Winkelman: more than an art teacher

lexi miranda, sports editor

You may know him from his amazing artwork or the rock music blasting from his room, but there is more to Matt Winkelman, art teacher, than meets the eye.

Winkelman remembers beginning to draw from the second he could pick up a pencil. Since then, he has been in love with art in all of its forms. He attended Harper College on a scholarship, where he received his Associate’s degree, and later attended Northern Illinois University for his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and his Master of Science in Education degree.

After college, Winkelman ran multiple art galleries, but finally decided he wanted to teach art instead of sell and create it. Now he finds the time to do all three.

Bear Facts sat down with Winkelman to find out more about his artwork, inspirations, and advice to art students.

Q. Why did you choose to go into education rather than pursue an art career?

A. “I had been doing both, actually. I had been running retail art galleries and it was really satisfying. I was able to work and make a decent amount of money, but ultimately when it was time to make some decisions about the rest of my career and my home life; I started thinking about who the influential people in my life were: my art teachers. Without them, I probably would not have stuck with art. I also thought about what kind of father I wanted to be, because running the gallery meant working 60-80 hours a week.”

Q. What is your favorite part about your job?

A. “I still get to do what I love everyday in some way, shape, or form. I get to look at awesome work, talk about awesome work, guide students to make better work, and even make my own work at times. I feel like it’s the greatest job ever because of that. How many people get to say they do what they love everyday?

Q. What is your favorite piece of your art work?

A. “I see all the work I do as one big piece. They all address the same idea through a variety of perspectives. There are common themes that run through my work, and they are the idea of creation versus destruction, creation versus evolution, human versus human, human versus self, etc. Basically, they address the conflict between the natural world and the man-made world. We’re trying to grow and advance as a species, but we’re also struggling to find a balance with nature. Every piece of work for me is formed by an experience in my life. When you get away from civilization, you get away from your place in the world. The first time that you can actually hear the wind coming before you see it. Here, you’re so caught up in the stress of life that you don’t even realize something as simple as the wind until it hits you.”

Q. What inspires you?

A. “The beauty of nature and nature’s ability to constantly adapt. I’m also marveled by some of the things man is able to produce. Students inspire me all the time. When I hear all the things they’re juggling and the commitments they’re able to keep, I know it’s not easy. Music is inspiring; I love music. I think artists in general are just more attuned to everything around us.”

Q. What advice do you give to aspiring artists in high school?

A. “Truly do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. That applies in so many ways. I try to tell my students all the time that if you make work something you care about, it will seem so easy because you’ll want to do it. If you apply that same idea to your life and you have a passion for art-making, don’t let anyone deter you from that. I think there’s this perception that if you do something that seems like there’s a linear path, it will be easier. For example, the path of going into business isn’t necessarily any clearer than the path of going into art. It’s just a matter of knowing that’s where your heart is and you’ll study it and figure out where you’re supposed to fit in the bigger picture of it all. Never underestimate your opportunities as they come along.”