Interview with Artist and Art Educator Jody Boyer

I think teaching students to take risks and not be afraid of failure is one of the most important aspects of the visual arts.

I met Jody Boyer at her Council Bluffs home which adjoins a highly functional garage art studio. Her son was anxious for our interview to be over, because that's when they got to go to the zoo! We took a walk to the empty lot behind Boyer's house, which she discovered after realizing a herd of deer makes its way through her yard every single morning on their way to the patch of land. The lot is for sale, and Boyer wonders what will happen to the deer when the land is (most likely) developed.  She thinks a lot about mini ecosystems, especially the ones no one else seems to be thinking about.

Boyer is also a middle-school art teacher who is focused on helping her students become more open and free to explore. She says the idea that "all kids love art" is completely false. She works with each student to break down their fears of going outside their comfort zone and help build a foundation of unabashed curiosity towards art and life.

Boyer is one of our CSArtists, who's small sculptures are related to her relationship with the deer's habitat behind her house.

I love what you said about art being a "socially sanctioned liberty to explore", can you expand on that?

I think I was talking about how being an artist gives you liberty to create in ways that other disciplines do not, in that breaking the rules is more socially acceptable. Like Marcel Duchamp turning the toilet on its side, artists are allowed to see things differently, and experiment in ways that scientists and others are not.

What are you trying to teach middle schoolers in your art class?

 I am trying to teach them not be be afraid, to take risks and to make mistakes.  The culture of high stakes testing has made school a place where students are afraid to do wrong.  How are you supposed to learn anything if you cannot make a mistake?  Beyond the rigor of my district standards and curriculum, I think teaching students to take risks and not be afraid of failure is one of the most important aspects of the visual arts. 

You compared the mini ecosystem in your backyard to the CSArt program- the need to value what is in your ecosystem and allow it to thrive- Can you explain this relationship?

The CSA is looking inward to our community to find and support artists in a "locally grown" model.  I think often communities look elsewhere for "artists of significance" instead of looking in their own backyards.  I was making a comparison to the abandoned forest in my neighborhood, that the small bit of land is actually supporting a wide range of life in the neighborhood, but goes unseen by many.

What is the greatest lesson you've learned about art?

To keep exploring and trying new ideas, and that the world of scarcity is a construction. That in actuality, the world is a very an abundant place.

-anna nance