Teachers of New Jersey: Vienna Bonato, Art Teacher at Cedar Grove High School in Cedar Grove, NJ

Art really speaks to me. It’s very impactful. It’s something that you look at, or listen to, and it affects our emotions; they create a lot of thoughts in our minds. I am a very visual person. I like to admire things. I appreciate the lovely aesthetics in the world. Art is all around us. Like, I’ll go out and I’ll see logos for companies and I’ll see designs and the way that the restaurant is set up with the color palette they used in their decor. And I just really love things that look really nice and colors that go nicely together. I love seeing artwork that has symbolism and a meaning behind it. You see more of that if you go to an art museum or even scrolling on social media where people share their artwork. I love seeing when people are telling a story in their artwork. Even something as simple as a logo can tell a story about what the company is doing.

When I was a kid, when I was a child, I grew up having a lot of anxiety and still have anxiety, but art was very soothing. It was very relaxing for me. And I remember when I was younger I would draw a lot of pictures that kind of helped me express my feelings and emotions in a positive way. And I still do that. I mean, it definitely is a really strong outlet for creativity, you know, just random thoughts and emotions, and I encourage that with my students when I’m teaching them how to do things. But art is a great tool for managing anxiety because it’s a very mindful activity. So when you are creating something, you’re focused on what you’re looking at and what you’re creating. So if the drawing or painting you’re looking at you’re focusing on your technique, how you’re moving your hands. You’re focused on the idea in your head, it just kind of puts you in this space, where you’re very focused: it puts you in that flow state. I find that when I’m in that flow state, it’s hard to think about other things. So it’s hard for me to feel anxious. It’s hard for me to be worrying about things. I think that’s the main thing about drawing and that’s why something like the adult coloring books have surged in popularity over the past few years because people are finding that something like coloring is a very mindful activity. It really brings them in the present moment and helps them not be overwhelmed by everything that’s going on in their life. And that has helped me bond with my own students, helping them to give them the flexibility to create art that is meaningful to them. I talk to them more about their personal interests. So that really helps me get to know them better, and then I suggest they make art based on those interests.

Interview by Gregory Andrus, Portraits of the Jersey Shore


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