Osseo area teachers featured at Maple Grove Art Center

While art teachers spend their days helping students find their muse and show off the fruits of their labor, they rarely have the opportunity

Park Center art teacher Jake Manders creates what he calls “junk mosaics” or “junk collages” in his spare time. (Submitted photo)
Park Center art teacher Jake Manders creates what he calls “junk mosaics” or “junk collages” in his spare time. (Submitted photo)

to show students their own art work. This is not the case at the Maple Grove Art Center, where eight teachers in the Osseo Area School District will have their artwork featured in an exhibition March 15 to April 7.
Amy Gale, ceramics and photography teacher at Park Center High School, decided she wanted to be an artist when she was in high school, where a good teacher inspired her. After college and working in an art studio for adults with disabilities in Mankato, she moved and found a job with the school district.
“I didn’t want to be a starving artist,” she said.
Gale’s colleague Jake Manders said he too was inspired by a high school art teacher when he attended Park Center as a youth. After graduating from high school and attending college, Manders found himself back at Park Center, but as a teacher instead of a student. He said he can’t exactly explain how enough factors aligned to bring him back to his alma mater.
“Maybe a magnet drew me back,” he said.
Ceramics has been a hobby for Gale since high school.
“I like the industrial feel [of the kilns],” she said.
But don’t go looking for her work on the mantle piece or hiding in a glass display case – she makes items such as bowls for everyday use around the house. If a piece breaks, so be it. She’ll just make another one, she said.
In her photography work, Gale tends to focus on themes of nature and simple living, she said. She lives on a farm, so nature shots are not difficult to find, she said. She does all of the same photo work that she assigns to her students each year, she said.
Manders has been working on abstract pieces he refers to as junk mosaics or junk collages. He uses refuse from his neighborhood and other junk he finds to create three-dimensional, abstract pieces. He said he appreciates the textures and layered aspects of such projects, and “the way the shadows hit the work.” Life and death can often be a theme in Manders work, he said.
Teaching students photography can be difficult in our modern age, Gale said. However, once students understand the basic concepts of photography, “they have a lot to say,” she said.
Gale said she got involved with the exhibition after a colleague encouraged her to enter her work.
In the exhibition, she has two ceramic mugs, an oval shaped container and a photo of a cat in a barn on her property. The ceramic pieces were all fired at the Edina Art Center in their gas soda cone kiln.
At Park Center, Gale has been working to redesign a ceramics studio, she said. Some of the design aspects were inspired by Edina’s Art Center.
Manders has two pieces in the exhibition, both being junk mosaics that are approximately 4 feet long by 4 feet wide, weighing approximately 60 pounds each.
While his past work, including his two exhibition pieces, have been improvised and created on the fly, Manders said he is moving towards more themed and less abstract work. Specifically, he is working on more representational projects, such as creating landscapes of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Gale said it can be difficult to find time for art projects, and it helps that her family is supportive of her, she said.
Manders said as he creates both physical art and music outside of work – his work and art lives go hand-in-hand.
Other teachers featured in the exhibition are Linda Bechtol, Jennifer Cramer, Roberta Farrell, Fern Keniston, Chad Manders and Jeff Nelson.
The District 279 Teacher’s Show is open March 15 to April 21, with an opening reception Friday, 6:30-9 p.m. April 7, at the Maple Grove Arts Center, 11666 Fountains Drive.
For more information, contact 763-370-3003.

Contact Kevin Miller at [email protected]