Image: Artist and teacher Leslie Matz demonstrating technique in class.

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are happening all over the country: from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon. Even in Anchorage, Alaska – the northern and western-most point in the United States – art students in Leslie Matz’s A.P. and Advanced Art classes are preparing artwork for the Awards. In addition to being an educator, Leslie Matz is a practicing artist who creates jewelry, pottery, paintings and “seriously functional bicycle components.” This year, two of Matz’s students won national Awards for their metalwork and jewelry. We recently asked Matz to tell us about his dual identity as a teacher and an artist.

AYAW: How do you use The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards program in your classroom?
LM: We use the Scholastic Awards as inspiration. Seeing all the regional work in an exhibition is very instructive for both students and teachers – and the community.

AYAW: Do you create your own work outside of the classroom, and if so, can you tell us a little bit about it?

LM: I am a generalist, a designer, with broad media skills. I recently completed a mixed media sculpture titled, “Caduceus,” with fish skin stretched across metal framework for wing skin. The Anchorage Museum bought it last spring. I have another piece, a small brass container titled, “de Bergerac’s Dew Box.” It’s all about dew rising with the sun and causing flight. The museum bought that one a couple of years ago. I also make jewelry, pottery, paintings and seriously functional bicycle components.

AYAW: What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about teaching?

Image: Caduceus. Leslie Matz. Halibut skin on metal. Collection: Anchorage Museum.

LM: Watching students improve is rewarding, but watching them come to a point when they begin to value their work and the value of their arts education is tops.

AYAW: What’s the secret to your success?

LM: Hard work. Taking risks. Messing around with found objects. Constantly learning.

Image: DeBergerac’s Dewbox. Leslie Matz. DeBergerac wrote the first science fiction account of flying around the world by strapping on the power of dew. Collection: Anchorage Museum.

AYAW: What advice would you offer a new teacher?
LM: Make connections with more experienced teachers. Don’t isolate yourself. Be patient; confidence comes with experience. Don’t be arrogant towards other teachers, students, administrators or parents.
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