The art of teaching art: Meredith Essex '81

By Cathy Tollefson '83

We caught up with Meredith Essex ’81 at It’s Art Naturally, a week-long day camp at Tacoma’s Nature Center at Snake Lake. She asked the campers to choose three different plants and then draw them so that they touch all four edges of the paper; this while looking at their paper only 20 percent of the time. One precocious camper was unconvinced that drawing without looking at the paper was possible, although Meredith assured her the information was in the plant, not on her paper. The same disbelieving camper was stunned when Meredith handed out “special pencils” that didn’t even have erasers. “What if you make a mistake?” the little girl blurted out. Without missing a beat, Meredith replied, “Artists don’t make mistakes, they make changes.”

Art runs in her family: Her father is a printmaker, her husband, Mark Eddington, is an artist, and daughter Darby, 7, assures us she is an artist, too. Meredith also works as the lead artist for Arts Impact, a program focusing on training and mentoring elementary school teachers in the arts. The idea is that by strengthening arts instruction in these early grades, academic performance will improve, particularly in the areas of reading, writing, and mathematics. (More about Arts Impact at www.arts-impact.org.) With her home and teaching commitments, how does Meredith have time for her own art? “My house is dirty, there are weeds in my garden, but I get up at 5 a.m., and that helps.” It also might help that her studio is located adjacent to her home in the woods—a nice respite for a busy artist. You can see more of Meredith’s art on her Web site at www.gallerysx.com, and find out where she’s exhibiting when she’s not in the classroom.