August 8, 2014

AAC Instructor Portrait: Becca Kallem

Becca hard at work in her studio!
Becca hard at work in her studio!

We are continuing our series of portraits of AAC instructors! We’ve already profiled Jennifer Wilkin Penick and Stephanie Lane, two of our amazing instructors, and are now introducing you to instructor (and AAC Resident Artist), Becca Kallem!

Becca received an MFA in painting from the University of New Hampshire, with a BA in Art and Spanish from the College of William and Mary. She held a Fulbright teaching fellowship in Madrid, Spain, and currently teaches art to elementary schoolchildren.

Not only is she one of our art instructors, Becca is actually one of our resident artists as well, and has been since 2012, so she is definitely a very valuable part of the AAC community! Recently, her work has been exhibited at Pleasant Plains Workshop, Heiner Contemporary, Hillyer Art Space, and Mary Washington University.

Earlier this summer, Becca taught a course for 11-14 year olds called New Worlds, in which students investigated man-made and natural worlds, while also discussing invented spaces. This class had a great cross-disciplinary method, combining architecture, art, engineering, and urban planning!

She is also teaching a course later this month called Murals: Big Ideas, Big Art. In this class Becca will discuss how murals function as urban beautification as well as for political or social impact. Students will investigate the works of contemporary artists to unearth the nature of creative expression in public art, and to show what they’ve learned students will actually create a mural in the classroom at AAC. Because murals are often politically-charged, this class is geared for teen artists aged 15 to 18.  Below we have a brief Q&A session we conducted with Becca!

AAC: Briefly describe your artwork/practice.

Becca: I love to paint and draw with oil paint, pencils, watercolor, and more. My work combines abstract shapes and symbols with things I see, like landscapes and portraits. I often use paintings from art history as inspiration, and I also like to try out new materials, like ceramics and weaving.

AAC: Briefly describe your teaching philosophy.

Becca: When I teach, I always try give my students clear directions combined with lots of freedom and support in expressing themselves and exploring their imaginations. I love that in art, there is never one “right answer” – instead, everyone can bring their different stories, ideas, and voices to the table.

AAC: Do you think its valuable to teach in a multidisciplinary fashion? If so, why?

Becca: In my teaching, I am always linking art to things like writing, science, and math. No matter what you are interested in, there is a way to explore it through art making. Art is simply a great entry-point for exploring all kinds of knowledge. Art is everywhere! I love when it gets my students and me to think about the world in new ways. One of my favorite things about teaching is when students make discoveries that they share with the class – new ideas, connections, and ways to use materials.

AAC: Who are some of your favorite artists working today? In the past? 

Becca: Some of my favorite artists I like to teach about are Julie Mehretu and Elizabeth Murray. They are contemporary artists who make mural-sized works that are abstract. I also love artists who tell stories with their work, like William Kentridge, and artists who create their own imagined worlds, like Lori Nix.

AAC: What exercises and/or projects are you looking forward to the most in your camps? Will you be referencing any of your favorite artists this summer?

Becca: This summer in my camps, I am really looking forward to painting with squeegees like the famous artist Gerhard Richter, and making shapes and blobs into images like the Surrealist artists did.

AAC: What’s been your favorite art camp/class to teach at AAC to date?

Becca: Though I have enjoyed teaching all of them, in one of my favorite classes at AAC, we focused on the natural world, with students making their own brilliantly colored ‘paints’ from berries, spices, and more.

We would like to thank Becca for letting all of us into her fascinating world. As always, we’ll be back in the coming weeks with another portrait of another one of our awesome instructors! If you’re interested in Becca’s philosophies and methodology, be sure to register for her Murals: Big Ideas, Big Art camp! There are a few spots left so be sure to register today if the idea of cross-disciplinary art sounds like something your teen student would be interested in!

We would also like to take this opportunity to publicize a show that Becca and some other local artists will be involved in starting this week! The show is called SURFACE TEN and it is located at Studio 1469 on 1469 Harvard Street NW REAR, DC. The show opens tonight and runs until August 29th.

If you’re interested in seeing Becca’s work, go to SURFACE TEN this month! On August 29th, there will be an open conversation about surfaces in general and the work on view. Curators and some exhibiting artists will be in attendance, followed by a closing party!

Learn more about Becca here!
Rebecca in the studio


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