while also increasing overall academic performance."
Hutch has a strategy. "What I want to do is give every student an opportunity to be exposed to as many media as they can during their high school career. I want to teach kids about the various tools and techniques of the trade. Truth is, a lot of kids start to buy their own stuff, and they have to know what to get. If a student takes every class we offer, they will certainly be exposed to as many different media and techniques as I can get them."
Iris Hentze is one such student. She's taken every art class offered at Delta High School and understands what Hutch is trying to accomplish. "Hutch is great because he wants to keep art in the public schools," states Iris. "He wants every student to at least be exposed to it."
How to Get Good
"Hey, man, it's called artwork. I mean, there's a reason it's called artwork. That's the only way to be good. You have to practice." Hutch models this mindset to his students by living out another of his favorite maxims, "Winter's for painting and summer's for sculpture!"
An immensely talented artist in his own right, Hutch humbly downplays his own ability. "I'm kind of a jack-of-all-media because I wasn't comfortable teaching kids unless I knew something about what we were doing. I did my best to learn how to work with all kinds of different media."
Indeed, at one time or another Hutch has taught drafting, art history, photography, techniques of art - black and white/color (two different semesters), arts and crafts I (pottery, ceramics, glass, etc.), arts and crafts II (string art, wood carving, calligraphy, etc.), and advanced art (which is his present "capstone" class to be taken after completion of all others).
He has sold some of his artwork commercially, but mostly he paints and sculpts because he enjoys it. "Every fall I get ready for 'painting season'. First I stretch my own canvasses. I plan the shapes and such. Then, I make my own frames. My next step is to plan my art. I take pictures from a variety of angles for reference, and then every year I do a landscape, a still life, a portrait, and an abstract, but these are all warm-ups. I use them to build up to my big one!"
Hutch usually completes 10 pictures during painting season, working mostly in oils and acrylics. Many of his paintings take on a local theme — alleyways, street scenes, and the adobes (unique foothills of the Grand Mesa). "I try to paint stuff around here because this is where I live," says Hutch with a smile.
Pop Can Project
"I would have to say one of my best student projects is where I have them paint pop cans," says Hutch. "It really teaches them to identify different values of color on the can. Otherwise, they can't make the can shine."
Proudly displayed around his room and in the hallway "Art Case" are a number of Mountain Dew and Monster likenesses with the occasional Pepsi or V8 can thrown in for good measure. "It's a good project because kids have to draw accurately to make the can and lettering look proportional. They have to make sure the lettering is the right style. It has to fit.
"This 'can project' is a nice one because kids can't do it all with one layer of paint. We use acrylics, and they have to do it in two or three layers or more."
Even the untrained eye can see the difference between the good ones and not-so-good ones. To an expert like Hutch, the reason for the difference is immediately obvious. "I can spot talent on the first drawing. What I try to do is encourage and work with them [the gifted ones]. I want to make sure the kid knows they're good. They don't always know! And I want to help get them some solid fundamentals."
"The first time I remember being interested in art was when I was three or four years old. We lived on a ranch in Powderhorn and we had some artists come stay at our extra cabin. All I remember is eating cantaloupe and messing around with their pastels and oils. The Rosses — they were painters," muses Hutch about the beginnings of his lifelong zeal for art.
Now, some five decades later, Roger Hutchison is still hooked. "I do this for my own enjoyment. I might become more commercial-minded in retirement, but for me, it's about enjoying the process."
One needs only to watch Hutch in action to see that he still enjoys the process of teaching. "Kids have not changed," says Hutch. "The world's gotten a lot crazier, but kids haven't."
While Hutch has definite plans for the future of his own art (he's beginning to enter more competitions and show at different art shows), the status of art education going forward isn't as clear. "I don't know what's going to happen with art education," says Hutch, "but I would hope that art would be an area that we emphasize even more in the days to come. We still have a great need to think creatively in this world!"
So, for society's sake, for the American way of life, for all the students who've been fortunate enough to have Hutch as their teacher, for all the kids who need teachers like Hutch to make a difference in their lives, and lastly, for the man himself, let's give it a good shot. Let's think creatively. Let's respect the art space and those in it. Let's make a commitment to excellence, and above all, let's give the man art, not attitude!
Brandi Watters, Sue Loughlin, and CNHI News Service. "Schools Cut Back on Art, Music, P.E." The Herald Bulletin 2010. Retrieved online on 4/14/11 at heraldbulletin.com/breaking
Douglas Israel. "Staying in School-Arts Education and New York City High School Graduation Rates" A Report by The Center for Arts Education 2009. Retrieved 4/14/11 at http://www.cae-nyc.org/sites/default/files/docs/CAE_Arts_ with quote from Heather J. Clawson and Kathleen Coolbaugh, "National Evaluation of the YouthARTS Development Project." Juvenile Justice Bulletin (May 2001), U.S. Department of Justice, The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. http://www.ncjrs.org/html/ojjdp/2001_5_2/page1.htmlblog comments powered by Disqus