Inspiring Aspiring Artists
After earning a master’s degree in teaching at RISD, high school art teacher Brian Hutcheson MAT 07 encourages his best students to apply to RISD.
Art teacher Brian Hutcheson MAT 07 works with students on a large-scale steamroller print at the Wayzgoose festival in Tacoma, WA.
“Mr. H got me thinking about different ways to approach the ideas in my work,” says Industrial Design senior Blake Greene 16 ID. “He helped me put together a portfolio that embraced my atypical approach rather than trying to cover a lot of different bases.”
Greene isn’t talking about his current portfolio but the one that got him into RISD four years ago. And the “Mr. H” in question is Brian Hutcheson MAT 07, a graduate of RISD’s Teaching + Learning in Art + Design program, who was Greene’s high school art teacher. Eight years into his post-RISD teaching career, Hutcheson (aka Hutch or Mr. H) works at Eastside Preparatory School in Kirkland, WA and is proud to say that two of his former mentees from another school—Blake and first-year student Young-eon Kim 19 EFS—are now thriving as undergraduates at RISD.
“I think the creative, entrepreneurial spirit and ability to persevere that come out of an arts education are incredibly valuable,” says Hutcheson. “People who experience programs like RISD’s are much better able to deal with the chaos and ambiguity of the contemporary world.”
Hutcheson was bitten by the teaching bug right after earning his undergraduate degree at Biola University in California. He spent two years teaching art at an international K-12 school in Bangkok, Thailand before pursuing his master’s at RISD.
“My RISD experience was intense and very hands-on,” Hutcheson recalls. “We were teaching in classrooms almost immediately. I worked at a high school in Providence and an elementary school in Pawtucket and got a huge range of practical experience.”
Hutcheson has adapted many of the ideas and approaches he learned at RISD to suit the needs of his students. He tries to create a safe but intensive classroom environment where students can really push their limits and also feel comfortable failing. “Those small, early failures are critical,” he explains. “Taking creative risks and learning through mistakes are so important.”
Kim describes Hutcheson’s class at Charles Wright Academy—her alma mater in Tacoma, WA—as “really challenging” and the place where she learned how to participate in critiques, “how to be straight up when giving feedback. I hadn’t been planning to go to art school,” she explains, “but when Mr. Hutch talked about RISD’s incredible resources and all the crazy stuff he did here, he got so excited! That made me want to go here as well.”
Though her parents, who live in Korea, were initially skeptical about art school and had never heard of RISD, they got on board when they realized how excited their daughter was about the prospect. “I went to Portfolio Day in Seattle and I really felt like I belonged,” Kim recalls. She came to RISD expecting to major in Illustration but is now leaning toward Graphic Design.
“It’s great to see former students continue to develop at RISD,” Hutcheson says. Many of his students seem like they’ll do well at liberal arts colleges and universities, but “in some cases,” he says, “it’s pretty clear that an art school like RISD would be a good fit. Once I identify a potential candidate, I’ll push them in class and encourage them to go to portfolio reviews to see the variety of options and where they might best fit in.”
Since the teachers he most respected as a student were consistently making their own work, Hutcheson makes time to pursue his own artistic practice. “I started a photography project last year based on my public transit commute, and I’m thinking about transforming those photos into linocuts and woodcuts,” he says. “My current school is right down the street from the Microsoft campus, so we have a lot of cool techy equipment here we use for making art.”
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