Simon Huelsbeck Talks Winning Awards and the Importance of the Arts

RCTC Art + Design Instructor Simon Huelsbeck was honored with the Excellence in Arts Education Ardee Award from the Greater Rochester Arts & Cultural Trust in a ceremony held Oct. 17. Simon was one of three finalists for the award. For the uninitiated, the award is named in recognition of Mayor Ardell F. Brede’s enduring support of the arts in the Rochester community. The Ardee Awards honor the very best in the visual and performing arts, the humanities, and those whose support through leadership, education, and collaboration.

We asked him some questions about his recent award, as well as his background in teaching, and why he loves creating art.

How does it feel to win the award?

I am honored and humbled to have been nominated, and then awarded the 2017 Ardee for Arts Educator. I need to thank so many for their support. I promise to continue to strive to provide the very best that I am able for my students. It is my great privilege to have a career that is so well suited to my passions for art and education.

What’s the value of art?

Those of us who are advocates for education in the arts too often find ourselves defending the programs and institutions we value. Perhaps more than ever, an education in the arts in conjunction with science, technology, engineering, and math, is what is needed for careers in the future.

What do you like about teaching at RCTC?

I am in my 13th year teaching at RCTC. At this point, I have had the opportunity to be a part of an important stage in the evolution of so many local artists. There is a rich, long-term reward witnessing these artists flourish and contribute to our vital and growing creative community.

The Art + Design Department at RCTC has some of the most dedicated faculty that I have ever worked with. I am always striving to keep up. It is good to have the bar set high.

Find more of Simon’s art on his Instagram page.

What makes a good art student and a good artist?

People often need to go through a change in their outlook around art to become good art students. So many have the misconception that art is something that you are either born to do or not.

One of the best parts of my job is seeing these students begin to take pride in their work. Once a student starts to make work for themselves, as opposed to a grade or for me, then they are on the right path. They start the class with some idea that it might be interesting, and leave with a slightly different sense of themselves, as people with the ability to be create decent artwork.

A good artist needs to seek out and take in all the external inputs to develop their knowledge of and skills with their medium. However, that is not enough. A good artist needs to be able to be receptive to their particular internal inputs. I have a deep respect and affection for craft, but one must also be guided by their intuition to make art.

Tell us a little bit about your art.

Some visual artists make work that changes little once they have found their mature style. My work mirrors my life, and so it has changed significantly over the years as my life has changed.

However, some themes do find themselves in every body of work. I am compelled toward nature and rendering spaces on a two-dimensional surface. I am always exploring the tension between the illusion and the actual material. Mystery is important to me. My favorite artwork doesn’t seek to explain or solve. I find artwork more engaging and authentic when it leaves me feeling wanting.

I do not like to put myself in a stylistic box, but if I am forced to I think, it might best be described as being lyrical, or magical realism.

What is your favorite moment in art?

One of my most recent favorite moments making work came during the process of doing a portrait of my wife. I caked titanium white oil paint over a wallpaper stencil in the background. Also, I had somehow decided to paint her face blue. I knew the contrast of that blue with her bright, warm shoulders, and the stark, white wall paper pattern was just right the moment it came together, even though I didn’t consciously know why. A local young couple working on a stellar collection connected with it immediately. They could no more explain why they needed to acquire the painting than I could explain why I needed to make it.

What is your art class, and other RCTC art classes, all about?

I invite you to take a painting or a drawing class with me. Whether you are only curious or art serious, I would love to have the opportunity to work with you. If painting or drawing are not along the lines of your creative interests, you are likely to find classes suited to your interest at RCTC including varieties of dance, music, theater, photo, ceramics, and design. Without any reservations, I can tell you that I work with some of the most capable and dedicated arts educators that I have ever known.

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