Our Spotlight on the Arts is shining brightly on local art teacher April Ryan!
As a child, April very much enjoyed her elementary school art classroom experiences and by high school, when many of her peers were struggling with finding directions to take, April already knew her way. Fast forward from past to present where she is now a certificated art teacher with over ten years of experience as well as employed in the St. Mary’s Public school system since 2017.
One of April’s greatest joys of her career has been writing lesson plans and coming up with exciting projects – a rewarding puzzle in discovering the balance between challenging her students to be creative within the boundaries of structured lesson while simultaneously allowing them to construct works of art that they are vested and personally take pride in. April has also been committed to implementing Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and Anti-Biased Anti-Racist curriculum in her classroom which she intertwines in her lesson planning.
April feels that her strengths as an educator lie much in these lessons which she creates and shares which rewards her with a sense of happiness and joy. Ultimately, it’s the creation of art and the process thereof which makes people smile and brightens their day which is a priceless part of her journey in helping her students realize their unique potential.
Virtually every artwork genre and artist that April has personally studied has been an influence for our featured artist in one way or another, be it in the styles incorporated or just simply how the work has made her feel from an emotional level. Favorite artists have included Vincent van Gogh and Kehinde Wiley, although currently Mrs. Ryan has been studying the works of more contemporary visionaries, specifically those of color and women artists in order to diversify her classroom curriculum.
April has always been a firm believer that representation matters and if she is to inspire her students to be lovers of art then they need to feel a connection to the subjects that they learn about in class. “As students see themselves in others who they can relate to, they know that their own voices can be heard and that their creativity can make an impact.”
Mrs. Ryan considers herself personally to be a 2D artist, favoring acrylic paints and mixed media techniques, especially collage. Pulling from her most common themes is a sense of realism, although she tries to push herself to delve into abstractions as well.
Outside of the teaching world, April enjoys spending time with her family and visiting a myriad of museums. She serves as an ambassador for Arts Education in Maryland Schools (AEMS), which is committed to ensuring that all MD students have access to high quality arts education. Mrs. Ryan has volunteered with several local political campaigns to reach voters and raise awareness of the issues affecting our community, including but not limited to inequitable housing and access to basic resources. She has partnered with former colleagues at St. Mary’s College of Maryland to mentor undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in teaching art. Alongside her husband, April has created custom Funko Pops as family projects.
Every one of her art classes begins with an “Art Affirmation”, which the whole class states together to connect, to commit, and to get ready to create! Normally the affirmation is stated in conjunction with movement, which is hard to demonstrate here in words, but may often sound something like: “I am positive! You are creative! I am calm! I am safe! You are amazing! We are artists!”
Thank you April Ryan for being a valued part of our community and sharing your skills and talents with so many others!
Visit @mrsryanartclass on Instagram to follow April’s adventures as an art teacher, find ideas for creative projects, and more!
Photos provided by artist include April’s original pieces as well as student art projects.