Teacher and artist Ryan Trott loosens up the creative process

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Simultaneously an artist and a teacher, Ryan Trott reminds us all that art can’t be contained in a classroom but should be shared throughout our city. Photo credit: Amanda Finn Simultaneously an artist and a teacher, Ryan Trott reminds us all that art can’t be contained in a classroom but should be shared throughout our city. Photo credit: Amanda Finn

The day after Labor Day, Ryan Trott will return to the classrooms and hallways where he teaches art to local elementary school students. Under his guidance, they’ll learn about masterworks and fine art techniques; he’ll lead them in exercises to spur imagination and develop creativity. And when asked how he spent his summer vacation, Trott will give them a glimpse into what it means to live life as an artist.

Whether snapping shots of colorful, abstract patterns to post to Instagram, recording a song and editing a music video, or making a drawing over a cup of coffee, Trott is an artist. He structures life to allow him to keep one foot in the creation of aesthetically engaging work and the other foot in the cultivation of artistic experimentation and playfulness. Which is to say, he makes great art and inspires other people to want to make great art.

With an undergraduate background in visual art and music production, Trott lived as a working artist and musician in New York City before pursuing his Master’s in Art Education at the City College of New York. “I realized I was really looking for a creatively fulfilling (semi-traditional) career,” he said. “I really connect to the young creative spirit and love working with children.” 

Landing in central Virginia post-graduation, Trott took a job at The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative. Reflecting on the time spent working with executive director Matthew Slaats, Trott said, “He has so much faith in making realistic positive change in a community and using the arts in an open way.” Trott is also skilled at this type of inclusivity, encouraging others to participate in art, whether they’re his students, friends, or complete strangers.

Though The Bridge job came to an end when he was offered his current teaching position, Trott remains an active presence at the local arts nonprofit and recently started a new program there, titled Free Draw. Consider it a monthly invitation to let your creative quirks hang out while chatting with other doodlers, emerging artists, and folks who just like the smell of colored pencils.

“Free Draw came about as a way to keep an instructional art idea going in a more loose, open environment, with adult artists,” said Trott. “It connects to the idea that anyone can create art; the activities that we do are open and creatively encouraging and supportive.” The next Free Draw takes place on Thursday, August 28 at 7pm.

At the first Free Draw in July, the space was filled with tables, scrap paper and sketchbooks, and an array of crayons, markers, and pencils. A group of curious participants filled the room and took part in Trott’s creative ice breakers and collaborative drawing projects. “As an artist, I am very interested in supporting and encouraging the art of others as well as my own work,” said Trott. “I love setting up projects and seeing what people come up with. It is really just as much fun for me to write projects as it is to draw or paint right now.” Artistic talent an afterthought, the focus of Free Draw is on the creation of a welcoming and supportive environment for people to make art. 

Trott is also part of the second annual Community Supported Art (CSA) program through The Bridge. Modeled on farm-to-table CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), the program provides subscribers with limited-edition works from each of the selected artists—six works of art in total—plus a chance to meet the artists.

For his part, Trott will design a limited-edition activity book with creative projects for adults or children to make with easy-to-find materials. One of Trott’s drawings will accompany each activity and he hopes the book will inspire others to create art. “The project connects to my belief that anyone can make art (and be an artist) in their daily life, and that the creative spirit is something that everyone should make an effort to exercise.”

In addition to Trott, the featured artists in this year’s CSA are Zoe Cohen, Warren Craghead, Lily Erb, Joy Meyer, and Michael Powell. Subscriptions include handmade mugs crafted by Cohen, among other works. Craghead is a mixed media artist who will assemble a book of drawings related to Charlottesville walking paths and The Bridge’s upcoming Walk the City project. Drawing on her experience as a printmaker and sculptor, Erb will produce steel sculptures exploring natural forms. An abstract painter, Meyer will produce paper-based paintings with embroidered accents. Powell is a digital artist and sculptor who will incorporate these skills in the creation of figurative models from digitally manipulated images.

Thirty CSA subscriptions will be available beginning September 1 at $400 each. The fee supports The Bridge and provides participating artists with a stipend to cover time and materials and provides a rare opportunity for the micro-financing of limited-edition artwork by local artists.

As the CSA launches and his Free Draw program takes off, Ryan Trott remains dedicated to his goal for the new school year, saying that “I want to keep pushing things further into interesting territory, showing the students that art is really all around us and can affect every part of life.”

What was the last art project you made? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

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