Amy Eibel’s classroom at Faircrest Middle School is a vivid mix of student art—paintings decorate the walls, half-completed cellophane men lounge in the corner, and gowns made of duct tape and tissue paper hang on dress forms.
Eibel has taught visual art at Faircrest for seven years. For her, art class is much more than just teaching kids how to draw: It’s about problem solving, creativity, critical thinking and innovation—all highly valued skills in today’s world.
“A big part of art is just learning to use your brain in a different way,” she said, the same way that kids have to think a certain way to solve a math problem.
At Faircrest, all students take an exploratory art class. Seventh- and eighthgraders can take advanced art electives, which allow them to pursue their passion in areas such as drawing, painting, photography, sculpture or fashion design, Eibel said.
The classes give students the chance to explore different things, learn about their own interests and think about what inspires their work, she said.
They also show students that the art world is a big one with an array of opportunities.
“My hope is to introduce them to as many different styles, genres, mediums as possible, so they see that art doesn’t just mean ‘well, I’m good at drawing’… being successful in art can be so many different things,” she said.
Middle-school students already are thinking about their future. Some of them might find a true passion and an area in art class in which they excel that could turn into a career path, she said.
“Hopefully some of that takes place here. Or we have fun trying,” she laughed.
Canton Local’s arts program is successful, thanks in part to a supportive administration and a team of art educators who collaborate from elementary all the way through high school, she said. Students’ art is displayed across the state. Local exhibits include a school bus-turnedmobile arts gallery that has appeared in downtown Canton during First Friday, and a spring runway show for the fashion design class (which makes garments from nontraditional materials).
“Any opportunity that comes across that we can exhibit student work in an authentic way, we take advantage of,” she said.
Eibel graduated from Ohio University in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in studio art.
The Akron native spent some time working in public relations in Columbus, but didn’t find the job rewarding. “The more I thought about it, the more I thought I should do something where I was making a true benefit to society every day, not just making some guy rich,” she laughed.
So she went back to school. She graduated with her master’s degree and a teaching license from the University of Akron in 2006 and never looked back. She said it was the best decision she ever made.
Eibel also teaches part time at the University of Akron.
She also helps run the university’s Arts LIFT program, which teams high school students with professional artists to create public works of art in the Akron area. Most recently, the group completed a mural on the side of Angel Falls Coffee Company in Akron’s Highland Square.
She’s working to bring Arts LIFT to Stark County.
Eibel, 34, lives in Tusky Valley (in Stark County) with her husband, Greg, a social studies teacher at Faircrest. She also coaches cross-country.
An artist herself, Eibel tries to dabble in all media, but lately has focused on drawing and painting. For more of Eibel’s work, visit her on Instagram.
In Very Fine Arts, read our interviews with visual artists, performers and an art teacher who talk work, life and why sometimes work is life.