A new purple jaguar logo adorns the center of the basketball court; striping on the walls with the vibrant school colors replaces the old blue band, and a hand-painted jaguar leaps from the wall near the stage as shown above—all work done by Nass.
BY KATE CROWLEY ROSENBERG
Mark Nass is the new art teacher in Truman, though he isn’t new to the school nor to art. Nass has retired as Truman High School's Principal/Administrator to become the part-time art educator.
His mark on the school is everywhere, but most recently on the gymnasium floor. A new purple jaguar logo adorns the center of the basketball court; striping on the walls with the vibrant school colors replaces the old blue band, and a hand-painted jaguar leaps from the wall near the stage as shown below.
Nass has multiple college degrees, including ones in two dimensional art, three dimensional art and art education. He also has a degree in business education and a minor in German—all from Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL.
“I wanted to learn it all. I consider myself very fortunate that when I went to University, I had professors who were not only trained in the traditional arts, but were also trained in—and able to teach—arts you don’t
normally get: stained glass creation. Every school that I’ve been in so far I’ve started a stained glass class.”
During his college years, he studied in nearby Chicago at the Art Institute and paid his way through school doing portraits.
"I paid for my entire junior and senior year of college painting portraits of the seniors. I would take me... two to three days to finish a portrait. Basically, $300 a pop.” About 3/4 of the seniors’ parents would commission a portrait. “So that’s how I paid for school.”
The Art Institute of Chicago also taught him his dislike of modern art.
“I hate it. I hate it with a passion,” he said. “I don't mind a modern art work if I can see where there’s thought and effort and process that went into it. But when I see something... where somebody fills a couple of balloons with paint and throws them at a canvas and they burst open; what the heck did that take? I can get that out of a kindergartener.”
Nass spent time working for both the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts. He was among 32 teachers chosen from across the state who worked for two years to digitize the entire collection of both museums, which was then posted to a museum website along with curriculum and lesson plans.
Nass has no set curriculum, though he has written one.
“The sad thing is, curriculum that is published is not a one-size-fits-all,” he said. “When I was back in Chatfield, I didn’t teach elementary art, but the elementary art teachers were really looking for ideas. We started looking at curriculum, and I’m finding curriculum that–like first grade, having them bring a potato and give them a paring knife—a sharp paring knife–cut the potato in half, carve into it and have some paint or ink and print with it. There is no way on God’s green earth I’m giving a knife like that to a first grader."
So Nass took the problem in hand and began to create a more sensible art curriculum for Minnesota.
"And so I got with the Perpich Center... and I got support through them and through the governor and I went ahead and wrote a curriculum for grades K-6. I wrote the entire curriculum in which I incorporated the elementary teachers little pet projects and added the other. .... It was complete with vocabulary and everything. It was published in books. I think it’s out of print."
But he will take his time with the Truman students who have not had Nass' level of art expertise to guide them in the past.
"They’re no where near close to level," he said. "It’s understandable. They haven’t had any training with it."
Nass expects to build those skills from the ground up.
“Expectation number one: come prepared to learn.” Nass wants students to engage in art and be prepared to try new things.
The curriculum for first grade and second grade art has more to do with building small motor skills and following directions than creating great art, Nass said. Third, fourth, fifth and sixth grades are getting used to some different materials, he said. “Probably without them even knowing it, what we’re learning—what we’re studying about—are the elements of art: line, texture, shape, repetition— all of those things. (We're) giving them a base knowledge.”
For high school first semester, Nass will teach a drawing class and a stained glass class.
Other students have the opportunity to learn painting, ceramics/pottery or take a section of studio art which is geared toward the artist who sells their goods; such as jewelry, metal smithing and silk screening. “That one I just kind of play by ear to see what the kids are up for, what skills they have, and where we can go with it.”
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