Teach a Man to Fish

Artwork by Jim Terracciano. Courtesy photo

When I retired several years ago I created a bucket list. At the top of the list was the plan to sign up for an art class. As a young man, my father was an artist and I thought, why not? After taking a drawing and watercolor class I was discouraged. Guess that talent skipped a generation. Then in a Yoga class, a fellow student asked if I was still interested in taking art classes.

I thought for a moment and asked why she mentioned it. She replied,” there was a class starting soon that was offered at the local library. All materials were provided and the class was free”. That was a no-brainer for me. I said,” Heck ya, I’m interested.”

Former art teacher, Teresa Luna. Courtesy photo

Apparently, another retiree had the idea to collect used books that were donated to the library and sell them at deep discounts. They then directed the proceeds to fund community outreach activities like the after-school tutoring programs, reading clinics and an art class for senior citizens.

That next Saturday, I attended a Watercolor class taught by another retiree, an ex-elementary teacher, Teresa Luna. She had a background in art history and was a working artist herself. As she began to present her outline for the course, she captured my attention with her experience and range of knowledge. She was passionate about her craft. She added depth with anecdotes about famous artists and their struggles. She continued with how those struggles were still relevant today.

The first half hour of the class always started with a lecture on art history and theory. The introduction was tied to that day’s lesson. Each class was designed for the beginning artist to acquire specific skills and techniques. The ability to draw was not a requirement, so all could participate from the gate. Ms. Luna was patient and committed. She wanted all of her students to be productive and successful. She lavished praise when appropriate and provided constructive criticism and demonstration when needed.

Artwork by Jim Terracciano. Courtesy photo

It was a pleasure to watch her guide and encourage even the most timid of students. The way she would nurture our confidence and challenge us to risk was the mark of a gifted educator. Many of us rose to artistic heights we couldn’t have imagined prior to taking this class. The skills were carefully thought out and layered. Each week we would build our paintings, step by step. Every class included a new challenge. Each session introduced new techniques.

There were times students would gasp at a new project and exclaim they could never produce such art. Ms. Luna, step by step, stroke by stroke, proved them wrong.

As students gained confidence they began framing their work. Some gave their art to relatives and loved ones. One semester, we displayed our work in an exhibit in the library foyer and patrons asked if the paintings were for sale.

We grew as students. We grew as artists. We grew as people. No one was unaffected by Ms. Luna’s enthusiasm and passion for her craft.

She taught us to try when unsure. She taught us to respect our progress and support one another. She taught us to value our developing skills and accomplishments.

After three successful years, our community out-reach, senior art class ended abruptly when the funding ran out. Our class hoped we could restart the program the following fall. Ms. Luna had volunteered her time and effort. She needed a break.

Sadly, the class never resumed but many of the students continued to paint, myself included. It reminded me that one person can make a difference. A good teacher is worth their weight in gold. Ms. Luna was small but mighty. She never asked for anything in return except our attention and effort. She will be missed.

Thank you, Teresa.

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